Mundelein florist shares Valentine’s secrets
Nell Rice, owner of Debbie's Floral Shoppe in Mundelein, has been preparing for roughly six weeks to make Valentine's Day special for her customers. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 21, 2013 2:28PM
MUNDELEIN — Whether you’re scrambling for a last-minute bouquet on Valentine’s Day or planned weeks ahead, it’s people like Nell Rice who ensure your sweetheart can’t tell the difference.
Rice, co-owner Debbie’s Floral Shoppe in Mundelein, may be the designer behind the flowers you see at local restaurants on Feb. 14, a surprise delivery at your office, or that eleventh-hour gift that saves the holiday.
After many years serving as vice president of operations for JP Morgan, she chose to become a florist full-time. Rice had designed flowers both part- and full-time for 15 years before she and her son bought the Mundelein flower shop at 421 N. Lake St. in November 2011.
To understand how so many bouquets get so lovely in time, we asked Rice to share how she creates her Valentine’s Day magic:
Q. How long does it take to prepare for Valentine’s Day?
A. We start preparing immediately after the holiday rush, so we spend most of January taking orders and planning how we want to handle that second week of February.
Q. What’s the most difficult part of planning?
A. Anticipating what our activity is going to be like. You don’t want to be short-changed or overstocked. The biggest factor is what day of the week Valentine’s falls on. The busiest days are always weekdays because individuals will often send orders to their spouses’ work. Earlier in the week is also better because people like to show off and more orders come in if they know the flowers will sit on a desk for more days.
Q. Do you need to hire extra, short-term employees for the holiday?
A. We do hire people to help take orders, fill orders, unload merchandise, work the store and, especially, clean the store. When people come in looking to buy nice flowers, they want to see a beautiful presentation. Rose pedals, snow and random items need removed constantly. This year we hired six extra employees.
Q. Do you typically get a lot of last minute shoppers?
A. On Valentine’s Day itself we have to turn the lights out at close and clean in the dark or else random stragglers will knock on the door all night. At some point we have to call it quits though.
Q. Do you recall any great ideas customers have come up with?
A. We had a gentleman last year order three dozen roses and bought one extra because he wanted a rose for every year he was married.
Q. Do you come across bad ideas?
A. The phrase “give me what you got” is commonly spoken. We always make sure it’s a quality product, but that’s how we know they’re clueless.
Q. Since you work a lot this week, when do you get to celebrate Valentine’s Day?
A. There is no time. Everything has to happen here. For all the holidays, we’re here working. We were open until 2 p.m. on Mother’s Day, so we could help with last minute orders, and my adult kids couldn’t pull me away. They actually ended up here helping me.
Q. How do you relax after the rush is over?
A. I’m not sure we’re going to have any R&R because we roll right into Mundelein High School’s Turnabout Dance this weekend. Immediately after we close on Thursday we’re going to start making boutonnieres and corsages. On Sunday, I will go to church at 9 a.m., enjoy a nice meal and then watch a string of “NCIS” episodes.
To find Rice’s designs online, visit debbiesfloralshoppe.com.