Sunset Florist & Greenhouse floral manager Tammy Gill, left, and office manager Astrid Zarazua

Flowers are one of the most universal ways for us to commemorate special occasions. It’s hard to imagine birthdays, weddings or graduations without a festive tabletop bouquet or a stunning floral arrangement.

But as COVID-19 has limited our ability to gather as often or in such numbers as we used to, our reasons for sending flowers — and the ways they’re sent — have changed, too. Area businesses like Sunset Florist and Greenhouse on top of Sunset Hill have been mindful of those changes and worked hard to accommodate them.

“Our biggest adaptation has really been our deliveries,” says Astrid Zarazua, office manager at Sunset Florist. “We make sure to wipe down all our vases when they go out. Our driver obviously wears her mask and it’s no-contact, so we have to drop the arrangement off, then take a few steps back to see if someone comes to the door.”

As much as customers have appreciated those precautions, she also notes that they can be difficult for a local business that has prided itself on personalized service since 1945.

“We’re really a face-to-face kind of company, and because of COVID, we’ve had to really put a distance on that.”

The flip side of pandemic-oriented practices like social distancing and touchless payments is that they’ve encouraged small businesses to experiment with new technologies. Sunset Florist has been using a specialized third-party ordering platform called Lovingly for quite a while, but different modes of doing business gave rise to new and useful features on that platform.

“There’s now a QR code that we scan, and it sends a message to the recipient and the sender that the order was delivered and is waiting,” Zarazua says. “I’ve actually enjoyed that because it helps speed up some of the process, and the senders know exactly when their arrangement was dropped off.”

In Spokane Valley, Appleway Florist and Greenhouse has had similar experiences. Like most florists, they’ve used online ordering systems for a long time, but now they’re doing more contactless payments. Owner Monty Lewis also plans to use Facebook Live to showcase their autumn and Christmas gift items.

Although high-attendance formal events are on hold, limiting large orders, Lewis says Appleway’s delivery service is staying busy, especially around major holidays. Mother’s Day orders exceeded his “cautious” estimates to the point that Appleway had difficulty keeping pace with demand.

In addition, many customers have come to think of sending flowers as an everyday gesture of consideration. They’re ordering bouquets for their friends, family and workmates just as a simple but much-needed pick-me-up.

“Right now, a lot of people are feeling shut in,” he says. “It’s been shown that flowers elevate your mood, so it’s a nice way to brighten their space with something different and lift someone’s spirits.”

And because Appleway has been operating for almost as long as Sunset Florist (since 1952, if you’re counting), they’ve felt the support of their longtime regular clientele throughout this uncertain period. As the holiday season approaches, Lewis is hopeful that new or occasional customers will rediscover the joy of sending and receiving flowers, too.

“So far, I’ve been able to get some really beautiful fall-colored flowers, so we should be able to create lots of beautiful centerpieces for those that would like them,” he says. Besides creative, eye-catching centerpieces, there are plenty of other arrangement options to suit every budget.

“I always say that flowers are like vitamin F. It’s not something you ingest, but it is something that elevates your mood. I think a little vitamin F would be good for everyone right about now.”

You can visit Sunset Florist and Greenhouse at 1606 S. Assembly St. or online at You can also call them at 747-2101 with inquiries and orders. Appleway Florist is located at 11006 E. Sprague Ave. They can be reached online at or by calling 924-5050.

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