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'You get the biggest smiles': Quad-City florist delivers joy, love on Valentine's Day
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'You get the biggest smiles': Quad-City florist delivers joy, love on Valentine's Day

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J. D. Van Blaracom, spiffy in black slacks, red shirt and black tie, made faces bloom with happiness all day long on Friday.

Van Blaracom delivered flowers to offices and homes for customers at West End Gardens Florist, Davenport, where customers gathered long before 8 a.m. to pick up bouquets, stuffed animals and candy for Valentine's Day.

Susan Cunningham, proprietor, never stopped moving Friday morning. She adjusted petals and added bows while customers swarmed and arrangement after arrangement was carried into waiting vans to be delivered across the Quad-Cities.

Flowers abounded everywhere, and the scent of roses and other blooms created a sense of a field or garden — quite the opposite of the shiver-inducing 8-degree temperatures outdoors. 

While clients and staff moved in and out of the store, strewn with pink, red and white petals, Zoey the cockapoo greeted them all, pausing for an occasional nap later playing and scampering around with a bunch of heart-shaped balloons.

“We start prepping for Valentine’s Day months in advance to get the prices,” Cunningham said. “You would think a Friday would be the best day of the week,” she said. But many couples take Friday off to go out of town or go somewhere for dinner.

She always is impressed at the creativity flower buyers show, devising scavenger hunts with gifts at every location, or spelling out proposals in myriad ways.

Cunningham stayed up almost all night preparing bouquets, which adorned the back and front of the shop. Her daughter, Kaylee Cunningham, home from studying interior design at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, was among the crew who bustled, and determined logistics. “They keep closing Rockingham road, and that’s very hard on all the businesses down here,” she said.

Cunningham could not count how many arrangements she had made, only saying the number was in the hundreds.

“I grew up doing this in my home,” Cunningham said. “My mom and her best friend did (flowers for) weddings out of our house.”

She advised recipients of fresh flowers to trim a little off the stems every day and change the water every couple of days.

The most popular flower? “It’s roses, roses, roses all day long,” she said. “That is our number one seller.” Second were designs with lilies and roses, and third were mixes of spring flowers.

Ken Heintz, Davenport, who usually is a substitute teacher, took off with several arrangements early in the morning. Van Blaracom, who works as a custodian for Davenport Schools, wasn’t far behind, with deliveries in central and west Davenport.

Van Blaracom said Friday is the first of three busy days — deliveries are abundant on Saturday, too, he said, as men forget to plan ahead or forget the day altogether. Valentine's Day, Cunningham said, is one of her two busiest days. The other is Mothers Day.

Cuningham put the petal to the metal, so to speak, and made several deliveries in less than an hour, with his van running most of the time to maintain warm temperatures up front and a cooler environment in the back.

“The heat is worse on flowers than the cold is,” he said, adding that floral delivery drivers must crank up the air conditioning during the summer.

He looked forward to handing the bouquets to the recipients. “In this job, you can have somebody having their worst day, and you get the biggest smiles” upon floral deliveries, he said.

Beth Sindt, director of finances for the Quad-City Symphony Orchestra, grinned when Van Blaracom presented her a bouquet. She and her husband were married Aug. 14, 1976, so the flowers were for her 43 ½-year anniversary, she said.

He gets in trouble for spending money on flowers sometimes, she said. “I’m the finance person.”

Elsewhere, at the Davenport home of Shaun Cook was delighted to receive a heart-shaped pillow, balloons, flowers and candy.

Jessica Triana, of Buffalo, is office manager at Jumpin’ Joey’s, Davenport. She was on the phone when Van Blaracom arrived, and began to smile while he carefully peeled back the covering from the blossoms and greens. 

“I knew,” she said, but she didn’t seem any less excited about receiving her bouquet that included tulips.

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