Human Flower Project

Flowers Vendors—Embattled on Every Continent


Vancouver city authorities have demanded that the city’s “Flower Man” stop doing business.


imageShoppers eye George Garrison’s flowers stand at 455 Granville

Photo: Glenn Baglo, for the Vancouver Sun

In a world of corporate takeovers, tax-shelters and shady bookkeeping, why would anyone hassle flower sellers? Isn’t it hard enough to be out on the sidewalk all day, keeping your buckets of roses looking plump despite the August sun?

A story out of Vancouver today reports that George Garrison, well known as the “The Flower Man,” has been ordered to quit doing business by the end of the month. A flower shopowner has complained that Garrison “is providing illegal competition and taking away customers.” The florist, who pays rent and city taxes, says that Garrison can undercut the shop’s prices.

George the Flower Man, whose father and granddad sold flowers on the streets of London, is putting up a fight. He’s been selling flowers for seven years in this part of Vancouver and says he provides a city service by directing pedestrians, tourists especially, to buses, public bathrooms, telephones. “I get questions from people all day long,” he told Gerry Bellett of the Vancouver Sun. “Not that I mind ‘cause I love talking to people. It’s the same in London. If you want something you go and ask the guy selling papers on the corner.” In what sounds like a grimy urban quarter, Garrison’s flowers also provide a sensory open-air oasis.

When city officials gave him a first nudge, Garrison moved from the sidewalk to the entryway of the Berkley Investments building and obtained a business license. “But when city inspectors discovered he wasn’t renting any part of the premises—just squatting there—the license was revoked,” and the city began pressuring the building owner to give Garrison the heave-ho.

Matt Wayrynen, Berkley’s president, lamented, “Obviously as a corporation we can’t condone anyone breaking laws. We can’t go against the city on this and so we’ve given George until the end of the month.”

C’mon, Matt. Have some backbone! There has to be a solution here.

The fact is flower vendors are embattled across the world. In June we ran a story about the flower stalls in Harare destroyed by Zimbabwe’s dictator. In Bangkok, flower vendors have continued selling despite a government crackdown. An unregulated sector of the economy, flower vending is, we admit, prone to abuses. This April story from the Belfast Telegraph tells how “criminal gangs have hired children to sell flowers on the street.” But George the Flower Man clearly is doing no such harm.

imageFlower stand outside San Fernando Cemetery II, San Antonio, TX

We know that in San Antonio, Texas, the flower vendors on Castroville Road came to a truce with local florists by paying a fee to sell only for specified times around six major holidays. It’s a tough way to make a living whether you’re in the Las Palmas parking lot or in a shop, but San Antonio’s solution seems to be working.

We support florists, and street vendors too. And we ascribe to something we learned many years ago from Mr. McGinnis, a nurseryman in Smithville, Texas—if you’re in the business of selling plants, you’re in luck if somebody opens another nursery in town. All that does, Mr. McGinnis used to say, is double the exposure your public has to beautiful flowers. You’ll find yourself with twice the number of customers, and your “competition” will have better prospects too.

Care to express your view? Please do so here and/or send a message to Vancouver’s .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).




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