Party Crash

Oscar won't salvage a tough season on soiree circuit

t 5:30 on a typical February morning, the crates of roses and gladioli lining this vast warehouse at the heart of downtown Los Angeles' flower district would be nearly empty. But on a morning not long ago, thousands of stems awaited the pre-Valentine's Day romantics on the premises.

"Business is down," says Russell Ogawa, a manager with Mayesh Wholesale Florist, citing this year's low-key Hollywood awards season as a reason sales are running about 18% below a typical winter. Ogawa is optimistic about Oscar week, he says, "but we probably won't make up for what we lost."

And it's not just the flower peddlers who are hurting. All across town, individuals and small companies connected to the monthslong run-up to Sunday's Academy Awards are feeling the crunch from the WGA strike-ravaged galas, the studio belt-tightening and the tempered enthusiasm.