Josi Stone is the proprietor of Wildly, a flower shop in South Orange, NJ.
As a parent, a small business owner and a human, I have experienced feelings of being overwhelmed, scared, grateful and unsure as I’ve adapted to living in our current reality, much like we all have, I’m sure.
When things first shut down, like my fellow small local business owners, I didn’t know if/how Wildly could operate. Weddings and events were postponed or canceled and supply chains in the floral industry halted, or at best, were massively interrupted. I took a few days of not leaving my house, focusing on family and our mental health, figuring out how to be in the right headspace to parent and help school my young children during this crisis and how to manage schedules with my partner, who thankfully is able to work from home. And like most of us, I’m guessing, finding the right headspace is an ongoing effort.
But, after the new normal began to settle in a bit at home, I reached out to local flower farmers to see what product I might offer, not knowing if there would even be any clients. One local family farm, growing specialty cut flowers since 1902, was also reeling as their NYC outlets closed their doors. They cannot stop the flowers from blooming and for the health of their crops need to continue harvesting. So I put in place safe and sanitary practices in accordance with government regulations and what science tells us about this virus. I bought a few bunches from this local flower farm and re-opened Wildly’s online shop for local, contact-free delivery, to see if anyone had any desire for fresh flowers.
Much to my delight and gratitude, people have been wanting to support their favorite small, local businesses in SOMA and they really want something fresh, different and cheerful in their homes. Wildly is one of the lucky ones, able to pivot and adapt to delivery-only operations. And flowers brighten and change, dare I say transform, a space. They make us feel more compassionate, connected and just generally boost our moods (it’s science). This is exactly what people need. I was almost brought to tears with each new order and show of support from this community, where I live and work and send my children to school. But even more than being moved by the outpouring of support for Wildly, I was touched by the love and support people continue to show one another.
People have been sending flowers to cheer each other on, to show support and solidarity, to be the hugs and the cheers that we still can’t physically give each other. And the picture of this place, our community, as a living, beating heart emerged. I am grateful to have an intimate look as I write each message sent along with the flowers by (gloved) hand. I have seen how much the people of these towns mean to each other and it is humbling every day to be witness to their dedication, encouragement and love. Honestly, this is a huge part of what keeps me going. Sure, the flowers are pretty, but really it’s about the people. It’s always been about the people.
Friends are longing to celebrate birthdays together. People are using flowers as a connection to the natural world, and as mood-boosters while they are sick with COVID and in isolation. Grandparents and grandchildren are missing each other’s snuggles. People are sending notes of love and encouragement, and after experiencing the joy and sentiment the flowers brought, they are paying it forward and sending more friends flowers in lieu of hugs. Most difficult of all, more and more people are doing their best to wrap each other in love during times of heartbreaking loss and isolated grieving. Yes, these are mostly typical occasions to send and receive flowers, but right now, it’s different. The messages and responses are different. These times are different.
As a florist, I like to say that floral design is writing a love letter using Mother Nature as the pen. I don’t have any medical training, and any expertise I may have in flower care and stem placement (that’s probably a thing?) and vase mechanics cannot translate to essential help in fighting this pandemic anywhere near the front lines. But I do know that flowers are a message of encouragement, gratitude and support. After receiving flowers from an encouraging friend, a doctor at St. Barnabas reached out to say what a difference they made and wanted to send along these feelings to her colleagues and support staff. We teamed up, arranging for her to bring bouquets at a shift change for those who are working in the buildings where the fight is happening in a real and terrifying way. Once our plan was in place, I reached out to this amazing community to help us gift these bouquets to hospital workers and your response was unsurprisingly generous. Smiles were delivered and a bit of brightness was shared in these dark times, to those heroes fighting day and night.
For Wildly to be able to deliver these messages of love and support on behalf of this community AND to in turn support the hard-working flower farmers through these uncertain economic times is a gift I will be grateful for always. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. This community is an incredibly special place full of incredibly special people and someday we will get to be together again. And hug. But for now, we are sending flowers.
Order flowers online from Wildly at https://www.wildlyflorals.com/.