The holiday season is upon us and one street in New York is bustling with spirit, and supplies. Manhattan’s flower district is preparing for a season that may bring more business than in the past few years.
“Business is not as good as it was back in the day,” said Milton Candelario of NYTopiary on 28th Street. “But hopefully this year will be better – it looks like it.”
Candelario is one of more than a dozen flower and plant shop proprietors on 28th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues who hope for better times this holiday season. They have reason to be optimistic. According to a study by MyMerryChristmas.com, an organization showcasing over 40 Christmas-themed websites and companies across the United States, the number of people planning to decorate for the winter holidays has increased by 15 percent this year. Those who deck the halls this season will contribute to the nearly $8 billion that Americans spend each year on winter holiday decorations.
While the economy has put a damper on some of the holiday sales buzz, many store owners in the flower district estimate that large parts of their income still come from the holiday season. David Chiu, a manager at CFD Flowers, has been at his store 25 years, and says that approximately 50 percent of his silk-flower business comes from the winter holidays.
“We sell a lot of Christmas items, like evergreen branches,” Chiu said before disappearing to take a customer to look at the store’s rows of fake trees, ranging from artificial short pine trees to towering 8-foot–high evergreens.
The “real flower” businesses do not see as much of a boost as the fake flower companies, but still see this as an important, and profitable, time of year.
“The economic crash… it definitely almost wiped us out,” said Casper Trap of Dutch Flower Line Inc. on 28th Street. “But we are very busy from September through January.”
Trap also pointed out that in spite of the recession, the flower district’s customer base remains intact. “Flowers are still a luxury item. We particularly sell the upper echelon, and the rich seem unaffected [by the economy].”
Mimi Rasamee of Pany Silk Flowers felt the financial sting of the recession in spite of wealthy New York shoppers. “Definitely in the last year or two, I’ve seen the economy go down. It’s still the busiest time of year. In a good year, almost forty-five, fifty percent of my sales came from Christmas. But it’s down a lot. Now it’s probably more like twenty-five.”
One key source of business for stores like Pany Silk Flowers are designers, who create the look of everything from television show sets to department store windows. The designers can be spotted in the stores and the streets, carrying bushels of paper-wrapped flowers or black garbage bags filled with silk flowers, branches, and feathers.
One set designer, Robert Diamond of Martha Stewart Omnimedia, gushed about how vital Rasamee at Pany Silk Flower is to him. “She is the most innovative on the block. She does her windows before anyone else – whatever she has, is current, is trendy. Every other place, she has everything before them.”
The items that designers and home decorators alike are purchasing range from branches with red berries on them to live wreaths and red and white flowers. At Dutch Flower Line, at only 10 o’clock in the morning Trap revealed a dozen half-empty buckets holding only a few stems of pink peonies.
“You see only the pink, because all the red and white have already sold out,” he said.
However, if you’re looking for a standard chopped Christmas tree, you will have to go elsewhere – while decorations, flowers, and miniature potted trees line the streets, there are no regular Christmas trees for sale on 28th Street.