National City entrepreneur balances two different businesses during the pandemic

The owner of a flower shop and novelty gift store gets creative to keep customers coming back

Dream Crystal Gifts

Matt Wray, owner of Dream Crystal and Angel Petals stands in front of an incense display preparing for an interview. Photo by Susana Serrano/City Times Media

To read this story in Spanish, click here.

In a corner lot on Highland Avenue and E 16th Street sits a circular-shaped flower store called Angel Petals, which shares a parking lot with Dream Crystal Gifts that sells many eclectic merchandise.

Matt Wray, the owner of the two businesses, faced different struggles with each store due to the changing COVID-19 restrictions.

Entering into the baby blue storefront called Dream Crystal Gifts, customers are greeted by a life-sized statue of Humphrey Bogart and an assortment of merchandise, each more strange than the next.

Band tees and other shirts with graphics line the walls while Wray, who has owned Dream Crystal for 25 years and Angel Petals for 11, sat behind the long glass counter conversing with his son. 

“I think people really enjoy the customer service that we give,” said Wray, standing among displays filled with incense and under a ceiling covered in flags from different countries. “We try to make a more personal touch.” 

Dream Crystal was able to remain open because it sells CBD products, which are classified as medical goods and supplies and included on the State Public Health Office essential list

Visit Highland Avenue’s small businesses featured in this project by clicking on the photo gallery here.

By listening to customers, Wray found there was also a market for healing crystals, sage and Palo Santo, which is a tree native to South American countries.

“(People) need relaxation and calming,” Wray said, “and not have to think about what’s going on.”

The crystal store was more successful during the pandemic compared to Angel Petals, which did not sell essential list items. 

“The flower shop was a big challenge because I really couldn’t open,” Wray said. “It was such a grey area.”

Wray moved his glass-fronted coolers, turning them toward the entrance of the flower shop. He sold to customers who walked up to the door. 

He said Mother’s Day kept the flower shop afloat due to the number of people wanting to reach out to their mothers this year.

“There were so many people that wanted to say hi to mom somehow,” Wray said. “The line was all the way down here for 10 hours.”

This story is part of The Highland Avenue Project and the Democracy and the Informed Citizen Emerging Journalist Fellowship program.