Photo by Jessica Perez
Assembling flower bouquets and cellophane-wrapped gifts is on the agenda for Boyle Heights resident Marisela Uriel. She’s not a florist, but a stay-at-home mom who takes advantage of the Valentine’s Day rush by creating her own gifts to sell on the street.
Days leading to the holiday, she plops a folding table on the sidewalk outside her home off the busy Soto Street. Flower arrangements sit besides holiday mugs, candy, and teddy bears enticing passersby.
“I come out from 8 a.m. to about 4 or 5 p.m.,” said Uriel, chasing plastic boxes and gifts knocked down by gusty February winds.
For a couple of neighborhood girls, Uriel’s items are a bargain. They look past the most expensive item: a $15 flower arrangement, to buy heart-shaped lollipops for a quarter each.
Uriel isn’t the only one who sees an opportunity to cash in on holiday sales. The competition is high in Boyle Heights, where dozens of people have set up shop on parking lots, busy intersections and even outside their doorstep. In a down economy, it’s a win win for vendors and customers; amateurs and freelance florists make extra cash, while customers get a deal.
“You try to make whatever you can. This little bit helps,” said Uriel.
A single mother of two, originally from Mexico, Uriel has found ways to support her children by taking any job she can.
“I’ve always been self-employed. I’ve done plumbing, construction; I’ve cleaned houses, cooked, ironed clothes, babysitting. Whatever I can do,” she said. So when the idea of selling holidays gifts came up eight years ago, she jumped on it.
Twice a year”” Valentine’s and Mother’s Day”” Uriel makes the bus trip downtown and brings back everything her two hands can carry. She gets glass vases, cheap candy, flowers and plush toys, mostly at wholesale prices.
“For what you see here, I invested $120 and lets hope I make $200,” said Uriel.
In spite of tough economic times, Uriel says she has seen a rise in profits in the last two years. Perhaps it’s because she refrains from investing too much in natural flowers, something she calls risky and expensive. However, she does have what customers are looking for these days: cheap prices.