Just over a year ago, at only nineteen, Valerie Simmons bought Evergreen Floral, a small business that has been a Broadway icon since the 1950s. This past year has been a monumental year for her – a story of growth and grace. If nineteen sounds young, she actually began working purposefully with flowers three years earlier!
Valerie recalls, “So when I was sixteen, my sister Julie asked me to do her wedding bouquet, just because I grew up loving arranging flowers.” Then her sister’s friend asked her to provide flowers for her wedding, and that friend’s friend asked her to do her wedding. Precocious, spunky, sweet Valerie then established Mountain Meadow Florals.
She was seventeen. She just “happened” to spy a help wanted sign at Evergreen Floral and thought she would work for about six months to learn basic flower processing, but the hand of God has been evident in each step. Valerie ended up working a year; then the previous owners asked if she would like to buy them out after many years in business.
When asked how things have progressed for her in her first year of ownership, Valerie surprised me with her answer. “My age has not been a difficulty at all – in fact, it’s helped me because the local people have been so supportive. They hear this 19 year old bought this business and they’re like, coming in, I know certain people came in and bought stuff just because they’re supporting me – almost coming up with reasons to buy flowers; they have been amazing. [The staff at] Grandle Funeral Home has been awesome in working with me: we have a great relationship.” How the first year has been a success can only be understood by introducing Valerie’s right-hand lady at Evergreen Floral.
Laurel Wise is the equally vivacious and tenacious best friend of Valerie. Together, Laurel and Valerie are a dynamic, not to mention beautiful, duo. Laurel says, “The job has been a gift for me. I really wanted a job but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I prayed about it and the very next day Valerie, my best friend, asked me to work for her with flowers. It doesn’t feel like work. I love it!! And [Valerie] does so well…so well.”
The feeling is mutual. Valerie shares, “Laurel working for me has been amazing. I don’t know if I could’ve done it without her because multiple times [we] pulled 12 o’clockers. The night before Valentine’s, we pulled a 2 o’clocker. I couldn’t do this myself – Laurel and my other designer Cathy – keep me going!”
Regarding the day-to-day operations, there are currently five employees – the floral designers and two part time delivery guys. Valerie is introducing her younger sister Melody to the field of floral design. Casket sprays and standing sprays are the mainstays throughout the year. Flowers for weddings are also another large portion of the business, and Valerie is excited and pleased to see her wedding clientele growing steadily. There’s even a substantial – and inviting – gift area within the shop that offers the work of local artisans – jewelry, turned wooden bowls, soaps.
It’s a bad pun, but her dream job hasn’t been all roses. Valerie says,
“Every day there’s so many things…I’m the boss. I have full responsibility. Someone called with this complaint, what are we going to do or say. The delivery van gives out – I bought a new delivery van and this week the transmission went out. The flowers come in wrong for the wedding or the flowers come in half dead. Since it’s my responsibility, do I decide to call them and complain, or do I just roll with it? How do I find flowers in time? It’s constant stress. It’s never going to be smooth sailing, but I understand now after talking to other business owners – even farmers. Nobody warns you how many things can go wrong. The previous owner’s daughter, Stephanie Driver, has been an amazing help since she worked for him for twenty years. She is a wealth of information and is so happy to share with me.”
The theme of the first year for Valerie has been meeting the responsibility of running a business, “especially as a Christian, and knowing how to respond to situations in a Godly manner…my biggest goal for my business, hands down, is just that God would be glorified through it, that when people walk into our shop that they see and feel God because I feel like He handed me the business. He clearly wanted me to have it the way He opened doors financially.”
The month of January will be spent prepping for Valentine’s – prebooking flowers, ordering in more supplies. You can help alleviate the stress for this young business owner. It’s always helpful to a florist if you order ahead of time. Trust Evergreen Floral on East Lee St. with your gifts this year. The experience is sure to bless – you will find beautiful souls more stunning than the flowers these ladies design.