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Valentine's Day business blooming for local florist

Kevin Castle • Feb 13, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Phillis Fortney prepares in early January to make sure love is in bloom come Valentine’s Day.

Besides Mother’s Day, this is Rainbow’s End Floral’s busiest day of the year, with delivery drivers making visits in the thousands with roses that were preordered by the nursery several weeks ago.

“We have to make our orders early to make sure we have the colors that are popular along with the traditional red rose that always sells big,” said Fortney, who has channeled Cupid for more than 15 years at the downtown Kingsport floral shop.

Colors of red, lavender, pink, white and yellow always sell well, she said, but one rose is always a big seller in Big Orange Country, the Donna rose.

“Its color is a cross between a coral and orange, and as you can imagine, we do sell a lot of those but not necessarily to the Tennessee fan. A lot of people just love the flower because of that unique color,” said Fortney.

Flowers are the trendy pick for consumers this Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation, despite a lagging economy.

More than one-third of those polled planned the traditional flower purchase. Jewelry, greeting cards, dinner at a favorite restaurant, clothing and gift cards or certificates round out the list of the top six presents ranked by the NRF.

The survey conducted by BIGresearch found consumers will spend an average of $102.50 on gifts and merchandise this Valentine’s Day — that’s down almost $23 from last year.

“A bad economy won’t stop Cupid (this year),” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin, “but it might slow him down.”

Fortney realizes that the competition for the Valentine’s Day dollar is fierce, so the floral company is accentuating arrangements with stuffed singing animals, candy, heart-shaped boxes, and the “Lil’ Dude,” a balloon-shaped figure that has larger brothers and sisters than can grow to over 3 and 4 feet tall.

“It makes the whole experience of getting flowers a little more interesting. Some people just send the balloons themselves because of the smile it can bring,” said Fortney, who has constructed some balloons to look like nurses, saxophone players and other figures.

“Everyone is different, and we want to make the day special because love is the same all around.”

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