Valentine’s Day take two

February 25, 2021 BY

Erin Cusack pictured with arrangements from her two companies, Florette and Conserva Botanica, which specialises in wedding and events as well as dried, preserved botanical ingredients. Photo: GEORGIA HOLLOWAY

SMALL business owners have shared their gratitude for the community’s support over Valentine’s Day weekend after being blindsided by news of a five-day lockdown.

Erin Cusack from Florette in Ocean Grove was left with thousands of dollars of exotic flowers after the stage four restrictions meant her biggest wedding of the season would be cancelled.

“The bride had specifically ordered very expensive flowers, there was imported roses from Ecuador and Kenya and orchids from Asia,” she said.

Unsure what to do, Ms Cusack posted on her local community’s Facebook page.

“It was amazing, I was really blown away as over 100 people contacted me wanting to help,” she said. “They just came together, and they helped in any way they could.”

Specialising in weddings, Ms Cusack has spent the greater part of the pandemic unable to work her normal role, relying on JobKeeper and a savvy business venture selling dried and preserved flower arrangements under her new company Conserva Botanica.

With the community’s support Ms Cusack was able to sell over half of her stock, while Torquay Florist shared a similar success story with almost all their arrangements being snapped up by locals willing to help.

“We put the call out and it was overwhelming how generous and supportive the community was,” a spokesperson from Torquay Florist said.

“People were offering to do deliveries, buying us drinks – it was beautiful and I am so very fortunate to have the community back me.”

General manager of The Pier, Gillian Costa, called the snap lockdown “gut wrenching”.

Among the reservations cancelled was a wedding and a surprise 40th birthday with family and friends flying in from interstate.

“From the point of view of the team who work so hard to sell these functions to then turn around and have to cancel them, it is heart breaking,” Ms Costa said.

During the latest lockdown, the state’s Chamber of Commerce estimated a loss of $100 million for restaurants and $36 million for florists across the state.

In an attempt to provide a “much-needed boost” to the two industries, the Chamber has launched a “Valentine’s Day Do Over” campaign for February 28.

“Victorian businesses in the hospitality, events and floristry sectors have been left heartbroken on what is meant to be the most romantic day of the year, and their most profitable,” CEO Paul Guerra said.

“We all want our favourite restaurants, cafes, venues and florists to be around for next year’s Valentine’s Day and ‘they can just do take-away’ really isn’t going to cut it.”

While the Victorian Chamber of Commerce is strongly encouraging the public to celebrate Valentine’s Day all over again, industry workers are hesitant.

“In theory it sounds great trying to support local businesses,” Ms Cusack said.

“Growers would have cut all of their roses, the local stocks will be heavily depleted so I don’t know how they will be able to supply a Valentine’s Day two weeks later.”

Ms Costa believes many hospitality venues would have been booked in advanced and she remains unsure if a repeat of the day would be as popular the second time round.

“Instead of trying to redo the day they could have changed it up like a Christmas in July,” she said.

“We appreciate the organisation trying to do what they can, and we will find some ways to support it, but I don’t think it would have the same impact.”

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