Interior of Ashby Flowers. Photo: Ashby Flowers/Facebook

Update, May 9: Ashby Flowers decided not to open for curbside pick-up but is offering home delivery.

Original story: Ashby Flowers, located near the intersection of Ashby and Telegraph avenues, is opening up for business Friday – just in time for Mother’s Day.

Marcy Simon, who owns the florist with her husband, Iraj Misaghi, said the couple is reopening because Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxed the state’s shelter-in-place order to allow curbside pick-up for florists.

Berkeley, however, has not loosened its order. The city, which has its own health department, is only allowing delivery and curbside pickup for essential businesses, such as restaurants. Currently, florists are not on that list. Neither are bookstores, music stores, or sporting goods stores, all of which Newsom said could start curbside delivery on Friday as part of California’s stage 2 reopening. He said, however, that counties or cities with stricter rules could still enforce them.

“The information is so muddled,” said Simon, who said that the store is reopening because they believe they have permission to do so, not because they are defying city orders.

Ashby Flowers is not the only florist reopening and not the only one whose owners believe curbside pick-up is now allowed.

Jared Lee, whose grandfather started Berkeley Florist on University Avenue in 1946, is also planning to offer curbside delivery, he said. Other flower shops around Berkeley will also offer curbside delivery but have asked Berkeleyside not to name them because they are afraid of being shut down — and they are desperate for money.

Others are taking a wait-and-see approach. Solano Florist has contemplating offering curbside pick-up but is waiting to make sure it is okay, according to the owner, Amir.

Florists shouldn’t be open, said Matthai Chakko, the city spokesman.

“Non-essential businesses are allowed to deliver existing inventory but curbside pickup is not permitted under the local order,” he said.

In the past, city officials have said they don’t want to immediately punish residents for not complying with shelter-in-place orders. Generally, the police issue a verbal warning first. Hundreds of those have been delivered.

Social distancing required even with curbside pickup

Simon said she and her husband are putting measures in place to make sure there won’t be close contact between staff and customers. Those working inside the store perched in a corner of the Whole Foods Parking lot will be wearing masks and gloves and will have an ample amount of hand sanitizer available. There won’t be any direct contact in a transaction.

Misaghi put marks on the sidewalk in front of the store on Thursday to measure six-feet intervals, the distance recommended for social distancing. Customers will have to line up to get their flowers.

The economic hit on the business since shelter-in-place rules went into effect has been “hideous,” said Simon.

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated florists since social distancing means there are fewer weddings, graduations, birthdays and anniversaries. Mother’s Day is one of the biggest sales days of the year.

On the bright side, the store picked up extraordinary flowers at the San Francisco Flower Mart. Most of them were locally grown she said. One florist said they have lilacs, peonies, lilies, and roses.  Lee said he has been having a hard time getting tulips. (The Netherlands destroyed 140 million tulips after demand dropped with the advent of pandemic.) But he has many other blooms, including protea, snapdragons, lisianthus and dahlias.

All the florists, even those who only do deliveries, said the orders are pouring in. Many of them are swamped because they laid off staff in mid-March.

“My dad came out of retirement to help this weekend,” said Lee.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...