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@Work: Today's Flowers

Nov. 27 2005 – Today's Flowers is in the business of making people happy, owner Laurie Van Kuren said, taking a quick break from the post-Thanksgiving hustle to talk about life at St. John's only florist.
"We've got an abundance of orchids," she tells her staff, giving them instructions on which ones to use on a customer's order.
Another worker gets the word to hose chicken poop off the front walk, a gift from the fowl that foul Cruz Bay's pavements.
Indeed, she said the chickens are so prevalent that she can't sell poinsettias this holiday season because they devour them.
The island's wildlife pose many challenges for residents, but Van Kuren always draws laughs when she talks about how the goats ate her wedding flowers.
She said that a florist friend came from Ohio to do the arrangements for Van Kuren's wedding two years ago to Jeff Crokin. When the friend and his staff arrived at Emmaus Moravian Church to decorate, they found the church locked. They stashed the flowers in the bushes, thinking they'd get the job done later when the church was open. When they returned, they found the goats had gotten there first. The florist friend regrouped and the wedding went off without a hitch.
"They told me afterwards," she said, laughing.
Van Kuren's challenges don't stop with chickens and goats, however. She said that all her flowers arrive via the U.S. Postal Service, an expensive proposition that keeps her profits down.
But she said she wouldn't do anything else for a living even though the high cost of housing makes it hard to find help.
"I'm here every day," she said.
She likes her location in Cruz Bay because she's at the heartbeat of the island and she gets to see her friends on their trips through town.
Van Kuren, 45, got her start by studying floriculture at a vocational school in her native North Olmsted, Ohio. She planned to work in greenhouse management, but a job at a local florist when she was 19 convinced her to stick with flowers.
She worked at locations around the states, eventually moving to Puerto Rico for several years before landing on St. Thomas. From there, she moved to St. John, opening her shop 14 years ago at Meada's Mall.
A year later, she moved across the street to her current location on Veste Gade in Cruz Bay, the street that connects the Post Office and First Bank. Today's Flowers is right next to Joe's Diner.
Van Kuren said she sees all manner of celebrities buying flowers for their St. John weddings, but the jobs that stick in her mind are the giant parties like the one held several years ago by Gillette Co. at the Westin Resort and Villas. She stayed up all night making arrangements. And then there was the year that a Mongoose Junction Christmas party got cancelled because of heavy rain. Van Kuren said she spent the day working in the alfresco space behind her shop in the rain to get the arrangements ready before she learned the party was off.
"I spent the day wearing a garbage bag," she said.
While those crazy events stick in her memory, she likes best the chance to stock her shop with Christmas wreathes, ornaments and decorations, do impromptu weddings as well as those that are organized in advance, handle Teleflora orders for deliveries to the states and on island, and spread around some good cheer.
"When it comes to sending flowers, you want everything to be beautiful because you're dealing with people's emotions," she said.
Today's Flowers is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 693-8015.

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