- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2002

In seven years, April Overton has turned her venture selling flowers on the street in the District and Maryland into a blooming business of elaborate flower stands and wholesale flower sales.

Mrs. Overton spends four days a week at a flower stand outside the Dupont South exit of the Dupont Circle Metrorail station. There, she offers customers a large variety of single flowers and arrangements that range in price from $2 to $12. In her years working at that location, Mrs. Overton has managed to create a loyal following.

It all started when she was looking for work seven years ago. Mrs. Overton, her husband, Eugene Gagliardi, and their friend, Ray Assad, starting selling flowers as street vendors.

The three partners now own Classic Flowers which includes a warehouse in Northeast that supplies as many as 10 retail stands operating in the city at any given time, and a clientele that depends on the company for arrangements for weddings, funerals and other events.

"I had no idea I'd end up in the flower business," she says. "I wish I had done this in my 20s."

Mrs. Overton and her flowers can be found on 19th Street four days a week from 6 a.m. until about 5:30 p.m. She says the long hours are long and the work can be draining when it gets hot and humid, but she will agree with her customers when they tell her she has the best job.

Mrs. Overton loves to meet new people and talk with her customers. "It's kind of nice to get to know people," she says.

She's "seen it all out here," including Chelsea Clinton's Secret Service agents and former President Bill Clinton's adviser Vernon Jordan.

"I get all walks, just all kinds," Mrs. Overton says.

And she certainly does know people who live and work in the Dupont Circle area. She always greets her regulars with a wave and smile, and helps them pick out the right flowers for any occasion.

One customer remarks that her flowers are always fresh and last a long time. Mrs. Overton's face lights up with these compliments.

She instructs each customer on the basics of flower care: "Fill your vases with cold water and cut your stems at a slant."

Because flowers help make everyone a little happier, she will always make sure her customers know how to care for them to make them last longer, she says.

She also makes sure her flowers are fresh. Seventy-five percent of the flowers that sit in her big, gray buckets every day are fresh. The remaining 25 percent are still fresh, she says, but have been out in previous days.

Most potential buyers ask her if the flowers are fresh before they make their purchase, and "one thing I learned is to never lie to the customer," she says.

As she greets each new customer who approaches her stand, either because the bright reds, yellows, purples and pinks caught their eye, or because they had planned to make a purchase, Mrs. Overton doesn't stop moving.

Her hands are busy snipping and arranging even as she answers a customer's questions. She stops every few minutes to sweep up her mess and take a sip of water.

With this work and the influx of customers, Mrs. Overton manages to keep busy. She says Thursdays and Fridays are her busiest days.

"I get a lot of impulse buyers."

Men are often buying for their wives, girlfriends or fiancees on these days, she says.

One such man became one of Mrs. Overton's most loyal customers. A Dupont Circle architect, he used to buy flowers for his wife-to-be every Friday afternoon. When he was planning his wedding, he asked Mrs. Overton to supply the arrangements, and this started her into the design aspect of flower sales.

Now Mrs. Overton supplies arrangements to several embassies, restaurants including her neighbor, Levante's and Gallaudet University.

"I think I supply the average person who wants a nice bouquet at a reasonable cost," she says. "I definitely have a good repeat business."

Her stand is in a prime location, on the sidewalk in front of the outdoor seating area for the Cosi restaurant on 19th Street, and Mrs. Overton says she gets many people who work in the Dupont Circle area coming to buy their co-workers flowers for different occasions.

"In this area, I sell a lot on Secretary's Day," she says.


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