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Greg Callaway is standing at the corner of 14th and I streets NW, as he is most days of the year, selling roses from two buckets while a boombox is blasting in the background.
“Thanks for giving my life purpose and meaning,” he tells a man in a grey suit, handing him a dozen roses. “People out here telling me it’s too cold, [but you] can’t put no pressure on love. Somebody has to have flowers. It’s all about relationships.”
Before he sold $5 bundles of flowers to passersby and commuters leaving the McPherson Square Metro station, Callaway says he co-owned a shop in the ‘80s called Flower Power, located in what’s now a Five Guys near his stand.
“When they put in this aluminum awning, the rent went sky high. Those people in the buildings now probably paying $5,000,” he says, pointing to the office building where Washington City Paper is headquartered. “Now we’re doing the old grab and go at the Metro.”
Callaway usually only sells roses by the half-dozen for $5, but he ups that price to $10 around the holiday and offers a dozen for twenty bucks: “For the experience, you know? It’s marketing.” But he’ll cut a return customer a deal.
“I try to meet one person and learn one word each day,” he says. “I really enjoy this. I meet a lot of nice people. I believe I am providing a service.”
At Nosegay Flowers—a brick-and-mortar shop located at 1120 20th St. NW— a dozen roses will set a customer back $99.99. Operations Manager Leman Mitchell says 300 orders have been placed (so far) for Valentine’s Day delivery, which will begin at 7:30 a.m.
Caruso Florist will begin delivery even earlier on Feb. 14, with about 30 delivery trucks, as well as other vehicles and “walkers,” ready to go at 6 a.m. “We have about 1,000 orders for tomorrow,” says Michael Caruso, vice president of the company. A basic bouquet of a dozen roses costs $76.95 at the downtown shop.
When asked what the most popular Valentine’s Day flower is, the response is unanimous. “Oh my God, the rose,” says Mitchell, sounding exasperated. The biggest cliché of the holiday is flourishing this season.
Photo by Morgan Hines