Behind the scenes at Tillie’s Flower Shop


Madeline Deabler

Graphic by Madeline Deabler

If you live in Wichita and receive flowers this Valentine’s Day, there’s a good chance they came from Tillie’s Flower Shop.

The owner of Tillie’s, Jennifer Barnard, says Valentine’s Day is the busiest day of the year for her business.

“We send out 1,000 deliveries on the 14th. And we’ll probably send out about 600 on the 13th,” Barnard said.

According to Barnard, the worst last minute offenders are men.

“Guys usually wait until the last minute. Fifty percent of our orders come in on the 13th, for the 14th,” Barnard said.

But Barnard isn’t complaining. She loves being busy.

“I really think that our world just teaches you that you can be last minute. We just kind of track what we’ve sold in years before to prepare, and we run reports and look at trends to kind of gauge what we need to do to prepare for it,” Barnard said.

Barnard said Valentine’s Day is the single biggest day of the year, followed by Mother’s Day and Christmas, but those two usually spread out over a full week.

“For Valentine’s Day, people want it on Valentine’s Day, not throughout the week, Barnard said. “Sometimes people will have them delivered on the 13th too. But this is one holiday where you don’t want to be late.”

This year will be the busiest day Tillie’s has seen in 6 years, Barnard said, because Valentine’s Day falls on a Thursday. Usually when the holiday falls on a weekend people go out to dinner or do other things but when it’s on a Thursday people go flower-crazy.

Tillie’s Flower Shop has been around since 1876. It’s the second oldest business in Wichita.

“It was actually my great-grandparents who started it. They came over from Germany and it started as a greenhouse. Tillie is my grandmother. When she took it over people would come to her. She liked the floral end of it and everybody would say, ‘oh let’s go get flowers from Tillie’,” Barnard said.

The most popular Valentine’s Day flowers haven’t changed much over the decades.

“Of course the biggest seller is red roses. We bring in over 20,000 roses for Valentine’s Day.”

Barnard said she and her staff typically see some crazy things this week. From apology notes, to suggestive cards — there’s a little bit of everything.

“You just see all sorts of things in a flower shop,” Barnard said.

Some of the messages that Tillie’s flower shop has been asked to include with flower deliveries are:

  • “I’m really sorry for everything I did.”
  • “Happy Valentine’s Day. I am hoping this plant can last as long as your patience has lasted for me.”
  • “Sorry the flowers ate your goat.”
  • “Today’s for you. Yesterday’s for everyone else.”
  • “I wish I were a DNA Helicase, so I could unzip your genes. You’re the RNA to my DNA and I couldn’t be happier about finally finding you. Love, Hotstuff”
  • “Shit.”

“We have really great customers who are on the ball. They order in January and then this week they’re calling saying, ‘we broke up. I need to cancel the order.’”

They’ve also had people try to refuse deliveries because somebody sent flowers and the receiver didn’t want to get flowers from that person.

“For us it’s a hard position. We basically say, ‘you can trash them if you want’.” Barnard said. “It makes it kind of awkward.”

Recently Tillie’s made a change in how they handle orders for fake flowers, after a disgruntled customer got upset with them about his order.

“A customer came into the store and picked out one of our artificial arrangements.  We carry a very nice line of artificial flowers and most customers can’t tell the difference between our artificial flowers or fresh flowers.  He picked out the artificial arrangement in the store, so we figured he knew what he was getting. We delivered it on Valentine’s Day last year.  He called up on the 14th angry and furious that we sent out an artificial arrangement. We replied, “Sir, that is what you picked out in the store to send to your girlfriend.”  

He replied by asking, ‘Why would I send her artificial flowers?’

“He thought it was an example and we would send out fresh flowers instead.  Now when a customer has chosen an artificial arrangement either in the store or online we always ask if they realize it is artificial.”

Barnard said about 50 percent of the time they don’t realize when the flowers are artificial.

Valentine’s Day by the numbers at Tillie’s Flower Shop:

# of deliveries the day before Valentine’s Day: 600

# of deliveries on Valentine’s Day: 1,000+

# of delivery drivers on Valentine’s Day: 50  

% of orders that come in on February 13th: 50

# of Roses Tillie’s goes through for Valentine’s Day: 20,000