Photos: Flower Power on Normandie Avenue

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Although a sign nearby clearly reads “Pedestrians Prohibited,” Andrea Garcia has staked out a small strip of gravel on the edge of the 10 Freeway offramp at Normandie Avenue to sell flowers for Valentine’s Day.

An assortment of gifts wrapped in bright pink cellophane decorated with hearts in shades of pink and purple sit atop a white folding table along with a bottle of water. Andrea holds out two bouquets, one in each hand, while a third sits in a black plastic bin nearby for easy access. She wears a mask to protect herself from the coronavirus and to filter out car exhaust. Her son, Freddy, sits on a lavender laundry basket while playing games on his mother’s phone.

Andrea Garcia and her son on the 10 Freeway offramp at Normandie Avenue. Photo by Ande Richards.

Selling flowers on the street — particularly near freeways where people can conveniently grab a bouquet — is a popular side hustle for people looking to make extra money. Now, like many workers in Los Angeles, flower vendors struggle for sales as the city continues to detangle itself from stay-at-home restrictions and the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

A large table laid out with flower arrangements stands a few feet away. A young woman hovers nearby, ready to make a sale. Behind her, Sonia Sanchez works diligently under a small, blue tarp, carefully arranging red roses into a green foam base. She will make many more of these creations in anticipation of holiday sales.

“I have been working here every Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day for 28 years,” she says.

Sonia Sanchez trims down a rose stem for a flower arrangement she is working on. She has been selling flowers and arrangements every Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day for 28 years. Photo by Ande Richards.

She usually hires several people to help her run the small enterprise, but she had to cut down on employees this time around. “I cannot reach my hand too far,” she says. “This year is not as busy.”

Across the street, a family claims a corner of their own for their flower enterprise. “I get my flowers from the L.A. Flower Mart,” says Marguerita, the matriarch, who is in charge of the operation. “We make our prices according to their prices. This year, roses were very expensive.”

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, a man stops by a flower stand to pick up a gift for his wife on his way home from work. Photo by Ade Richards.

Two more makeshift flower stands entice passersby with balloons, even more bouquets and a variety of floral arrangements. A man steps up and selects a colorful basket featuring a white bear holding a pink heart surrounded by bright pink stargazers and red roses. He has just gotten off from work and does not dare go home to his wife empty-handed, he says with a smile.

Back at Sonia’s table, the pre-made rose arrangements are almost gone — her long years of experience paying off.

“This year, it goes good,” she says. “But not as good as past years.”

Los Angeleno