Though they had to close both of their stores for being “non-essential” businesses during the coronavirus epidemic, Flowers by Mike showed just how vital they are to the Oceanside and East Rockaway communities.
After Gov. Andrew Cuomo's mandate caused him to shutter his flower shops, at 221 Merrick Road in Oceanside and 338 Atlantic Ave. in East Rockaway, owner Mike Graham made sure his flowers did not go to waste. The shop donated 50 arrangements to seniors at the Oceanside Care Center, dropped flowers on stoops of random strangers' homes throughout the neighborhoods and offered carnations to a woman who was putting them on nurses' cars at hospitals, including Mount Sinai South Nassau, as a way to praise frontline workers.
“We wanted to give back to the community,” Graham said. “We're not open right now, but we can help in other ways.”
Lisa Teri was jogging down the street when Graham approached her and handed her a bouquet of flowers. She was so moved that she took to Facebook to thank him.
“A completely random, generous drive-by gift while out for my run from 'the Mike mobile,'” she wrote. “Flowers by Mike, talk about putting a smile on a girl's face. Thanks Mike, I won't forget this.”
Residents at the Oceanside Care Center also expressed gratitude because the flowers lifted many of their spirits. The facility is not permitting visitors because of COVID-19 concerns, so Graham said he was happy to do something to make them smile.
Graham opened Flowers by Mike in his native Oceanside in January 2019. Last month, he took over the East Rockaway Florist. He had just launched the new operation when he had to shut down. Since opening, Graham has been active in both communities, and each Valentine's Day he donates roses to MSSN so that the staff can give them to patients along with their meals.
“That was my whole goal all along was to be a part of the community,” Graham said, “to help in any way that I can, and just give to the community. It's making people smile. It's making people happy, whatever I can do, I'll do it.”
Graham said closing his shops has had a devastating financial impact, including having to be dormant for Easter and Passover, two holidays where he generates a lot of business. He added that he was worried that he may be closed for Mother's Day in May, which is usually a booming day for business.
Graham noted that he has not laid anyone off, and that the staff is working to get through the global crisis as a team. He said he wishes his customers, community members and fellow business owners well, and expressed optimism that things will turn around eventually.
“Everyone will get through this together,” he said, “and the positive in the end is we'll get back and support our local businesses.”