Sitting inside his plastic booth on the corner of Elm and York streets, John Lynch smiled as he chatted with customer Will Schleyer ’04. For no extra charge, Lynch wrapped each of Schleyer’s two dozen daisies individually with white tissue paper.
But looking over Schleyer’s shoulder, Lynch’s eyes fell upon a colorful collection of flowers displayed outside Gourmet Heaven, Broadway’s new grocery store, and his smile quickly faded.
Since Gourmet Heaven’s opening after spring break, Lynch said his flower stand’s profits have been halved, and he’s not optimistic about his business’ future.
“Small businesses always struggle when faced with corporate franchises,” he said. “That’s the American system. You can’t fight it.”
But he is trying.
Lynch, who hopes to someday be a writer, has managed his flower stand full-time for six years. He said that above all, he enjoys the conversations he has with students.
“There’s more to the job than just making money,” he said.
When many of his once regular customers turned to Gourmet Heaven’s flowers as soon as it opened, Lynch said he felt almost betrayed.
“It seemed like I was being used as a default,” he said. “I guess I don’t project the conventional imagery people are coming to want.”
But according to Lynch, his business is not a default. He said he offers a wide range of exotic and conventional flowers for the best prices he can afford.
While Lynch’s rates depend on current market prices, he said his most popular flowers — currently daisies, irises and sunflowers — usually go for between $1 and $3 per stem.
It is difficult to compare Lynch’s prices with those of Gourmet Heaven, because they offer different floral fare. The hottest items at Gourmet Heaven are tulips, which range in price from $7 to $10 for a bunch of about a dozen, manager Jay Kim said.
Lynch said he is making a real effort to keep up with Gourmet Heaven.
“I would always match [prices] if people brought them to my attention,” Lynch said. He said he would even sacrifice his profits and break even to match his competition.
Kim said he had no idea of the damage Gourmet Heaven’s lush array of flowers is causing to the one-man operation down the street.
“To be honest, I haven’t really thought about it,” Kim said.
Lynch said he likes it at Yale and plans to stick it out as long as he can. Until he is forced to shut down, Lynch said he will set up shop seven days a week until Mother’s Day, and he will come back for graduation.
But with the constant pressure from Gourmet Heaven, Lynch added that he may not last that long.
“It’s the classic story of the little guy being beaten by the empire,” he said.
If things don’t work out for Lynch, he said there are “colleges artsier than this” that would appreciate his service and his personality.
Even if he is forced to relocate, Lynch said he will have no hard feelings towards Gourmet Heaven.
“Nobody owes anyone anything in the end,” Lynch said.