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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 23, 2012

A thorny issue
Florist says GFD rose sales shut her down

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — In February 2010, Jean Simmons had hope for her floral business.

This year, she’s closing her doors for good.

Simmons blames her closure on the Guilderland Fire Department, and its annual Valentine’s Day rose sale.

Valentine’s Day rose sales, a big money-maker for florists, typically carried Simmons through the summer until Thanksgiving.

She fought against the fund-raiser for two years, and was rewarded when the fire department agreed to forgo the rose sale in 2010, and again in 2011.

“We fought the sale back in 2009 when it was in the planning process, but this one they snuck by us,” said Simmons, of the fire department’s decision to reinstate the sale this year.

Simmons’s son is a member of the fire department but was out on military leave when the decision was made this time to reinstate the rose sale, she said.

Knowing she would be unable to compete with the wholesale prices the fire department could offer for its roses, Simmons said she cut her typical flower order by two-thirds and slashed her prices.

Even so, she ordered 800 flowers and sold only 500. She made $3,865 in Valentine’s Day sales, and she owes her wholesaler $3,535.

“That doesn’t leave me much,” said Simmons. “I can’t even make payroll.”

In 2009, the last year the Guilderland Fire Department held the fund-raiser, Simmons said her sales were down by almost 80 percent, and she considered closing her store then.

Also in 2009, while the department was still deciding whether to hold the sale in 2010, Chuck Meyers, the director of fund-raising for the fire department, said the rose sale was a supplemental fund-raiser, which is done in addition to the department’s annual fund drive.

No one from the Guilderland Fire Department could be reached this week for comment.

The money from the rose sale is used to make purchases for which the fire district, which levies taxes, does not pay. The Guilderland Fire District is allotted nearly $50,000 annually in the town budget.

In 2009, Meyers said the money raised by selling roses was used for parade gear, open houses, and displays at the Altamont Fair.

The fire department voted to forgo the fund-raiser for 2010 after Simmons wrote multiple letters explaining the toll the sale was taking on her business, and had her customers write letters, too.

William Young, the attorney for the department, sent Simmons a letter in early 2010, stating that the decision was made the cancel the sale for that year.

“It was never their intent to have a negative impact upon local business,” Young read.

Florist’s advocate

Simmons took over Classica Florist in 2007, having grown up in the floral business.

“My grandfather and mother were in the floral business and I’ve known flowers for a long time,” she said.

Calling herself too young to retire, Simmons said this week that she isn’t sure what her next move will be, after she closes her doors on Feb. 29. She is not looking forward to job-searching, she said, because there is not a lot available.

One thing she will be doing is working to make sure the fire department stops the rose sale in coming years, in order to protect the florist shops still left in Guilderland.

“I’m going to be the florist advocate,” she said. “I want to make sure they don’t drive another business out.

“I said in 2009 that I would not survive another rose sale,” said Simmons. “We got a two-year reprieve, and that’s the only reason I was still here.”

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