Shirley Balleck gets out of her van Thursday to deliver flowers to a residential house. Balleck has owned The Flower Mine & Gift Shop for three years and maintains a delivery schedule, as well.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Shirley Balleck gets out of her van Thursday to deliver flowers to a residential house. Balleck has owned The Flower Mine & Gift Shop for three years and maintains a delivery schedule, as well.

Blooming business

Florists take on various tasks, come back with stories to tell

— A light snow falls, turning the sky gray Thursday morning.

Drivers switch on their headlights and wipers as they meander down Victory Way.

But, step inside Shirley Balleck's business and the scene changes completely.

A light fragrance wafts through the air as Balleck moves about The Flower Mine & Gift Shop, a florists shop she bought three years ago.

The smell's source: flowers, of various varieties and from various locations in and out of the country, including California, Holland, Ecuador and Grand Junction, Balleck said.

Eventually, she said, the blooms will find their way to homes and businesses throughout Craig and surrounding areas.

Balleck occasionally helps those flowers find their final destinations.

Balleck's not solely the store's owner. She also acts as the store's bookkeeper, a bouquet arranger and a delivery driver.

The latter in her job description gives her and another area florist their share of stories to tell.

On the road, Balleck's destinations usually include area houses and businesses.

But not always.

"We've delivered out to the construction site at Walgreen's a couple of times," she said.

Not all of the shop's deliveries can be made in the company car, however.

"There's a few Internet romances we've done," she said, where customers request that flowers be shipped long distances to someone they've never met in person.

Through a network with other florist shops, the store can send flowers to recipients throughout the U.S. and into Canada, she said.

"We've done our very best," to make sure the flowers reach their destination, she added.

She navigates down the wet streets, on her way to deliver a small vase full of flowers to a new father. As she drives, she reflects back on her three years in the florist business.

"We do all kinds of crazy things," she said, including making arrangements with balloons and gourmet foods.

The most notable arrangement she's helped make to date: A package including a McDonald's Big Mac, a pack of cigarettes and a small bottle of whiskey.

The customer brought in the items and shop staff made it into a basket, which included some gifts bought at her store, she said.

"That was an interesting one," Balleck said.

While the contents of the deliveries may change, there's one detail of her business stays the same.

She always can count on the week of Valentine's Day to be significantly busier than other days in the year, she said.

This year, Balleck estimated her shop made about 500 deliveries during Valentine's Day week. To handle the number of orders, she, her husband, her sons, nephews and "anyone I can talk into" made deliveries, she said.

City Market florist Candeas Verplanck, who also has been in the floral department for three years, can relate.

The store's floral department makes about 25 to 30 deliveries a week, she said.

Valentine's Day is usually a different story. This year, the shop made about 100 deliveries on the holiday.

"Two days before and the day after (Valentine's Day) it's just crazy," she said.

Valentine's Day isn't the only event that keeps Verplanck busy.

The City Market floral department makes and delivers funeral arrangements, some of which are custom-made to reflect the departed person's tastes and activities.

Once, the shop made a flower arrangement that looked like a bingo card, Verplanck said. Currently, the department is creating lottery scratch ticket completely out of flowers for an upcoming funeral, she said.

The arrangement Verplanck remembers most vividly was one she delivered to a customer's husband for a special occasion.

The wife "sent shrimp in his lunch and forgot the cocktail sauce," Verplanck said.

So, the spouse requested the floral department send a small jar of the cocktail sauce with his bouquet.

The best part of Verplanck's job, however, isn't the variety.

It's the people waiting on the other end of the delivery run, especially those who are advanced in years.

"I just love (delivering to) elderly people," she said. "Flowers just brighten up their day."

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