Over the past 13 years, "Rose Lady" Pam Long has certainly become a familiar face around the Sioux City bar scene, peddling roses to spread romance around Siouxland.
After having thyroid surgery recently, Long's daughters, Trisha Kirstein and Lexy Gregersen, have picked up the slack and started helping their mother's Tuxedo Rose business, which Long has owned for the past 11 years.
"I got started in this business by working for a friend who owned Tuxedo Rose," said Long. "I was going to Briar Cliff for mass media. My friend decided she didn't want her rose business anymore, so I started making payments and bought the business while I was going to school and raising a crazy teenage daughter."
"She's not a rose lady," said Kirstein. "She's a walking therapist."
"And a walking hug machine," added Gregersen. "I've been helping her on and off for a while and whenever someone finds out I'm the rose lady's daughter, they immediately ask me to say hi to her for them. We see thousands of people every night. It's cool to see how many people love her, and she has stories about each one."
More than selling roses and being a walking hug and therapy machine, Long feels she is an advocate, a spokesperson for the bars around Siouxland.
"I feel like I'm a spokesman for these bars," said Long. "When they are doing good, I'm doing good. My goal is to cross-promote. The people at these bars have become my friends."
If you think Long grows these roses year-round, you'd be mistaken. She has a supplier of premium roses. When you buy roses elsewhere, you may notice they wilt quickly after purchasing them. With Long's roses, customers have commented that they can look fresh even two weeks after acquiring them. How's that for value?
So, why is it mainly roses Long and her daughters sell?
"Roses seem to do the best in the basket," said Long. "I personally love daisies, sunflowers and lots of other flowers, but roses have the most meaning."
"People can say a lot with just a rose," said Kirstein. "Even the colors mean different things; you don't get the same thing with a daisy."
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So according to these rose ladies, red roses mean true, unconditional love. Pink roses mean platonic love. Yellow ones signify friendship. White roses ring of purity and sincerity. Orange roses give a feeling of appreciation. Purple roses are given for passion. Rainbow or tie-dye roses represent all these meanings in one flower.
Doling out roses isn't always happy-go-lucky. When you are dealing with people who have possibly had too many liquid libations at the bar, sometimes things can get a little heated, but Long will always hold her head high and back away from any confrontation that might happen.
"She is very sensitive and has had some people be very rude to her," said Kirstein. "People have been drunk and grabbed and broken her basket before. Sometimes people steal roses from her. Mom is so kind that she would walk away before she would confront them."
"There's no need to be mean or rude," said Long. "I'm just trying to make a living."
"There are a lot of people that have never bought a rose from her that just love her," said Gregersen.
"And I love them, too," said Long. "They are still my friends, it doesn't matter if they buy roses or not."
Other than putting food on the table and keeping a roof over her head, why has Long created a career out of selling roses at bars around Siouxland?
"I absolutely love helping people feel better; seeing smiles," said Long. "I like seeing a guy buy his wife or girlfriend a rose, especially those couples that have been together. When I see that kiss, I love it. I'm a sap; a romantic. I've been through some hard times, too, and when a rose can brighten someone's day, that means everything."
"It outweighs the negative people," said Gregersen.
These days on any given weekend, Long and her daughters make their way to 43 bars around the area. They have multiple routes, and by this point they have the beat down to a science. Long has agreements with all the bars she and her daughters peddle to as the only rose source for the bars.
Over the years, Long has watched relationships both whither and bloom - the latter she loves to see.
"I love when I sell a rose to a couple on their first date," said Long. "I might see them six months later while they are talking about getting married and asking if I can get roses for the wedding. Or selling them roses on their one year anniversary. I had a couple follow me from The Ickey Nickel to Steinbeck's. When I got to Steinbeck's, they jumped out of their car and ran up to me telling me it was their one-year anniversary. I almost cried; it was so cool."