At first glance, The Brick Flower Market on Mantoloking Road looks like your average florist – wedding arrangements, sympathy baskets and vases of fresh cut roses. But it isn’t. There are three businesses in one: a flower market, a bridal resource center and a butterfly sanctuary that has been in operation for four years.
The Market, which is located off Route 35 South near Mantoloking Road Bridge, experienced flooding in their back work area and it took several weeks to get back in business. In addition to losing power for a week, the entire area was traumatized by Hurricane Sandy. Nearby Mantoloking – which has been dubbed “the hardest hit town in New Jersey” – had dozens of houses floating in the river and debris was seen everywhere. Clean up -- 10 months after Hurricane Sandy -- is still evident.
Sierra Bionoda, a retail associate who has worked at the Brick Flower Market for two years, says “This place was a mess. It looked like a war zone.” Bionoda remembers that the storm caused a major disruption to many businesses causing them to close for weeks after the storm. It took months for the area to resume any sort of normalcy.
The Brick Flower Market was officially closed for a week due to lack of power, but they worked from a generator to service clients who had ordered flowers and bouquets before the storm. “We even delivered flowers a day after the storm and it was tough to get around with so much destruction and closed roads, but we did it,” she says. “Many customers were very impressed. We were determined to show the community we would power through this difficult time.”
The entire staff at Brick Flower Market was concerned with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. “It has caused much turmoil to the Shore area, but it is important to let everyone know we are all open for business and remain a strong willed community.”
Ten months after the storm, Bionoda says, “We are doing the best we can. People are coming more and more and the summer has been very busy.”
The Brick Flower Market is in close proximity to Bay Head and Mantoloking, areas severely damaged by the storm. “We are open year-round and service all the beach areas, but in the summer we see a spike because thousands of families vacation here. Business is really better than expected.”
The Brick Flower Market is known in the area to be a lover of nature. Owner Ralph Petrellese decided a few years ago to do something special for the community and opened The Butterfly Charities Inc., a non-profit that donates all of its monies to various charities in the area. Part of the flower market now houses a butterfly sanctuary where a variety of different breeds of butterflies flutter. They even have a Butterfly Tour Guide that welcomes visitors and gives an educational overview on the butterflies, the four stages of their life span, eating habits, etc. “People love this place, especially children who just want to watch the butterflies in a natural environment. I have the best job ever,” says Jess Clauberg, a 19-year-old college student at Monmouth University and the official Butterfly Tour Guide.
In addition to the exhibit, they offer birthday parties and special events in the sanctuary courtyard that is decorated with butterfly items and flowers. “We have seen an increase in business as people have heard about the butterflies and they know that all proceeds go to a good cause.”
Hurricane Sandy damaged the sanctuary and it took several weeks to rebuild and several thousand dollars to repair. This year, Ralph wanted to give back to the community and help after the storm. All the donations for admittance into the butterfly sanctuary go to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund of Brick, NJ.
The flyer for the Butterfly Charities says it best:
“That’s the beauty of America; there are so many people willing to give to a cause. It doesn’t matter how bad you think you have it, there is always someone else out there that has it worse. Someone who needs help more, and by giving to them and their cause it creates a natural high, your spirits float higher than ever before, like a butterfly, and like the butterfly you too can make a difference.”
Peace and tranquility right here at the Jersey Shore, the great thing about this organization is that every week we get to help so many people. It doesn’t harm the environment and it helps the most important part of the economy – our local community. It’s our own little economic stimulus package that has taken wings and landed right here in our back yard.
To learn more about this business and others affected by the storm, please visit http://bit.ly/19EYgjm. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the WCEC’s “We’re Storming Back” Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Program provides free workshops, training, and resources to New Jersey businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy to help them to recover and thrive.
About The WCEC
The WCEC, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit corporation, is a U. S. Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Center. The WCEC provides the tools for individuals to successfully own, operate and grow their small businesses, thereby investing financially, intellectually and emotionally in their communities. The WCEC provides more than 150 classes, seminars and individual consulting sessions each year for more than 5,000 participants. For more information please visit hwww.wcecnj.org/.
Brick Flower Market
70 Mantoloking Road
Brick, NJ 08723
Phone: (732) 477-6765 www.Yourflowermarket.com