Wilted Dreams

Flower shop reflects anguish of mean streets, virus

By Liezet Arnold
December 2020

As the owner of a florist shop, I’ve been in the business of emotions for two decades helping folks mark special occasions and milestones. But today those occasions are as scarce as people in Downtown Sacramento. And my emotions revolve around a lifeless and mostly empty Downtown as I struggle with how we can bring it back to its old vibrant self.

I remember how devastated I felt in March when the pandemic shutdown orders were issued. I felt the rug had been pulled out from under my feet. There is nothing worse than experiencing a loss of control over your life and livelihood after years of successfully managing a business.

So much of the fabric of Downtown has to do with people—walking, talking, laughing and socializing. Twenty-five percent of my business came from walk-ins. They are now gone. With the Downtown workforce largely working remote, the halt of conventions and organized events, dinners and concerts, plus the scaling back of Capitol activities, my business is down by at least half.

Adversity is a great test of character. You can’t just throw up your hands and give up. I’ve had to change the fundamentals of how my shop runs. I now have half the staff I had in January. I’ve scaled back hours and focused on online marketing in place of person-to-person contacts.

I understand the realities of the pandemic and the need for stay-at-home orders. But Downtown’s slide has been a domino effect of neglect that has gone far beyond COVID-19.

Each day, we face behavior related to drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues. Without more attention to these illnesses, criminal behavior has become more common. In fact, there are times during the day when I have to lock my front door because it doesn’t feel safe. I shouldn’t have to do that.

The whole atmosphere has changed. So much progress, spearheaded by the opening of Golden 1 Center and the sprouting of entertainment and restaurant venues, has been reversed in the last nine months.

People don’t feel comfortable coming Downtown, given what they see in the increasing numbers of people exhibiting criminal and aggressive behavior, homelessness, and the trash and waste that mar streets and doorsteps. The homeless people who dot the streets and doorways need more programs and assistance to help them recover.

Despite all this adversity, I still believe in Downtown. I believe it will come back. It has to. The pandemic will be controlled. The shutdown orders will eventually be lifted. The network of state workers will return to their offices and patronize our stores and restaurants. Basketball and concerts will return to our beautiful arena. But our fate is dependent on far more than controlling the public health crisis.

How well it comes back depends on whether the mayor and City Council really listen to the plight that my fellow small business owners and I face. We are hanging on, but with too little support. We are not the loudest squeaky wheel. But we are essential to Downtown’s recovery. And we need help with public health, sanitation and safety.

I miss seeing people Downtown. We need city leadership to return the city’s heart to a living and breathing place of prosperity and promise—not the current littered landscape of despair and neglect.

Liezet Arnold owns Bloem Décor Florist at 1016 10th St.

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