SANTA ANA, California — Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Angel’s Flowers owner Olga Calderón and her two daughters were already finding ways to provide support to those facing hard times. So it’s no surprise to hear about their latest efforts to brighten up customers’ lives with arrangement giveaways and donations.
“For us it’s important to support those around us. If we are able to and if an opportunity to help someone presents itself, we will rise to the occasion,” Calderón told Latino Rebels.
Much of what they do centers around family, solidarity and community.
Since the pandemic, they’ve taken their own precautions and closed their doors. Like other small businesses, they’re only offering deliveries and curbside pick-up orders.
On this particular Saturday, Calderón walked into her flower shop located down Main St. and reviewed the orders of the day. Four women (Calderón, her two daughters Jenny and Zulma Arzate and Calderón’s close friend Azucena) assembled in their stations.
Jenny, 25, took care of managing orders, posting content online and assisting with the flower arrangements. That day, her 22-year-old sister Zulma, was responsible for delivering the first batch of orders.
“¿Ya están listas, mija?” Calderón said to her daughter as she began to count how many hand-crafted bouquets were in the buckets in front of her. With a tilt of her glasses, she scanned the bouquets to make sure they were all as they should be.
“Don’t forget your gloves and your mask,” Jenny reminded her younger sister Zulma as she prepares to fill her Honda Civic with flower arrangements.
Inside, Calderón began to wrap a basket full of fresh fruits.
“This one is going to Newport,” she said with a smile. “A family member in Illinois ordered it for their family that lives here.”
Birthday orders, anniversary orders, and a wave of “I miss you hope you are doing well” orders have filled their days. Their flower arrangements have been able to connect people with loved ones during this time of social-distancing and separation.
“Some families don’t live in California, they live in Texas or far away, so it’s really cool seeing that kind of connection happening every day,” Jenny said. “I’m glad we’re able to provide that connection and love, through flowers.”
Connecting With Flowers
Whether far away or local, if you spend a day at Angel’s Flowers during this pandemic, it’s clear, people miss their friends and family.
This was the case for Rowena Rodríguez, 22, who stopped by that day to pick up a bouquet of flowers for her mother who was recovering from eye surgery.
“My mom had been feeling down about losing hours at work, so I decided to get her flowers,” Rodríguez said. “We are very fond of red roses, to us they represent promise and hope. That’s why I made sure my mom’s arrangement had the brightest, most beautiful red roses.”
Hearing about Rodríguez mom’s surgery made Calderón add a special touch to the bouquet that day. Among the red roses she added a bright sunflower.
No matter how business is, they manage to give back however they can. They know there are customers and friends who have lost their jobs during this time.
“For me it’s very important that we are able to help those who need it. Even if it’s with a few hours here at the shop,” Calderón said about close friends who’ve worked with her. “Because with that money they are able to complete their rent or bring food home.”
From offering hours to friends to hosting giveaways, they help those around them.
One of their most recent giveaways was money—for families who have been heavily impacted by the current pandemic. What started as an idea to help three families sparked the reaction of an entire community.
“We started with three people for $15 and even then, I almost deleted the post because I’m like, that’s a little bit of money. But within three minutes of the post being up I got my first request to send money to our Venmo,” Jenny said. “It was just a domino effect after that.”
Their comment section on Instagram blew up with people expressing what they would use the money for.
Donations poured in from community members. Even their 11-year-old brother donated money from his piggy bank. At the end, they were able to help 15 families, giving each $50 .
“One of the people we selected was someone whose entire family got laid off. Another one was for a single mom,” Jenny said. “So many different stories, it hurt my heart. I wish we could’ve helped more people.”
Overall, they have been able to help 25 people in their community with money that they and others donate. Their plan is to continue doing this as long as they are able to.
Their generosity comes from their own lived experiences as they too have had their struggles in life. Calderon lost her job in 2017, which is when she began selling flowers anywhere, she could—the street, gas stations, even cemeteries during Day of the Dead.
In fact, the name of their store is named Angel’s Flowers after all the people who’ve helped them throughout the years. They consider their customers, friends and community as their angels. Angels that continue to show support despite the pandemic.
“It’s just so nice to give back to the people who are always giving to us, who always come by to say hi or buy flowers. It’s just really sweet,” Zulma said.
Which is why they worry that should things get worse with the pandemic. It might force them to shut down. Something Calderón says would not just impact them, but the entire flower industry.
“We’re a chain,” Calderón said. “From the farmworkers who grow these flowers and care for them, to the vendors and us the small businesses who dedicate our life to selling them, it would affect many. And not all would benefit from unemployment.”
Business During COVID
Calderon, who is usually the one to take the drive down to Los Angeles’ famous flower district, noticed the change early on. She describes today’s flower district as a ghost town, like much of LA’s callejones during this time.
They are either having to contact vendors independently or having to buy from new places that often have higher prices.
Knowing how big of an impact it could have on them and others is one of the many reasons why for them it’s important to support businesses in their own community. They often do this by collaborating with other businesses or by sharing their pages online with their followers. This not only allows new people to come to their page, but it means new customers for other businesses.
“Supporting these businesses shows a sense of community,” said Santa Ana resident and Angel’s Flowers customer, Jennifer Enríquez. “A lot of them are either not working or partially open. So, it’s important to support them even if it’s just buying one meal a week from them or some flowers.”
Thankfully for the women behind Angel’s Flowers, their community continues to support them.
Although times are scary and uncertain, the hustle continues for them as one of the busiest days of the year approaches. Mother’s Day.
At the end one thing is clear pandemic or no pandemic, Angel’s Flowers shows up for the community that has always had their back.
“When it comes down to it, we will always be here for our community, for our people and anyone who needs us,” Jenny said.