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Graduation season arrives
Stores see rush on signs, flowers
Grad WEB 1
Floral manager Vickie Densmore at Kroger on Grasslands Parkway creates a graduation bouquet Tuesday. Retailers are bracing for a rush as graduation season begins. - photo by Crystal Ledford

Thousands of Forsyth County students will be walking across stages this month to receive high school or college diplomas.

In celebration of their accomplishments, families will be throwing parties and buying gifts for the graduates.

All those special items add up to extra busy weeks for many retailers.

Managers at the Kroger on Grasslands Parkway in the Midway community said the time around graduation is always hectic for its floral, bakery and deli departments.

“May is just a very busy month, definitely,” said Terry Hayley, store co-manager. “All of our stores are busy with the same things right now … everybody does a great job about chipping in and keeping going.”

High schools in Forsyth County are holding their graduations between May 24 and 29.

Kroger bakery manager Cody Turner said graduation season means everything from traditional cakes to cupcake “pull-a-parts” and even cookies.

“The past few weeks, things have really picked up,” he said. “I took an order today for four full sheets … and I’m doing 300 sugar cookies that have [the initials of a school] on them for a graduation party. It’s really everything that we do.”  

The store’s deli department is also busy putting together party platters and other offerings for graduation get-togethers.

Likewise, floral manager Vickie Densmore said the close of another school year always means an uptick in her department.

“The end of the school year — with dance recitals, prom, teacher appreciation — the whole thing is all about flowers and balloons,” she said.

According to Densmore, the southwestern Forsyth store is especially busy since it also draws customers from north Fulton.

She said the department made close to 200 corsages for proms at the different high schools earlier this spring and she expects to sell about that many, if not more, bouquets for graduation.

“For those, we go with the school colors in the ribbons and the wraps, and the bows are really big,” she said. “Roses are very popular, especially if dad comes in and makes the order. Dads always think they need a dozen roses and baby’s breath.”

While many parents buy individual cakes and floral arrangements, many neighborhoods come together to collectively honor graduates at their entrances.

That’s a good thing for Bart Dorough, owner of Fast Signs in Cumming.

“We do a lot of graduation signs and banners, banners probably more than signs,” he said. “It’s very popular.”

Every graduation season, Dorough said, the shop produces hundreds of the graduation banners, a few for individual families, but most for neighborhoods and schools.

“I think the students really like it,” he said. “A lot of times, not only are we putting maybe the college where they’re going but also putting the high school information, as well as even pictures of the students, so it’s real personalized.”

As at Kroger, Dorough said the graduation sign business heats up in the spring.

“It starts around the first of April and picks up every week,” he said.  “At this point, it’s kind of slowing down because people like to have [the banners] out for a while before graduation.”

Like lavish graduation celebrations themselves, Dorough said neighborhood banners were not something that was commonplace when he was growing up.

“When I was in high school, you just didn’t see this kind of thing,” he said. “But now the technology in the sign business has changed so much that it’s much more affordable now to be able to do full-color digital prints, whereas a long time ago, you just didn’t have the capability.

“Sign shops were painting and stenciling the letters versus printing in this type of format. Now we can crank out a banner in 15 or 20 minutes.”