Delivering Smiles During COVID-19

Denise Bedell

Creativity. Optimism. Resilience. Entrepreneurship. These qualities are the cornerstone of capitalism and are among the most powerful engines of innovation. When they are brought to fruition in the free market, ideas are generated, businesses get started, value is created, and society as a whole ultimately benefits.The economic upheaval and uncertainty created by the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) will demand the very best that both the public and private sectors have to offer. In the coming weeks, “This Is Capitalism” will supplement its regular content with stories of private-sector initiatives that embody these core qualities.

Embracing the Funny

Small businesses, particularly in the service and tourism industries, have been hardest hit. And while many are simply hunkering down and hoping to survive, some have even chosen humor as a way to help themselves and their communities to stay positive.

Blossom Events & Florist, in the small town of Trumann Arkansas, is clearly taking that route. On Friday, March 13, the florist posted a pic on social media of their newest arrangement: the TP Bouquet – a lovely arrangement featuring beautiful greenery, ribbons… and a number of decorated rolls of toilet tissue.

We spoke with Bart Faulkner, co-owner and operator of Blossom Events & Florist. “Initially, it was just something to be light-hearted and funny,” he explains. “We were not even seriously contemplating selling it until our local customers wanted to buy it and for us to deliver it.”

The story has blown up on social media, has been picked up by news outlets around the country and is even starting to garner international media attention – although Faulkner notes that international delivery is not an option. “If we could ship them, we would have sold a ton,” says Faulkner. “We have had people call from every State. But it is mainly for our regular customers in Northeast Arkansas.”

Blossom, as with so many other small firms, is feeling the effects of coronavirus on its business. But as a florist focusing primarily on weddings and events, the full impact is still to be determined. “We lost one wedding today [Wednesday] that was [scheduled] for the weekend. Monday we had a cancellation and three postponements for this month. So it is very much having an impact.” Faulkner adds that their day-to-day sales are down by about 60%. He says he is very concerned with how long it may be before the virus is contained. “How long will everyone be in panic mode?”

In the meantime, Faulkner and his team are creating smiles worldwide as they produce their unique TP Bouquets for customers in the Northeast Arkansas area. The bouquet costs around the same as a dozen roses – around $75 – and involves significant time, supplies and artistry to create.

If you live in Northern Arkansas and you are looking for something to cheer up a friend, colleague or family member, give Blossom Events & Florist a call and order them a TP Bouquet. And let’s all do our best during this tough time to support local businesses that are struggling the most, so that we can all come through this with grace and aplomb, while minimizing the risk to life and livelihood.

Being Agile

While some restaurants, amid mass closures, are embracing the “dining bond” approach to bring in revenue and stay afloat, one restaurant in Seattle has chosen a different route – closing its high-end dining room and opening three new food outlets: a “Bagel Shed” pick-up service in the morning; “Drive On Thru,” a drive-through open in the afternoon; and an at-home delivery service called “Family Meal” in the evenings.

The goal, according to a press release on the restaurant’s website, is to create a solution that allows for social distancing without social isolation. Says co-owner Mark Canlis: “Seattle may not need fine dining right now… It needs each of us asking the question ‘what can I do, how can I help?’ So we’re helping by creating safe jobs for our team. We’re figuring out a way to feed and encourage a hungry city.”

Brady Williams, Canlis Executive Chef, adds: “I love that we’re finding creative ways to support our favorite farmers and producers during this time of uncertainty and lost business.” Not only is Canlis being agile in responding to the slowdown in a way that supports its employees and suppliers, but it is also using it as an opportunity to help in the community.

Proceeds will be used to provide meals to frontline healthcare workers and others in need as a result of the pandemic. “These progressive projects will enable Canlis to keep their team employed and continue to do what they love–feed the city,” said the release.