Love blooms with shop's help

They've arranged flowers for the cities of Orange County for almost 25 years. And after a quarter of a century in the floral industry, flower shop Love N' Bloom has their fair share of Valentine's Day stories.

"We had a gal that bought a G-string for her boyfriend that worked at a dealership," said Carmen Fober, owner of Love N' Bloom. "We put his name on it and put it on a big teddy bear with balloons and delivered it to that poor guy. I'm sure that he got it all day long from his coworkers."

Fober, a 63-year-old Huntington Beach resident, said she felt sorry for the recipient but it was what the customer wanted.

"If that's what you want, that's what we're going to do," she said to her customer. "You have to have an open mind."

Located on Beach Boulevard between Ellis Avenue and Garfield Avenue is Fober's flower shop which she runs along with her husband, Thom.

Love N' Bloom isn't your typical flower shop. They will do arrangements for weddings, proms and funerals, as well as other occasions. But across their storage fridge is an embroidery machine and around the corner from that is a machine used for printing custom images on shirts, coffee mugs and various items.

These are additions they made to their shop to make it more unique and stay competitive in a slow saturating market, Thom Fober said.

"In the flower business today, you really have to do something extra to survive," Thom said. "We're doing everything we possibly can to survive. Nobody does what we do. You will not find a flower shop anywhere [else] in the United States that does [what we do]."

Carmen admits it was a better and livelier industry to be in when she first started it in 1989. But after encountering the economic hardships she and other businesses have faced for the past five years, it's hard to relive those blooming times in the flower business.

"It was really busy and insane. You would show up to work at 4 a.m. and work until midnight," she said. "But those days are gone. We don't do that anymore. This market has just changed a lot."

And as the market changes, so have they. The store has had their embroidery machine for the past 12 years and just recently, Thom upgraded his dye sublimation machine he uses for making custom gifts.

"You've got to stay on top of it all the time," Carmen said. "If you hear of something new, you have to bring it in and talk to your customers about it."

Love N' Bloom designer Joel Carpenter, 40, of Downey, has worked for the shop for the past nine years and has been open to trying new things for the customers.

Understanding the circumstances of the economy today, Carpenter does his best to give his customers the best product he can.

He, too, has had interesting stories from clients, including one who was trying to court their ex-wife.

"I made this absolutely beautiful bouquet, he puts the card in it and runs up and throws it over her fence into the yard and takes off as fast as he can so that he doesn't get hit with them," Carpenter said.

The flower shop has also delivered flowers to various celebrities and their spouses, including one delivery to Vanessa Bryant, wife of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.

In 1999, Kobe order 12 dozen roses from Love N' Bloom to be sent to his then-fiancé. At the time, Vanessa was attending Marina High School, which made it difficult for Carmen to deliver the order.

"I had to go to the administration office and ask them where her classroom was and they told me no one was allowed on campus," she said. "I told them I was delivering flowers for Kobe Bryant's fiancé and he wants them in her classroom and they asked me, 'Are you her mom?'"

Carmen ended up giving Vanessa three dozen roses to put in her car and delivered the rest to her house.

In an effort to draw more customers into Love N' Bloom, Carmen's son, Eric, decided to make a three-minute video.

In the commercial, Eric, 25, plays a lonely rose waiting to be picked and delivered to a deserving customer. The rose is desperately waiting to be chosen to one day make a person happy.

"I wanted to do something for my parents to help out and get some traffic in the store," he said. "I just wanted to get the people in here. I wanted it to have a serious tone, but not too serious, hence the talking rose."

The Fobers have done their best to keep clients happy, drive more into the store and to keep their business fresh. But for Carmen, she believes they've done enough diversifying for a while although one option has got stuck in her head.

She said Love N' Bloom has coupled wine and other types of alcohol with their arrangements before but one idea has a little more kick to it.

"A friend of mine told me, 'You might want to start selling guns,'" Carmen said. "Then he told me, 'You've diversified already. The gun business is really good right now and then you can change the business' name to Guns N' Roses.'"

Twitter: @acocarpio

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