San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Flower Delivery Business Not Always Rosy

IT is pouring rain as Ricardo Altamirano stands at thegate of a house, speaking to the maid over the blaring intercom– begging her to accept a bouquet of 50 red roses inhis arms.The maid is relentless. Her employer doesn’t want theflowers from her boyfriend because they’ve had a fight.Altamirano insists, the woman refuses.Altamirano then looks back to his car where the rejectedboyfriend sits with the window down, listening to his girlfriend’slitany of name-calling. The sheets of rain pounddown on the $45 bouquet. The boyfriend starts to cry.Such is the hard life of the flower delivery business,where passions run high and gorgeous flowers may beaccepted with a smile or rejected with a scowl.“Most people get very happy when someone sendsthem flowers; it’s very sentimental,” said Altamirano, co-owner,along with Ellen Schwartzman, of Green Leaf, abusiness that delivers export-quality flowers to customers’homes whenever they like.MOST of the time, according to Altamirano andSchwartzman, flower deliveries go smoothly and result indelighted customers.“Flowers are like food,” said Schwartzman, whomoved here from the United States. “If you bake someonechocolate chip cookies, they love it. If you give someoneflowers, it makes them happy. They brighten up a room.”Most people want flowers in their homes, but are oftentoo busy to buy them on a regular basis.“Now they can get the best flowers without ever havingto leave their house,” Schwartzman said.For interior decorator-turned-stay-at-home-mom IleanaGuerrero of San Antonio de Belén, northwest of San José,Green Leaf’s services are a perfect fit.“I love happiness, and I feel life when I place flowers(around the house),” Guerrero said. “I love to pick themout for myself.”YAEL Fachler, 18, a student from Santa Ana, southwestof San José, prefers not to do the choosing. Shereceived Green Leaf flowers as a gift after a ballet recital.“They were roses, and I loved them,” she said. “Theylasted perfectly for one week. I put them in my room and Iloved looking at them.”Unlike the angry girlfriend who rejected her beau’sbouquet, Fachler welcomes getting flowers.“I think it’s a very good feeling,” she said. “I prefer abouquet of flowers to any other gift.”Green Leaf is one of the few floral companies thathave access to flowers grown for export and so guards itssources closely.“We work with several independent farms,”Schwartzman said. “The majority of them export to Europeand the United States. Everything we buy is first quality.”The advantage of Green Leaf, according toSchwartzman, is that Altamirano drives to farms aroundSan Jose every morning to buy the flowers fresh.“A lot of florists in town and the freestanding standsdon’t by first quality,” she said. “Because we get themdirectly from the farms they have a much longer life thanthe majority of flowers you’d get from other places. Webring a much better product at much better cost because wework directly with the farmers.”ACCORDING to Paola Quesada, the store manager atKa Internacional, Green Leaf flowers are the perfect complementto the decoration store’s wares.“The flowers are always really fresh, and the last quitea long time,” she said. “They bring them to the store, andI can choose what I want. They’re all so beautiful; everyweek we use a different kind.”Green Leaf aims to corner the middle of the market,offering quality at good prices, Schwartzman said. Shesays that prices vary widely depending on type of flowerand order size, but range from ¢1,000 ($2.30) for a bunchof daisies to ¢5,500 ($12.50) for a dozen rare roses.“Most people don’t go to a floral shop, a high-endshop, for a bunch of lilies – usually then you’re getting anarrangement. So most people buy bunches in the street, butthose have been sitting out for hours and days in the hotsun,” she said.WITH Green Leaf, there is no refrigeration system andno storage.“We only buy flowers that have been ordered,”Schwartzman said. “You call the day before and you getthem the next day.”Depending on the flower type, Altamirano said GreenLeaf’s flowers last from four days to two weeks.“We specialize in lilies and roses and tropical flowersand gerber daisies, but we get any kind and every kind offlower,” Schwartzman said.The pair began Green Leaf in February as a standard floral shop.“For two months we had a small floral shop. We were buying frommajor distributors that everyone else uses, and we kept getting stuffthat was old and wasn’t good,” Schwartzman said. “We thought we’dbe just another shop, but turns out that people are looking for deliveryservice, for convenience and high quality. And they don’t want to payan arm and a leg, and rightly so.”So Altamirano and Schwartzman created a system in which the customercalls for next-day delivery, specifying how many and what kindof flowers they desire, as well as what time Altamirano should deliver.ALTAMIRANO has worked in many aspects of the agricultureindustry, and has the greater hand in running the business.Schwartzman, who came here as a student, is an educational consultantwho sees Green Leaf as more of a hobby.“This is something I do because I love it, and it gives me the abilityto be creative,” she said.Both say that delivering flowers is an enjoyable business for themand for their customers.“It’s interesting to see the faces of people when you bring thembeautiful roses,” Altamirano said.Green Leaf delivers everywhere in the San José metropolitan area,seven days a week. Orders must be made the previous day so thatAltamirano can obtain them on the morning of the delivery. For rareflowers or for floral arrangements call further in advance. Orders canbe placed in English at 812-0019, and for info or consultation contactSchwartzman at 392-8114.

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