The coronavirus has brought many small businesses to a standstill, as they can’t rely on walk-in traffic to sell their goods. Oxnard, California-based nursery Milgro found themselves in a similar situation a month ago as they had to cancel orders for Easter bouquets.
Instead of letting their flowers wilt, the company began distributing fresh lilies at Target and Chick-fil-A to shoppers who needed a pick-me-up.
“These are uncertain times, and we don’t know what the future holds,” Milgro co-owner Cherilyn Smith said in a one-minute video shared with Inman. “But this, we do know. We can spread hope, we can spread joy and we can celebrate life.”
“We can give to our neighbors and our community,” she added.
Within a week, the nursery had delivered more than 27,000 flowers. However, that wasn’t enough — they still had thousands of flowers in their greenhouses. So, they coordinated with UPS locations in the cities they served and asked drivers to give a free bouquet with each delivery in Newcastle and St. George, Utah; Las Vegas and Oxnard.
Utah-based ERA Brokers Consolidated CEO Neil Walter heard about Milgro’s good deeds when one of his agents shared a Facebook post about the free bouquet she received during a UPS delivery.
“I had one of my agents receive their flowers, and she posted it on Facebook,” Walter said. “She said she had no idea how or why she got it, but it was perfect because she was having a really rough day. Once I saw what was going on, I called [Milgro] because I know the people who own the nursery.”
Walter called Smith to give kudos and ask about their future delivery plans. During the conversation, Smith revealed the company was burning through cash to pay for deliveries but wanted to keep going.
“They did as many as they could, and it was expensive to do,” Walter explained. “It’s cheaper for them to literally throw them away and grow new flowers for the next round of orders, but they decided to take a tough situation and try to help people out.”
“I just asked, ‘Is there a way to put some on a truck and send them to New York?” he added. “I just said, ‘Cherilyn, find out how much it costs, and I’ll figure out how to get it delivered.'”
Smith consulted with her brothers who co-owned the business and they agreed to Walter’s plan. After getting the green light, Walter contacted Jim Castimore, a friend and former client in New Jersey who owned a fleet of refrigerated trucks.
Walter said his pitch was simple: “If I deliver a trailer of flowers to your backyard, can you deliver them for me?”
After getting Castimore on board, Smith called NYC Health and Hospitals for a list of locations that would accept the 15,000 flowers, and Walter paid $15,000 for the flowers’ journey from Utah to New York on May 6. Meanwhile, Castimore organized the list of 13 hospitals and nursing homes into 10 routes for his team of drivers who made the deliveries Tuesday.
“For me, I’m just hoping the flowers get to someone who appreciates them, and Cherilyn would be thrilled if someone is excited,” Walker said. “There are hundreds of thousands of people we wish we could do something nice for.
“The first responders who are helping people get to the hospital, the patients in the hospital, the hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers who are providing support, and all the essential workers whether they’re in a medical department or grocery store deserve to be honored,” he concluded. “There are plenty of people we wish we could help.”