Coronavirus Good News: Northside flower shops sends Pay It Forward bouquets to lift spirits

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As the stay at home order continues, Stella Grey Blooms in North Center is leaving something bright on doors steps around the city.

"Flowers make you happy, people have to have flowers," owner Sally Hayes said.

That's why Hayes is encouraging her neighbors to pay that happiness forward.

Her shop is creating out Pay It Forward bouquets, which are of anonymously sent bouquets to friends or family. Hayes said she got the idea from a fellow florist who lives in Miami.

"You send somebody flowers and you don't say who it's from," Hayes said. You write things like 'I hope these make your day' or ' I hope they brighten your day' and at the end, you just say 'Pay it forward.'"

All of the bouquets are sanitized and hand-delivered.

"A lot of times I get a call of people asking who sent me this," Hayes said. "I say 'I can't tell', it's the whole process of it, it gets people reaching out to their friends and it sort of escalates from that."

When the COVID-19 crisis first started, business was slow. But the Pay It Forward flowers have helped keep Hayes and her small team busy.

"We started off with one and then it migrated into another and another and then 5 and then 25," she said.

And for that, she's grateful.

"The problem is, I don't have a Plan B. This is it," Hayes said. "I basically changed my entire store. half of my inventory is in the basement and just concentrating on flowers."

The love and support from her neighbors are also getting her through.

"Without this community, I don't think that I would still be in business right now. Clients that have been using us over the last three years have reached out asking 'how can we help', 'what can we buy'," Hayes said.

Because the front of her shop is closed to the public, Hayes wasn't able to do carry-out service. But her next-door neighbors, The Coffee Joint, agreed to help out and let her leave her flowers there for buyers to pick up.

Hayes said she's in this for the long haul. Because flowers are her life, and a pandemic-sized bump in the road, won't get in the way of her living it.

"It makes me emotional sometimes, just thinking about it. But I'm going to survive. I have to," she said.

Jalyn Henderson is a Community Journalist at ABC 7 Chicago. She tells stories on the North Side of Chicago in neighborhoods like Uptown, Edgewater, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, West Ridge and Rogers Park. If you have a story to share in these neighborhoods you can send an email to Jalyn.L.Henderson@abc.com
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