Thursday, June 27, 2013

Street Stories

The Elderly Entrepreneur 

Flower seller finds her niche market much to the chagrin of local business

Staff/Voice photos


Lynn Coombes sells flowers wherever she can downtown.


f it was 1930, they’d be apples. But it’s 2013 and they’re flowers.


Every day Lynn Coombes goes out on the street with her flowers. She's an entrepreneur. You don't have to make much to be called an entrepreneur. Even a little counts.

She lives in a small room above some businesses on a $158 pension cheque she gets each month so she sells flowers streetside to help make ends meet. Not many can say they exist on such a pittance.

According to Coombes, she has to sell her slightly wilted flowers. She sources them in nooks and crannies around town and from friends who want to help.

"If I don't sell flowers, I go hungry," she told The Voice Tuesday. "So I usually do, its a very rare exception that no one buys but I almost always sell flowers."

In her younger days, Coombes says it was a dream of hers to work for a newspaper.

"I could type 96-words-per-minute."

But its not easy selling things to scratch out dinner. Coombes faces adversity from irate store owners. Places like 7-11, Subway and even big stores like Pricesmart don't want her around.

"I've been banned from almost every place," says Coombes who insists she doesn't hurt anyone. "There's nothing wrong with what I do and yet people don't like me selling flowers."

She says that three years ago, an overzealous security guard at Pricesmart said she stole a flower and told her they had her on video doing the nefarious deed.

"I said 'show me, prove it to me. I know I didn't, I got these flowers from up by Safeway," she explained.

But her pleas fell on deaf ears and they banned her for three years which was indicated on mall letterhead to her.

"They said they have a right to deny anybody who's an undesirable, and I'm actually an educated woman," says Coombes adding "I'm not a drug addict or an alcoholic. I'm a normal person and that's not right.

She says she's actually well-liked and is non-aggressive and in her own way beautifies the city.

"I know I'm honest. I know I don't steal and I've done no wrong to anyone or any of these properties."

Recently, she asked Pricesmart if she could return and sell flowers but they preferred she didn't.

"Okay, I'm going across the street and if you'd like some flowers then I'll be over there," she told them.

She says that even if she did steal a flower she's paid the price.

"Don't you think three years is long enough not to sell them?" asks the fiesty 64-year-old.

Coombes says that shortly she'll be getting her teeth fixed.

"Soon I'll be getting my top teeth and I'll feel a lot better about myself. I'll look so much prettier," she said.

Just like her flowers.



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