'Nicci knows' and mind the secateurs
When Nicci Goodin first began arranging flowers she was on $2 an hour and her boss rarely remembered her name.
Worse still, every time she made a mistake she received a clip with the secateurs. That was 17 years ago and the 35-year-old has come a long way since.
The dictionary defines a florist as a person who arranges and sells flowers but Ms Goodin says there is much more to it than that.
Whether helping someone out of the dog box, making a bride pretty, comforting the sick or honouring the dead, there is a story behind every order she prepares.
Those tales and the recipient of the flowers fill her thoughts as she assembles her creations.
"Knowing people are smiling when they receive them, that's the most rewarding part about this job. Knowing that you're doing your bit to make people happy."
Customer number one walks through the door just after 9am.
It's the eve of Valentine's Day and he's there to order flowers for his lady.
He clearly struggles when asked what he would like to put in the card so a helpful suggestion is thrown his way.
"Yeah sure, that'll do. Something like that."
While there are many customers who know exactly how to express their love in words, there are many who do not, and the staff at Nicci Goodin Designer Florist are often required to step into the role of wordsmith. "We get guys who come in and spend $150 without batting an eyelid and when we ask what they'd like in the card they say, 'Oh, I don't know, just make something up'."
The florist of 17 years laughs as she then reflects on a number of memories.
"Some guys will get a beautiful long-stem bunch of roses and say, 'Have you got a brown paper bag I can put them in', because they don't want to walk down the street with them."
This week there was a gentleman who ordered two different bunches of flowers for two different ladies.
"That was all a bit dodgy, but we just have to do it . . . we have a few laughs."
She says it's not unusual for men to nip across the road from Peggy Gordons on St Patrick's Day too, if they can feel a bender brewing.
"They throw the flowers in the back seat of the car and they're prepared for any repercussions the next day."
Taking orders, bringing the order alive, and then delivering it is a continual daily process for Ms Goodin and her two workers, Grace McCallum, 25, and Kendra Wood, 19.
It increases tenfold at this time of year as the day of affectionate giving beckons.
While Mother's Day and Christmas are also busy periods, Valentines Day is the busiest single day for a florist.
Ms Goodin says more than 80 bouquets are delivered. On top of that are the walk-ins who buy from the shop floor. "It's early starts and late nights."
The plan for the day before is to complete all delivery orders, so the focus is on the shop for those last-minute dashes on the day.
Three cardboard boxes of long stemmed roses soon arrive.
Despite the arrival, Ms Goodin says gone are the days when roses were the prime choice.
It is the older, more traditional crowd who still opt for the classic over some of the more modern and vibrant bouquets that line her shop floor.
"There is something about giving roses, but if you try and give something that's a bit more of a mixture, that works too."
Like fashion, it is an industry that goes round in circles with colours and types trending in and out.
"The flowers are still the same but we've always got new ones coming through - like carnations for example - we're really big on them at the moment but two years ago I hated them."
Her favourite colours are the "good ole whites and greens". She prefers different textures to too many colours.
"Reds and oranges are really bright and cool for the younger ones. I really don't like blue and yellow together. We just don't do it because, well, it looks bad."
Once the morning orders are complete, and before the Valentine's Day chaos hits its peak, Ms Goodin takes some time to demonstrate her process before letting the apprentice give it a whirl.
A small, compact bunch of flowers called a posy is the challenge.
Starting with the focal flower - a lily - I mimic Ms Goodin as she adds the rest to "fill in the gaps".
My biggest downfall was being too gentle.
I was terrified of destroying any expensive produce and had to sacrifice creating a "compact and technically correct" arrangement as a result.
Although being gentle, I did manage to break the stem off one lily scheduled to be the next to bloom. Once packaged up, my posy didn't look half bad, although it was given to me as a take-home gift instead of going up for sale.
Ms Goodin kindly described me as a natural but added there was a lot we could work on.
Other duties I was able to carry out without causing too much damage included constructing and decorating packaging, as well as my favourite task - stripping.
Before you jump to any conclusions, this only required me to remove any unwanted foliage from rose stems.
While she does love her job, Ms Goodin said that, like anything, there are challenges.
For her, those challenges often went hand in hand with weddings, or brides, despite their being one of her favourite events.
"You don't have many but you do get the odd bridezilla who thinks they know what they want but don't. That is quite challenging but you just have to try to work out what they want."
After witnessing a bride come into the store on Wednesday and describe how she loves whites and greens, then tell Ms Goodin on the way out she loves bright pinks, I imagine this is easier said than done.
Although Miss McCallum is quick to inform me "Nicci knows" is a common saying around town.
She knows what her clients like, and what they don't, as well as which ones have allergies.
For those who are new customers, she has a knack for creating something that suits them perfectly.
"The flowers are the inspiration. It's all about trying different combinations and just playing around until you create something.
"You know if something's not right."
As her business edges towards the 10-year mark, Ms Goodin feels the flower game is continuing to grow.
There is nothing threatening the gift which fits so many occasions, she says.
Taranaki Daily News