Last month, two days before Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered non-essential businesses to close, Chris Hackert, owner of the East Meadow Florist, put 500 green carnations on display outside his storefront on East Meadow Avenue. It was the day after St. Patrick’s Day, and the East Meadow School District had placed an order for the flowers for a fundraiser the administration ended up canceling.
Rather than dispose of them or sell them, Hackert gave them away to anyone who wanted them. Some people passed the shop, took a flower and went on their way. Many stopped in to say thank you, and some even paid for the flowers they took.
While much has changed in the weeks since then, Hackert’s shop remains open, and he hopes to continue ringing in the season despite the isolation. The East Meadow Florist has been in operation since 1961, originally on Hempstead Turnpike, and Hackert took over as owner in 1996. Two years ago he downsized the business and moved to East Meadow Avenue, where he is now the sole proprietor.
“My claim to fame is that I’m a one-man operation,” he said. “I’m the guy who takes your order, creates your order, delivers your order and sweeps up when I’m done. I like it that way, and the customers have responded well to it.”
Hackert has closed his storefront, but is accepting call-in orders for pickup and delivery. At this time of year he usually sees orders for Passover and Easter centerpieces or flower arrangements.
Flowering plants are harder to order now, because many suppliers have closed, but Hackert orders his from out of state and picks up the shipments in Hauppauge. “I’m getting stuff from different sources, but inventory is still limited,” he said. “And a lot of people aren’t spending money because they’re not getting paid, or have already spent it all on toilet paper or Lysol.”
Hackert has taken part in online webinars with the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce, which hopes to help local businesses stay afloat by letting them know about programs like the federal government’s Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
“We’ve been hosting virtual meetings to talk about the small business loan process and what that’s like,” said Richie Krug Jr., the chamber’s vice president.
The Zoom videoconferences began as a way for chamber members to share ideas and how they’ve been coping during the pandemic. Krug described the process as “chasing a moving target” because so much is changing on a daily basis when it comes to government orders, closures and relief programs.