Small but mighty, a Washington florist battles back in
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[August 05, 2020] By
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The bloom is back at
Lee's Flower and Card Shop in Washington's historic U Street
neighborhood, with an added touch: Blue, green, yellow and white origami
cranes spelling out the words "Black Lives Matter" on the storefront
The signs reflect a slow return to normalcy as life and business adapt
to the coronavirus pandemic and racial justice movement that both
erupted in the first half of 2020.
The business, run by sisters Stacie Lee Banks and Kristie Lee, stayed
open during the months of mandated shutdown in Washington, doing
deliveries as its doors stayed shut.
Clients have been welcomed back into the store since June 22, although a
table bars anyone from stepping in more than 10 feet. For wedding and
funeral consultations customers may go further inside, but only after
checking their temperatures.
"I think that we could have reopened more than we did, but we're still
being cautious about our space and not letting people in, because our
employees are concerned," Banks said.
When D.C. businesses reopened, the city government gave small businesses
a supply of masks and hand sanitizer upon request. The shop, one of
several U.S. small businesses that Reuters is following through the
crisis, also bought face shields for employees and a thermometer.
The sisters had to modify staff schedules, with people working the same
number of hours over fewer days.
The third generation owners of the family business also alternate their
days in the shop to care for their mother, who was diagnosed with
dementia this summer.
Staying open during the pandemic means rolling with unexpected punches,
like when an employee attended a gathering where someone later tested
positive for the coronavirus. The employee needed to quarantine, forcing
the shop to juggle shifts.
"We're a small staff, but we're mighty, and so when one person is gone,
we have to try to figure out how to replace them," Banks said.
BUSINESS BEGINS TO BLOOM
Business has rebounded from a slump in the early days of the pandemic
lockdown. Between June 1 and July 28, sales jumped 71% from a year
[to top of second column]
Lee's Flower Shop, one of the oldest businesses in D.C.'s U Street
neighborhood, posts signs on its windows ahead of another night of
protests against George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody,
in Washington, U.S., June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott
Being a Black-owned business may be a factor, Banks said. The killing of George
Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May sparked national protests over
racial injustice and a "buy Black" movement that she said has led customers to
Many people are sending flowers to their loved ones instead of visiting them.
And orders have risen for funerals and a pandemic trend, micro-weddings.
"Where we ordinarily would have 20 deliveries a day, we're having 40 and 50
deliveries a day," Banks said. Three more people have been hired, bringing her
staff total to 12.
Banks served on Washington's reopening advisory committee, and is happy with how
the district had reopened.
"I really think they did a good job by not reopening too soon, because look at
all the places that are having to close back down, like California, Texas,"
As the White House and Congress debate the next coronavirus relief bill, Banks
said she would like more business funding and clarity on Paycheck Protection
The shop received a $75,000 loan under the program, allowing it to rehire
"They say it's forgivable, but they haven't come out with any clear-cut rules on
how to make it forgivable," Banks said. "I am on pins and needles."
(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Dan Burns and Richard Chang)
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