Jerry Mills' first stop after arriving in Minden Thursday afternoon was not to see his wife, but instead to pick up a dozen roses from Minden Floral for his sweetheart of 33 years.
"I called (Minden Floral) this morning when I left (work in) Beaumont, Texas," he said. "And then I stopped in Shreveport for a hair cut."
Mills said for his anniversary last November, he did the same, and being prepared for Valentine's Day was no different.
But having those arrangements ready not only for Mills and other men stopping in Minden's florists, but also the dozens who order goodies for their significant others is a process that takes months of planning.
Dinah Maupin, owner of The Blossom Shop, ordered 3,000 long-stemmed roses of all colors from South America about two months before the biggest floral holiday of the year.
"We only order the best roses," Maupin said. "They're 70 to 80 centimeters tall, and the color – they're beautiful roses."
Those 3,000 roses – and hydrangeas, tulips, daisies, irises and lilies for mixed arrangements – began arriving Tuesday.
And so did the extra help.
"We have to dethorn and wire the roses," Maupin said. "We have to have them ready for the designers to pull from the bucket to put in the vase."
And all of those flowers won't fit in the cooler, so Maupin turns down the thermostat and employees bundle up to essentially work in a refrigerator for four days.
"It's teeth chattering cold," she said. "But we have to do that because want to have them really crisp and perfect. And once they're arranged, they get tangled if you put them too close together."
There's not even time for a lunch break. Maupin and "the girls" - as she fondly refers to her crew - trade days bringing the noon meal.
"Everybody brings food so we don't have to stop," she said. "We call it survival food."
Orders are filled based upon date of delivery. They began going out Wednesday and will continue through Saturday for those who forgot, though the majority will be out for delivery today.
Aside from filling pre-orders, Maupin tries to have plenty of extra available for those waiting until the last minute – be it Thursday afternoon or walking in today.
"By this afternoon, they will take whatever they can get," Maupin said. "They do not want to go home to their sweetheart with nothing."
Fannette's Flower House's three trucks began the loading process at 7:30 a.m., today. And it will take all day to get the dozens of arrangements out the shop's door and into those of anxious women all over Minden and surrounding areas.
Thursday night, pre-ordered arrangements were grouped together by delivery area with routes lined out for each, owner Fannette Hodges said. Each arrangement is numbered and tagged, and vital information – a description of the arrangement and the recipient's name and address – are entered into a log sheet to ensure the right flowers are going to the right person at the right place.
"They all go in a different directions," Hodges said. "We'll have them a route ready for the first delivery when they go out. You've got to be organized.
That's the key to it."
While drivers are out for the first run, Hodges handles the logistics of the next round of deliveries and any new orders that may have come in.
Another time saver – tag teaming deliveries.
"Each truck has a hopper that takes the flowers to the door and while they're doing that, the driver is looking to see where they need to go next,"
Fannette Hodges said. "It just makes it twice as fast if you're got two people in the truck."
Pre-orders are given first priority, but no delivery time is guaranteed.
"It's just not possible," Hodges said. "We tell them we'll have them out sometime that morning or sometime that afternoon."
Fannette's designers also made an additional 50 arrangements for the last-minute men.
"We have product in the cooler and ready to be tagged and go out the door," she said. "We can't wait until morning to make the product up. We can't keep up with it."
Delivery trucks won't stop until around 6 p.m.
"We don't leave until everyone has their flowers," Hodges said. "It's a busy day. It's crazy here."
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