Just before dawn, Mary Tang drives from Alhambra to the Downtown Los Angeles Flower Mart to pick up hydrangeas, roses and baby's breath. Navigating by memory through the organized sections of the Mart, Tang stops at her usual vendors. She performs a quality check while selecting flowers – examining the flowers' stems, leaves and petals – to make sure she has the best for her customers.
That trip, which she takes three to four times a week, got a lot more expensive within the past year. About 50 percent of Tang's profits now are used to pay for gas — money straight out of her pocket.
A four-year high in gasoline prices is squeezing the profits of small, mobile businesses that were barely breaking even in the first place. For Tang, who is owner of Main Street’s The Daily Blossom Florist, increased gas expenses drive deeper into her delivery fees.
“The little profit that I do make has to cover the gas prices,” said Tang, who runs the business by herself.The average price of gas in California is $4.15, about 35 cents higher than the national average, according to GasBuddy.com, a website where volunteer "pricespotters" report gas prices. Peter DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, said the averages for both Los Angeles and the nation this spring were “the highest prices we've ever seen.”
Not only that, but they will likely remain high through the summer. “I don't believe that gas prices will ever return to the $1 or $2 days unless there's a recession,” DeHaan added.Tang is feeling the impact. She said finances were already tough since she took out loans from her family and friends to take over ownership of the Alhambra shop in August 2011. She may have to start charging for local deliveries and has already taken to using her car instead of the company van which uses up more gasoline.
But despite the challenges, within the next year Tang hopes to expand the business. She wants to employ family members, re-vamp the current website, develop an app for her shop and incorporate her hobby of creating party favors into her business. Uncertain economy, notwithstanding, she says she has no regrets: “I am living my passion."