Florist Near North Carolina Base Works From Tent After Fire

Florists with prepaid Valentine's Day orders from soldiers in Iraq labored under a tent Monday to prepare flower arrangements after a fire destroyed most of the business.


SPRING LAKE, N.C. (AP) -- Florists with prepaid Valentine's Day orders from soldiers in Iraq labored under a tent Monday to prepare flower arrangements after a fire destroyed most of the business.

The Jan. 8 fire burned most of the building housing Freeman's Florist, but firefighters saved the corner of the building housing the flower shop's office.

Owners Arthur and LaRonda Freeman set up a white tent for work space and brought in a refrigerated truck to hold the flowers as they worked to fill orders, many from soldiers sent overseas.

``Some of them had come in before the fire and we were able to retrieve those orders. Those are going out. We didn't lose the orders,'' LaRonda Freeman said Monday. ``We do a lot of work with the military. It is quite busy. We are zipping along.''

The tent came with a chandelier, ``so it will have a little class to it,'' she said.

Freeman said the shop has more than 200 orders to fill and the phone was ringing steadily with new ones.

She said she felt a special obligation for Valentine's Day orders from soldiers, partly because her father had been in the Special Forces.

``There was no way we were going to let them down,'' she said.

Once the Valentine Day's rush is over, the Freemans will have about five weeks before the bedding plants grown in their greenhouses are ready to sell. In the middle of this activity is the burnt-out shell that used to house their business.

The cause of the Jan. 8 fire is unknown. The Freemans said the fire department believes the cause was electrical or related to the water heater.

What's left of the building, including the foundation, will be demolished and a new structure will be built, the owners said. The Freemans live next to the shop.

Arthur Freeman said the odds were against meeting the lucrative but daunting Valentine's Day demand. Pre-orders that weren't fulfilled would have had to be refunded.

He gave credit to his faith in God for meeting the deadline.

The tent was rented for one week and flowers arrived at the airport from the wholesaler on Friday, he said. The tent will come down Tuesday or Wednesday and then the focus will be on preparing the bedding plants.

The Freemans hope the new building can be finished in May, but Arthur Freeman admitted that may be ambitious.

When the new building does go up, it won't feel the same, he said, because he cleared the land for the original building himself when the business launched there in 1984.