Neighborly florists to hand out 2 million free roses today Budding celebration has sweet smell of success

September 04, 1996|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

Start with millions of roses. Now bundle them by the dozens and give the blooms freely to anyone who walks through the door -- all in the name of goodwill and friendship.

With a name like Good Neighbor Day, anything can happen. So expect the metropolitan area to smell a bit sweeter today as stems of splendid floribunda pass from hand to hand.

The budding national celebration of community spirit, brotherly love -- and cheap advertising -- is in its third year, and 2 million long-stems are expected to be given away across the country by more than 1,000 florists such as Raimondi's Florist in Randallstown.

Workers at Raimondi's have prepped bouquets holding 8,333 dozen roses -- double the number of flowers they handed out last year -- to present to customers just for showing up at the company's nine stores.

Good Neighbor Day works like this: You get a dozen roses -- red, pink or yellow clusters that symbolize love and friendship -- with the hope that you'll keep one and pass on the other 11 in the name of harmony.

The goodwill continues in Laurel and Salisbury, where 20,000 blooms will be given out at Rainbow Florist and Kitty's Flowers, respectively.

"We do it for smiles," said Penny Bradford, owner of Kitty's Flowers in Salisbury. "We've been fortunate to have the goodwill of the community, and this is our chance to give something back."

Paul Raimondi Jr., who gave away 50,000 roses last Good Neighbor Day, explained why he likes the concept.

"This feels good," he said, of giving away the buds that retail for $1.50 each. "It's nice to see people excited when you give them a dozen roses. There is so much negativity in the world today, and this is a good thing."

The observance was created in 1994 by Jackson, Miss., florist Brook Jacobs, who said he dreamed of a national observance where "communities reached out to each other."

Last year, he persuaded other florists to join his effort, and 1.5 million roses were distributed.

"I believe I am just the seed and I've planted it and given it to the people to do as they will," Jacobs said of the Good Neighbor philosophy. "I had no idea it would grow so fast."

As nice as the Good Neighbor gesture is, the observance also comes at an opportune time for rose growers. Eager to prune bushes to start the growing season for that other holiday marked by roses -- Valentine's Day -- farmers in California, Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia traditionally clip and throw away lots of roses each September.

Good Neighbor Day allows wholesalers and participating florists to buy them cheaply.

At his Randallstown warehouse and store yesterday, Raimondi, 53, sniffed the sweet, rich scent of 100,000 roses being unloaded, bundled by the dozen and hosed down to ward off the late summer heat.

Feeling a little bit like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, Raimondi chuckled at the prospect of the pleasure his gifts would bring to many today. He took out letters from customers who got free roses last year.

"My husband and I wrapped and delivered a single rose with a good neighbor greeting to eight of our neighbors," wrote customer Beatrice Hardy. "They found a rose with a ribbon stuck in their doorknob. Thanks for spreading pleasure!"

With the largest Good Neighbor giveaway in the country, Raimondi ordered an extra 50,000 stems this year. Last year, he recalled, his stores ran out of the free bunches three hours after opening.

"This is a day we all look forward to," he said. "We want to bring a little sunshine and joy into people's lives, and it works."

Pub Date: 9/04/96

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