The floral oasis that once brightened the foyer of the University Center is no more.
Eric Hansen, known to most as “the flower guy,” recently relocated his flower stand to the street corner of Embarcadero del Norte and Seville Road at the urging of the University Center administration, he said. Hansen had been selling flowers at his stand in front of the UCen since 2002.
“They didn’t renew my lease,” Hansen said. “They have to be politically correct so they gave me an eloquently worded letter saying I made too much of a mess and there was no money involved in the flower business. But I’m not in it for the money.”
Hansen said business at his new Isla Vista location, just outside S.O.S. Liquor, has been slow, but he predicts sales will pick up after students have purchased their textbooks.
“Using the metaphor of surfing, life is like a wave,” Hansen said. “After you get on a wave you have to know when to get off and paddle back for the next set. Therefore, when the wave came crashing down on me at the UCen, I decided to paddle back out in Isla Vista.”
However, Alan Kirby, director of the University Center & Events Center insisted Hansen was not evicted from his location in front of the UCen, but was driven away by lack of business.
“He decided to move on,” Kirby said. “The business wasn’t real strong over here and he’d been struggling for a while. I did encourage him to move because I didn’t think it was a viable business, so why take up all that space? We talked about it and realized it wasn’t working for him and it didn’t make sense for us, so we parted ways.”
Kirby said the unstable fluctuation of the market in the flower industry made it difficult for venders to succeed on campus.
“We did offer him another alternative, which he might take, by the way,” Kirby said. “We encouraged him to look at ‘Vender Row.’ There are 10 slots there that can be reserved. The flower business has these cycles… obviously Mother’s Day is a big time, Valentine’s Day, move-in can be big. So we encouraged him to take up a spot in Vender Row at those times when it would be most profitable.”
According to Kirby, Hansen’s stand was one of many failed flower businesses to have passed through the UCen.
“We’ve had several flower businesses over the years,” Kirby said. “I can think of three different locations. We had one in the lobby, one by the Jamba Juice and the one where Eric bought it out. He was paying us a nominal rent, and there were only certain times out of the year when he made enough to cover his costs.”
Hansen said his father used to own a car stereo business on the very lot he now occupies, and that on some karmic level, he has come full circle by leaving his six-year post at the UCen to rejoin his past.
“Flowers are a wonderful and symbolic metaphor for life on the planet,” Hansen said. “Sunflowers on a foggy day, roses during a full moon and Gerber daisies for all other days. They evoke meaning in a meaningless world. Also, I love the absurdity. I love absurd things in life. That’s why it was my goal to try to make a living with flowers.”
Jacquelyn McKiernan, a customer service employee at the UCen Bookstore, said Hansen’s presence is sorely missed.
“It’s really sad that he’s gone,” said McKiernan, a fourth-year communication and Spanish major. “He was so nice. He used to give us small flowers on Fridays to put behind our ear. He’s really goofy and crazy. We’ll miss his funny hat.”