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Snow hampers florists’ Valentine’s deliveries

Friday was downtown Fredericksburg florist Jan Williams’ 43rd Valentine’s Day on the job.

And though she said she’s seen worse road conditions over the holiday, the single busiest day for florists, she said deliveries were particularly difficult to plan this year due to the snowstorm that swept the area during the week.

“It could be 70 degrees, it could be 15 degrees,” she said. “It could be clear or snowy or icy. That’s what makes Valentine’s Day, and the month of February, really, so challenging.”

The snowstorm, resulting in accumulations of up to 17 inches in part of the region and causing power outages for some, began Wednesday and relented Thursday night. All local school districts, colleges and many businesses were closed because of the storm.

Friday, the weather remained clear before snow was forecasted to return Saturday.

Hazardous conditions created by the snow and ice dampened Valentine’s Day plans for some area businesses. But Williams began preparing for the snow Wednesday by getting some orders out early and renting a more rugged truck for deliveries.

The biggest problem she encountered was a flower delivery that couldn’t leave Richmond on Thursday, which she remedied by having staff drive to Richmond to pick up.

She also enlisted drivers experienced with navigating snow-covered streets for the task of delivering several hundred bouquets to Fredericksburg-area sweethearts.

Stanton Coman and Dan Lustig, both University of Mary Washington students, delivered about 50 arrangements for Williams Friday.

The most treacherous roads they encountered were in downtown Fredericksburg.

Coman and Lustig had to park Williams’ van in the street—because parking spots were filled with plowed snow—and hop out to deliver two bouquets to husband and wife Byron and Michelle Mitchell, who unwittingly ordered each other flowers from the same florist.

The trip to Spotsylvania Courthouse was easier for the delivery duo because the county’s roads were clearer.

There, Lustig delivered an arrangement of 33 carnations to Judy Hart in the Commissioner of the Revenue’s Office.

Hart was married 33 years ago on Valentine’s Day, and her parents sent her a carnation for each anniversary.

But after her mother passed away in 2007, her children took over the tradition.

“That’s nice, that we came out here; she loved her flowers,” Lustig said. “You like to see that. It makes the job fun.”

During the trip they also delivered flowers to a dental office, a beautician and a hair braiding salon, where they climbed through knee-high snow to get to the shop’s door. Some deliveries didn’t happen on Friday because so many businesses were still closed.

The snow didn’t impact Lustig’s holiday plans, though. He was able to simply pick up roses for his fiancée Ivy at work.

Other area florists found the snow hampered their busy Valentine’s Day.

Robin Oakes at Merryman’s Florist said one of the shop’s vans got stuck in snow in the Hartwood area of Stafford County.

And Thompson’s Florist owner Rick Ross said he cut down on the orders his business took in to make sure the deliveries were manageable in the snow.

“It’s unfortunate because we didn’t know when the roads would clear up and could have taken more,” he said.

The snow also affected Valentine’s Day reservations at area hotels and restaurants.

The Belle Grove Plantation, a bed and breakfast in Port Conway in King George County, was one of the businesses affected by widespread power outages in the county.

Power wasn’t restored by Friday afternoon, and innkeeper Michelle Darnell faced the possibility of having to turn away guests on the most lucrative weekend of the year.

Belle Grove’s Valentine’s package included rental of a suite, a dozen roses, a box of locally made chocolates and room service for dinner and breakfast.

A couple had even decided to get married outside of the bed and breakfast Friday night.

Darnell said she never thought a year ago when opening the bed and breakfast for operation that she would have to prepare for a snowstorm of this magnitude.

“It’s a money-making weekend, so that makes it more anxious for us,” she said.

The Kenmore Inn in downtown Fredericksburg was also completely booked for Valentine’s Day.

But with no cancelations, assistant manager Haley Muller said staff were beginning to grow anxious.

“Our food deliveries haven’t come,” she said Friday afternoon.

If the delivery doesn’t show up before dinner service, the inn’s restaurant will “have to come up with new entrées on the fly,” Muller said.

Poppy Hill Tuscan Kitchen owner Mike Middleton said the weather surprisingly had not affected his reservation book.

Middleton is from New Hampshire and said he has gotten used to Fredericksburg-area residents staying home after a large snow, but the clear weather Friday coaxed everyone back outside.

One Fredericksburg restaurant actually experienced an uptick in business during the snowstorm and its aftermath.

At the Sunken Well Tavern, owner Steve Cameli said, “if anything, the snow has boosted our business. The community here knows that we stay open during snow and power outages, so they continue to walk in.”

Sunken Well’s four-course Valentine’s dinner was fully booked Friday, and Cameli expected customers to flood in, regardless of the snow.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com

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