Melanie Bernadsky loves running a downtown Winnipeg business, even in a pandemic. “I’m committed to downtown. I love the mixture of clientele,” says Bernadsky, co-owner and floral designer of Freshcut Downtown. She runs the shop alongside her sister, Monica Bernadsky, who largely manages the store’s business behind the scenes.
The store has been a fixture in Portage Place mall for over 20 years. Melanie loves meeting the floral needs of office workers, seniors who live downtown, as well as students and romantics on a budget who seek a single, perfect rose for their sweetheart. But Bernadsky estimates the office workers who usually make up 70% of her walk-by traffic have mostly vacated Winnipeg’s centre, creating a challenge for downtown businesses: “A few restaurants downtown closed and just never reopened after March.”
Over the summer, with the lease up, Freshcut Downtown decided to pivot. They moved to a temporary workspace in Portage Place better suited to delivery and curbside pickup during a year when sales vary from month to month. “Thankfully, I feel like people have gotten more comfortable with shopping online,” says Bernadsky, who notes customers can view photos of the flowers on Freshcut Downtown’s website or call if they prefer ordering by phone.
The shop put more effort into Facebook and Instagram this year, offering special curbside pickup deals that start at $30, with popular bouquets in muted, pastel or seasonal colours. Another trend involves preserved and lost-lasting greenery such as eucalyptus that dries attractively. “Now it’s almost like I’ve gotten new customers who aren’t normally downtown, but they see things on Instagram, and they’re finding it easy to drive downtown now with less traffic.” Bernadsky appreciates that the City of Winnipeg currently allows one hour of free parking, and she loves the curbside pickup zones that will enable drivers to stop for 15 minutes—just long enough to place a hand-tied bouquet in a car’s trunk. “I’m hoping the city continues to have 15-minute curbside pickup spots after the pandemic,” says Bernadsky.
For Christmas, the shop carries wreaths, Christmas table centrepieces for an at-home celebration, along with last-minute presents like a gift certificate for the succulent terrarium of a person’s choice. Some gifts combine flowers with a diffuser or candle from Coal and Canary, just one of the local businesses that Bernadsky likes to partner with. Freshcut’s #beerandbotany workshops—when running in person, gather small groups to create a project like a spring wreath at local downtown restaurants like La Roca and breweries like Barn Hammer. These days the workshops have moved into a virtual sphere, with Bernadsky happy to offer guidance via Zoom as a group designs their terrariums, a popular activity for a girls’ night in.
In non-busy times, like a Monday in January when someone needs a floral pick-me-up, the shop can usually prepare a bouquet for delivery or curbside pickup for the same day, but major holidays are busier. Last-minute Romeos should order in advance for Valentine’s Day, in case Freshcut Downtown sells out (the store now keeps a smaller supply of perishable flowers on hand, compared to pre-pandemic years).
COVID-related stress has also created an uptick in people ordering flowers for themselves as a way to keep spirits bright. Bernadsky explains, “Last week we made two bouquets for a woman. She said she ordered one for her mother and then decided to get one for herself.”
Whether you’re ordering flowers for yourself or someone else, Bernadsky is eager to deliver beautiful bouquets that are sure to brighten anyone’s day.
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