Deliveries Escape Valentine's Weekend Florist Fire in Georgia

If your sweetie's treats are coming from Ann's Porch, don't panic -- not even a fire can keep Cupid from his Valentine's Day rounds today.

David Benefield, owner of the Columbus floral shop at 1809 Garrard St., couldn't have heard worse news on Feb. 13, just hours before his biggest day of the year.

Benefield said he was at his Lakebottom home when he got a call about 12:15 a.m. Sunday that his store was on fire.

"I was so nervous, I couldn't even put my clothes on," Benefield said Sunday afternoon as he and other workers got ready for Valentine's Day.

By the time Benefield arrived at the store, Columbus firefighters had the blaze under control. The fire started in the walk-in cooler, Benefield said; the cause is still under investigation.

Fortunately for Benefield and his customers, many of the Valentine's Day deliveries were already loaded on refrigerated trucks behind the business. And, thanks to the fire department's quick response, help fromneighbors, Sunday deliveries of fresh flowers and a lot of behind-the-scenes hard work, customers today will barely notice any effects of the fire, which destroyed the $20,000 cooler and about $10,000 worth of flowers.

In fact, when you walk through the front door of the business, you won't even notice anything different.

It's only in the back of the store that the damage becomes apparent -- charred flowers, partially melted containers and the lingering stench of smoke.

"But it's business as usual," Benefield said. A sign out front declares the shop is open, in spite of the fire.

Benefield said he has 14 drivers scheduled to make the rounds today, delivering floral gifts from one sweetheart to another.

Meanwhile, the mood inside the shop Sunday was typical day-before-Feb. 14 hectic, Benefield said, with one big exception: The phones were quiet.

"That makes me kind of nervous," Benefield said, laughing.