Thousands of cars zoom pass Debbie Deis’ D&D Floral entrance sign every day. And although she has designed special occasion floral arrangements at 1958 Los Osos Valley Road since 1983, it took a 2020 worldwide pandemic for many of these commuters to notice her directional ‘FLOWERS’ sign and turn into Deis’ acreage of retro-paradise.
“During Covid weddings were non-existent and sixty percent of the funeral business was down,” Deis said. Her delivery business grew generated mostly by loyal customers wanting her to stay in business. “It would warm my heart to deliver an arrangement — set it on porch, knock, and watch from my van as they opened the door and see the flowers – become emotional understanding it was a gift from friends or family they hadn’t seen for months.”
Recently Deis began reaching out to remind customer’s Mother’s Day is almost here. May is also the month she begins to harvest her bountiful fruit and vegetable gardens and offer them at her public stand adjacent to the shop. In 2020, she started posting walk-through videos on www.facebook.com/Supportlososos to make sure nothing was wasted.
“When I talked about my green beans, which were planted with seed stock from my grandmother’s 1940s garden, I’d tell them to be here early. Soon after opening, the beans would all be gone. Some days I’d have to restock three times.” Anticipate berry-rich vines and a variety of row crops.
It has taken years to develop her property to model the gardens she remembered blooming on neighboring farms as she grew up in Los Osos. Her mother, Mary Jorge Garcia, always maintained a huge garden. She canned to get the family through the winter. Deis and her siblings, Domingos, Jr., Bernadette Crye, and Cynthia Garcia helped their dad, Domingos Garcia, run lease cattle up and down the coast.
She is proud of her 2020 installation. Dorothy Dana, her fourth grade teacher at Sunnyside School, willed her the windmill Deis had long admired. “Her son and I stayed friends. She used to buy my eggs. It took six years and the help of a friend to restore it.”
Designing floral arrangements was always Deis’ dream career. She and her sister would enter the Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles. Her entries would compete in the floral hall while her sister raised 4H animals. A high school summer job earned her the money to take Bob Gordon’s Cal Poly floral design class. Then she studied at Cuesta College and ultimately graduated from Cal Poly. She “apprenticed” working three different shops in Southern California, but preferred coming home to Los Osos. She tried working in area floral shops, but when she couldn’t sustain a living she took a job working security at Diablo Canyon until she was financially stable enough to pursue her dream. During those years she honed her craft and built her clientele working weekends designing floral features for weddings, funerals, and special events like the Cayucos Portuguese Festival.
Her business philosophy is relationship driven. “I want my products to touch lives during these special times. I like to hear a client’s story then incorporate something in the arrangement that is unique to them.” She recalled one funeral incorporated antlers from the husband’s hunting collection.
After the service she noticed his hunting buddies gathered at the arrangement recalling stories from their times hunting together. “I always say nothing goes out I wouldn’t want to send my Mom.”
However, 2021 is stacking up to be another difficult year for small floral business owners. “Today’s wholesale pricing on flowers is up higher than I’ve ever seen it,” said Deis. “And the availability of varietals is less. I may not be able to get exactly what the bride might want. She will have to understand I can work with her color palette rather than specific flowers.”
Deis concluded there are many reasons America’s small floral farms and shops are adversely impacted today – past tariffs levied on South American imports and competition from grocery chains making quantity wholesale purchases were two reasons. She also said, “There are only four growers left in the county. Land is now being planted with cannabis particularly as the growers age and their children don’t want to continue in the flower business. Cannabis growers are offering big bucks for them to retire comfortably.”
And so life goes on and Deis intends to make the best of it. “I was once a work-a-holic, but I have learned that’s just stuff — life is too short. Sustaining fragile relationships is what is real.”
Deis learned the hard way to take more time. She continues to celebrate the daughter that was supposed to take over D&D Floral someday. In 2014 Anna lost her life the week before her wedding while training for the AIDS/Life Cycle ride. For years Anna had volunteered with Phoenix Decorating Company at the New Year’s Day Rose Parade. Many of her friends came to help her mom produce Anna’s celebration of life. Deis now honors her memory by closing the shop and spending the time in Pasadena with the friends Anna introduced her to — also master floral designers from all over the world.