The Salcedo weekend market is celebrating it's 4th year anniversary next Saturday on June 28, 2008.
I did some calculations and, based on mine and my driver's memories, the market itself began way before June. Our guesstimate is a few months earlier because when I began in July/August of 2004, my fellow vendors had been struggling for a few months already.
This means that this July, I will be celebrating four years of selling flowers! Four years of late friday nights, prepping flowers into the wee hours, hauling the bouquets and bundles early Saturday mornings, and learning how to sell with a smile.
Four years of seeing the market grow from one row, to double rows, then double-double rows, then extend into the park area, then further extend into the eating areas in the center aisle. Today, the market seems like an extension of my home. There, my face is familiar to all. I am known as the 'flower lady'. Many of the other vendors have become close friends, first of all is Marissa (coconut oil and other natural products) who has been on my left side for most of four years. She and her husband Roderick are also counselors and have given me a fair amount of free advice since 2004.
And there is Rene the fruit guy who, at the end of market hours, shuffles over with bruised avocados, or slightly dinged dragon fruit, or whatever is leftover that day. And in return, I give him flowers to give away to whoever he wants to give them to. He usually picks white, which makes me believe that, contrary to what words comes out of his mouth, the flowers are for his mother's grave not some hot chick.
There is also Gary, the banigs, etc. guy, who has the market equivalent of a corner office since he occupies the corner stall at the end of the center aisle. He comes to our area when he is heavily perspiring, has low blood sugar/high blood sugar or wants to gossip about other people.
I've dealt with all kinds of customers too over the past years: One cheapo Korean lady actually attempted to abscond with my flowers, putting money in my hand, grabbing the flowers she wanted and starting to walk away. Well, when I realized the money was WAY too little, I grabbed the flowers right out of her arms. A brief tug-of-war ensued, but I won.
One other lady bought flowers in the morning, put them in the car while she shopped and ate lunch. She came back screaming about dead flowers and demanded a refund. I guess she didn't care to admit she was stupid enough to leave fresh flowers in a hot, parked car. Lucky for her, I wasnt around. Angie refunded her money (my policy for any complaints), but the she-devil complained to the organizers and Mrs. Lichauco came around to ask what happened. Of course it wasnt our fault, so she asked us to be patient with the lady, who had already left the market.
I also remember a bunch of drunken Japanese men coming to our area once, but I paid them no attention when they started looking at my flowers. Too bad for Mrs. Gardan though, my stall neighbor to the right, that they focused on her expensive wooden bowls. They were loud and they rattled her, and made off with one of her containers at almost half the tagged price (they performed the same trick as the Korean lady, but Mrs. Garden is not as quick as me)!
But mostly, I've had no problems. Salcedo market-goers are polite when they haggle and they enjoy chatting with the vendors about their products. They are regulars, with the market now as much a part of their routine as grocery shopping. They spend hours looking, buying, eating at the tables and hanging out -- many of the first customers being call center people ready to eat their dinner at 7am. On a cool, sunny day, barkadas take over tables and stay until past closing. Whole families wander around with Rustan's carts.
Apart from my loyal, regular customers, my favorites are those who buy flowers for themelves or a loved one. It's so nice to prepare a small bouquet or arrangement and know it's a surprise gift or someone's treat to themselves. These buyers aren't big spenders, but they are the people who remind me why I started this whole thing in the first place.
All of you who know me know that I have always loved flowers. Doing this keeps me handling the flowers I love so much, making other people happy too in the process. I love it when I make an arrangement and, after a generous spray of water, hand it to a customer who exclaims "How beautiful!". It makes my day. Actually, it makes the four years worthwhile.
Here's to another four years of beautiful flowers and making other people happy.