Published in Small Business

Flower shop, event space owner wants public to take pandemic more seriously

BY Sunday, July 19, 2020 05:37pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Bing Goei, who owns Eastern Floral and The Goei Center event venue, hopes more people take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously so economic conditions don’t worsen for businesses like his.

“I’m hoping and pleading with our residents to take this thing seriously and hope people don’t regret the fact they didn’t take it seriously when someone they love is affected by COVID-19,” said Goei, who also chairs the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce

Bing Goei owner of Eastern Floral and The Goei Center MIBIZ FILE PHOTO

Goei has been stringent in following state orders along with health and safety guidelines when he was able to reopen Eastern Floral, as well as for the handful of 10-person weddings that have taken place during the pandemic at The Goei Center. Both businesses cater to in-person events, which have been almost nonexistent since March due to the coronavirus.

Goei knows firsthand how serious the virus is. He personally knows people who have died from COVID-19, and also has daughters who work in health care. Even so, he says there is still a better way to balance reopening the economy safely so small businesses like his are not penalized while larger box stores that sell the same things are fully open.

At Eastern Floral, buying habits of patrons have changed from a significant amount of walk-in sales pre-pandemic to more delivery orders, Goei said. The floral shop was closed for about three months, but was able to reopen for limited retail in May, just in time for Mother’s Day.

“We certainly are fortunate because it allowed us to participate in one of our biggest holidays in the floral industry. We lost some big holidays in April when we were shut down,” Goei said.

Up to 10 people are now allowed to come inside the flower shop to make a purchase, Goei said. Employees wear personal protective equipment and take their temperature with a touchless thermometer before starting their shift.

Flower orders they usually receive for banquets, weddings and other large events are basically nonexistent, while orders for funeral flowers have also declined because of limits on gatherings, Goei said. However, “everyday flower sales” have increased.

“The fact that people have been so isolated in their homes and knew people were emotionally hurting because of the pandemic, when we were allowed to deliver flowers we were inundated with orders,” Goei said. “People understood the messaging of flowers and began to feel the benefit of flowers for people in their lives when emotionally they are down and depression is high.”

The Goei Center

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s June 1 executive order limiting indoor events to 10 people makes it difficult for event venues like The Goei Center to have any business.

Many couples are postponing their weddings because of COVID-19, though some are pressing forward on a limited scale. The Goei Center started offering a wedding ceremony package that is limited to 10 people, including those getting married. 

“During these times our creativity and innovation has come out big time,” Goei said. 

With the 10-person limit for indoor events, The Goei Center is unlikely to maintain much longer with rent and most of the ongoing operating expenses. Without fully reopening, the facility will lose about 100 events for the rest of the year, Goei said. 

Goei hopes he will be allowed to safely reopen the event venue soon. Plans to hold events at half-capacity in the large space include spreading out tables so they are at least 6 feet apart. The facility also has enough touchless thermometers to check the temperatures of all guests and employees working an event.

Goei is hoping to convince state officials to adapt the “blanket executive order.”

“We’re still working with our government leaders to explain to them why we can do this safely and why we think we should be able to do some events with CDC guidelines,” Goei said

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