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War… it’s good for love

Valentine’s Day isn’t until Saturday, but already they’re gearing up for the big day at Maison de Briques.

Wednesday, the round-the-clock shifts begin. Thursday, the nieces and nephews and in-laws and friends and neighbors begin pitching in. Friday, they start manning the phones full-time. By Saturday, the place will have taken on the appearance of a war zone — all in the name of love.

Sunday, they’ll unplug the alarm clock and take some well-earned R&R. Monday, they’ll pick up the pieces and begin the long slow process of getting ready for next year.

“Valentine’s is our biggest day of the year,” confirms Kaye Evans. “Used to be Mother’s Day was the biggest day, but not anymore.”

Evans owns Maison de Briques along with her mother, Gladys Franks. They’ve been in business here about 20 years. But Evans has been in the flower business even longer than that. She started out working for the old Hart’s Flowers. “I was the delivery person,” she recalls. “That’s when I got hooked.”

Evans has studied her trade in Europe and regularly attends industry seminars to keep up with the latest trends. For instance, bright colors are the hot thing these days — your bright oranges, hot pinks, lime greens. And the compact, tight look in floral arrangements made popular by Jackie Kennedy is enjoying something of a comeback after years of the bushier-is-better trend.

But Evans knows there’s no substitute in her business for simply knowing her customers.

“You have to know your customers,” she affirms. “That’s one of the good things about living in a small town, you get to know people, their likes and dislikes.”

Evans says that gourmet baskets have become popular gift items for the ladies to give to their valentines. But for the men there’s only one gift that will do.

“Roses,” Evans says, laughing. “Definitely. Most men think a red rose is the only thing for Valentine’s Day. But surprisingly we find that most women would prefer to have a cut-flower arrangement. We even have women tell us, ‘If my husband calls, tell him to send a cut-flower arrangement.'”

And, yes, Evans says most men still put off ordering those roses till the last minute. “We have to be prepared for anything,” she sighs. “People never do anything in advance anymore. That’s why we have two people manning the phone lines all day Friday and Saturday.”

And while you won’t find it in many job descriptions for a florist, Evans points out that hers is a business that occasionally calls for discretion — as when an otherwise staid customer dictates the contents of a torrid love note to accompany those last-minute roses.

“When that happens, you learn to just look down and try not to show any expression,” she says. “And remember, all orders are confidential.”

Evans says they would never be able to keep up with the last-minute rush if it weren’t for a little help from their friends.

“From Wednesday on we’re here all through the night,” she sighs. “My children help. My husband takes off from his other job to help deliver. All my nieces and nephews help. We even have friends who cook dinner for us. It’s really sort of a community effort, in a way, trying to make everybody in Demopolis feel loved for at least one day out of the year.”

Oh, and guys, don’t wait till the last minute.