Friday, May 07, 2021

Person of the Week

Cynthia’s Flower Shop Keeps Contributing to the Community

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Since October 2020, the first Saturday of every month at Cynthia’s Flower Shop in Branford is Solidarity Saturday, when owner Cynthia Purcell offers small, stunning floral arrangements designed with a local charitable organization in mind. She gives 100 percent of the funds from every Solidarity Saturday arrangement sold to the month’s selected local non-profit group. So far, the program has pumped $3,625 into local programs supporting those impacted by the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Purcell

Since October 2020, the first Saturday of every month at Cynthia’s Flower Shop in Branford is Solidarity Saturday, when owner Cynthia Purcell offers small, stunning floral arrangements designed with a local charitable organization in mind. She gives 100 percent of the funds from every Solidarity Saturday arrangement sold to the month’s selected local non-profit group. So far, the program has pumped $3,625 into local programs supporting those impacted by the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Purcell )

Contributing to the community has been a constant theme at Cynthia’s Flower Shop since owner Cynthia Purcell first opened her Branford business in 1992. But when fallout from COVID-19 began affecting her friends and neighbors, she came up with a new way to show her support: Solidarity Saturdays.

Since Oct. 3, 2020, and continuing the first Saturday of every month, Cynthia’s Flower Shop pulls out all the stops to offer small, stunning floral arrangements as the month’s Solidarity Saturday bouquet. Each lovely little arrangement is designed with a local charitable organization in mind, then offered for sale at special rate. Cynthia then gives 100 percent of the funds from every Solidarity Saturday arrangement sold to the selected local non-profit group.

“I wanted them to be local, supporting Branford or the surrounding towns, and I wanted them to also be related to the pandemic. All of the non-profits seem to have set up some sort of a fund to deal with these challenging times we’re in,” says Cynthia, who also donates 100 percent of the hard goods, flowers, and the creative labor that goes into each arrangement.

To date, she’s helped pump more than $3,625 into local programs providing food, relief, and resources to assist individuals and efforts impacted by the pandemic.

Cynthia’s first Solidarity Saturday was held for Branford Food Pantry. She offered the special arrangements for $25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and raised $925 in four hours.

“I had no idea what the response was going to be,” she says. “I thought, ‘We’ll just give it a try in the first week of October.’ And it’s still going strong, I’m happy to say. People are still coming out.”

To date, she’s also assisted Branford Counseling and Community Center’s Basic Needs program, raising $740; Branford Microfund, raising $950; and Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter, raising $635. In February and March, she’s raising money for the Branford Community Foundation (BCF) COVID-19 Response Fund, which will be the beneficiary of the next Cynthia’s Flower Shop Solidarity Saturday, set for March 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Because the BCF Solidarity Saturday Cynthia had arranged in February was affected by an impending snow storm, Cynthia added a second event in March to help build up the fundraising effort.

“We didn’t have the turnout that we usually do. I think that we can definitely raise more money for them,” she says.

To talk up upcoming fundraisers, Cynthia prints up a monthly postcard, which goes out with every delivery from her shop. She also posts the news to her fans who follow her on Facebook and Instagram. But, as Cynthia’s discovered, it’s the staunch support not only of her loyal customers, but those who back these important local non-profits, who are making Solidarity Saturdays such a success.

“They’re letting their email lists know, and they’ve also been posting on social media,” she says of the organizations she’s supporting. “And boy, people really show up. They really do.”

Cynthia says the generosity of spirit in those who come out to support Solidarity Saturday events often doesn’t stop at one visit—or even one bouquet.

“What we’ve found, that I really think is very sweet, is that more people than not buy more than one. They buy one for themselves, and they give another to a friend,” she says.

Pulling Through in the Pandemic

Cynthia feels lucky to have been able to pull through as a local business during a time when so many others have been drastically affected due to the pandemic. She said she wasn’t sure what the future would hold when that first executive order from Governor Ned Lamont closed non-essential businesses back in March 2020.

“Like anyone else, this whole situation had us feeling very off balance. I had no idea where it was going to go,” she says. “It was so scary. I had no idea if I was going to be able to remain open.”

At the start of the state-wide business shut down, Cynthia had to make some drastic adjustments to contend with the changes she was facing, including laying off staff.

“I actually felt very lost. I’ve had the shop since ’92 and have never not worked,” she says.

But it wasn’t long before Cynthia realized her regular customers were still reaching out, and that was the start of a lifeline that brought her business back online.

“I had laid my employees off and was at the shop painting, and my phone just kept ringing off the hook. It was people that just couldn’t connect with their loved ones,” she says.

Cynthia was fielding orders for flower arrangements and deliveries, as people looked for ways to show they cared for their friends, family, and neighbors at a time when no one could connect in person.

“I ran it all myself, doing the no-contact deliveries and curbside pick-up for people who couldn’t see their mom when it was their birthday or attend a funeral service,” she says. “There’s a lot of very sad stories of people not being able to connect, and flowers are a way to do that.”

After about two months’ time going it alone at the business, Cynthia began bringing her staff back to work at the shop.

“Now I’m back to full-staff-plus, and I feel so fortunate for that,” she says.

Things may have changed a bit—there’s still no sign of calls for things such as the prom corsages or dance recital bouquets that went away last year, and weddings have been scaled back to smaller affairs and floral arrangements—but Cynthia says she’s grateful, and hopeful, for the future.

Recently, Cynthia’s Flower Shop began fielding numerous calls for arrangements to fill weddings that were re-booked, or just booked, shortly after Lamont’s announcement that, beginning March 19, private event gatherings at commercial venues are expanding to 50 percent capacity, with a maximum of 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors. Connecticut’s current cap allows for 25 people indoors and 50 outside for private gatherings at commercial venues.

“As soon as that was announced, the phones just started ringing, so we’re hoping for better times now,” says Cynthia, adding, “we’ve been doing weddings all along, but they’ve been looking very different. They’re actually very sweet. There’s something very nice about a small, intimate wedding.”

Her ability to stay in business this past year was another reason why Cynthia felt compelled to come up with a way to help those still struggling due to the impacts of the pandemic.

“We just remained very busy, and I thought, ‘There’s got to be something I can do,’” she says. “Worrying about our neighbors who may not be as fortunate keeps us all up at night. This is a little thing I can do.”

She launched Solidarity Saturdays in October 2020, the anniversary month of her start as a business in Branford back in 1992. A New Haven resident, Cynthia grew up in Branford (Branford High School Class of 1979) and says she will always find a way to support this community.

“I never thought about having my business anywhere else. It’s just a really great community,” says Cynthia.

No matter how busy things may get, Cynthia plans to continue running Solidarity Saturdays for many months to come.

“I’m going to continue it for as long as there are people who are interested in supporting it,” she says. “I’m very happy that we’re doing it, but it’s really the people that are coming to the shop to buy them that should be recognized. They’re showing up for their town and for their neighbors.”

Cynthia’s Flower Shop is located at 188 North Main Street/Route 1 in Branford. The first Saturday of each month, stop by between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to pick up a Solidarity Saturday arrangement, and 100 percent of the sale will be donated to the non-profit organization of the month. March 6 sales will benefit Branford Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund. For curbside pick-up of an arrangement, call 203-481-3115. For more information, find Cynthia’s Flower Shop on Facebook or Instagram or visit www.cynthiasflowershop.com.


Pam Johnson covers news for Branford and North Branford for Zip06. Email Pam at p.johnson@shorepublishing.com.

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