March 19, 2014

A magic window on spring

When he was a little boy, Grant Lorick dreamed of moving to the big city and doing window displays for a living.

When he was a little boy, Grant Lorick dreamed of moving to the big city and doing window displays for a living.

Now he’s got his chance, and he’s making the most of it.

Lorick scouts for special props and plans scenes for the picture windows at his business, Something Special Florist along Columbia’s Main Street. He changes the displays by holiday and season.

So with the first day of spring Thursday – a welcome day, given the snow, rain and cold of this winter – Lorick has created a colorful celebration of the emerging season just inside the windows of the shop.

Bohumila Augustinova watches the changing window displays from the museum shop across the street.

“They do elaborate stuff,” she said. “I really love it.”

A parade of pedestrians pauses in the 1500 block, peering in the oversized windows. There’s a lot to take in: A pair of rabbits in gardening clothes, dancing atop a spinning platter. A matronly princess in pearls, kicking up her brocade heels. A green centipede with antennae bobbing. Magical elves and frogs, overturned umbrellas and butterflies.

“I just couldn’t wait to get rid of Valentine’s so we could get spring out here,” Lorick said, “some semblance of warm weather.”

For two years now, Lorick has anticipated the changing of his displays. He doesn’t repeat them.

Some of his most memorable have been a skeleton bride and groom for Halloween, polar bears among falling snowflakes for Christmas and a tropical paradise for summer.

“If you didn’t see Halloween,” he said proudly, “Halloween’s just as big as Christmas windows.”

Each January and July, when he goes to the big buyers market in Atlanta, he keeps a lookout for one central prop for his display.

Wednesday morning, a little boy walking with his grandmother stopped to point out a stuffed puppy, set at eye level.

A man parked his daughter’s stroller in front of the window, removing the hood of her jacket before snapping a photo.

A group of ladies meandered past, admiring the silk lilacs, tulips and orchids that beautify just behind the glass.

Lorick and his late partner, David Withers, stumbled on the vacant storefront in the spring of 2012. It was boarded up at the time, but Withers immediately saw the potential. Enamored with the basement storage space, the two decided to move Something Special from Irmo.

“One of the first things we said is, ‘We’ve got big windows; we’ve got to do displays,’ ” Lorick said.

Walk-in sales have doubled.

“People say all the time, ‘Your window brought me in.’”

The unpredictable winter weather was tough for retail, but Lorick is anticipating sunny days ahead for sales of flower arrangements, jewelry and decorations – right down to a collection of soft yellow Easter chicks that practically cheep.

The sandwich board out front advertised fresh cut bouquets. In back, an employee arranged dozens of small centerpieces for a corporate dinner. Prom season is right around the corner.

It’s spring.

Long, rough winter

The winter of 2013-14 was far from the coldest or snowiest in Columbia history. Here are some Dec. 21-March 19 stats for Columbia from the Southeast Regional Climate Center and the National Weather Service:

Average daily low: 34.8 degrees, or 1.6 degrees below normal, and 24th coldest in 127 years. The 2009-10 winter was much colder, with an average daily low of 31.9.

Total number of days at freezing or below: 43 from December through March so far, below the long-term average of 48.

Days with measurable snow: 3 (had traces of snow on two other days), ties for seventh most snow days in 127 years. Columbia record is 8 in 1894-95.

Amount of snow at Columbia Metropolitan Airport: 4.2 inches, not even in the top 15 all-time.

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