YORK, P.E.I. - An Island garden business is now asking groups to book in advance and make a donation before taking photos after it was overwhelmed by prom-goers earlier this week.
On Monday night, Jewell’s Country Market posted on its Facebook page that, due to “recent events with photo shootings affecting our customers” they would no longer admit groups looking to take photos in the greenhouse.
“We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding in this matter,” concludes the post.
Chris Seemann, president of Jewell’s, backed down from the photo ban Tuesday after the company received social media backlash and several calls from angry residents responding to the post.
The “recent events” mentioned in the Facebook post took place Monday evening as students from Charlottetown Rural High School flooded the greenhouse for photos, sheltering from rain and taking advantage of floral backdrops.
“In a short period of time a couple hundred people came all at once,” Seemann told The Guardian Tuesday. “Students, family, friends.”
It got to the point where there was no parking left in the lot and cars lined the road and highway next to the business, Seemann said.
“The entire greenhouse was packed with people like a rock concert. They were shoulder to shoulder. It was impossible to walk through.”
Paying customers had no parking, no space to shop inside the building and didn’t feel welcome.
“It was not safe. We have staff that has worked here for 20 years and they said they never saw it like this,” said Seemann, who bought the company with his wife, Zuzana, earlier this year.
Seemann thinks people were using his business not just as a place to take photos but to unofficially gather before the prom, he said.
“Right after the gathering we were shaken. What we posted was an overreaction.”
Seemann says he supports young people having a good time after all their hard work during the school year, but his business was overwhelmed.
After a good night’s sleep, Seemann met with his staff Tuesday morning and came up with the new policy.
“We want to allow photos for proms and weddings and at the same time make a good customer experience.”
A new post Tuesday afternoon on the Jewell’s Country Market Facebook page highlighted the new rules.
The business will now insist on bookings for photo shoots by phone or in person. The time slots are 15 minutes with a 15-person maximum. A $10 donation is requested with all proceeds donated to Camp Gencheff, a camp that provides recreational programming for those with special needs.
Seemann hopes the compromise is enough.
He was upset by phone calls his staff received Tuesday morning.
“It was wording I do not want to repeat it,” he said. “My wife and I are very happy in P.E.I. We are keen in doing our part to support the community, but it has to be safe.”