by RUSSELL JONES
BRANDON — Flowers have been scientifically proven to increase happiness (according to a report from Rutgers), decrease worry and anxiety (so says Harvard), enhance productivity and creative problem solving (according to a Texas A&M study), and even reduce stress (adds a report from the University of North Florida).
But for the past three months, while flowers have been rewarding, it has been anything but stress relieving for Annie Chartrand, who runs the Brandon Florist Shoppe.
“Christmas was stressful,” Chartrand admits. “With Carr’s being here for 40 years, I have had some tough shoes to fill.”
Bernie and Beth Carr stopped selling flowers in their well-known gift shop a year ago on Jan. 1, 2018. That opening was filled 10 months later when Chartrand opened the Brandon Florist Shoppe in November. Her shop, which once held offices and automotive bays for Brandon Auto Sales, is located just north of downtown Brandon on Route 7.
It now offers fresh flowers, as well as local crafts sold on commission. Customers can find everything from key chains made from rifle shell casings to tiny fairy houses blown from glass as well as more traditional gifts, such as bouquets of flowers for loved ones.
“It’s a great way to celebrate the little things in life,” Chartrand said, smiling. “It comes with a lot of emotion behind it because you’ve put thought into that person’s favorite flower or color.”
Chartrand spent 27 years as a job coach at Otter Valley, which is where she got the idea for running a flower shop. Every year she had the students work with floral arrangements and make centerpieces for Christmas. After Carr’s Flower Shop closed, she decided to make a change.
“The community has been wonderful,” Chartrand said. “I had to open to see what would work and what wouldn’t. The space has worked out great.”
Valentine’s Day, the number one holiday for florists and for floral purchases, is fast approaching and according to the National Retail Federation, U.S. consumers plan to spend $1.9 billion on flowers in 2019. It is estimated that more than 250 million roses are produced for Valentine’s Day alone. Chartrand has been working furiously to get ready.
“Valentine’s Day is a crazy three-week period of planning, preparation, organizing, ordering, caring for flowers, arranging, wrapping, delivering, shoveling, selling, waiting on customers, taking orders on the phone, prepping for deliveries, running the roads regardless of weather (florists are the mini postal service), caring for, and making room for thousands of flowers and then worrying about selling all those flowers,” recalled Bernie Carr. “AND praying for good weather! So it is intense.”
Chartrand said she has found that knowing what to order, and when, is the hardest part of running the flower shop and is also her biggest problem for Valentine’s Day.
“You have to make sure you have what people want,” she said. “I had to pre-order blindly because you have to have the orders in early in January; I’m hoping (the sales) overwhelm me.”
She ordered many dozens of roses and carnations and will also have extra people standing by to help out with deliveries for the big day, in addition to the two local ladies who normally make deliveries for her. She will also have family coming in to help.
For the most part, Chartrand said, she has been doing it alone, although she admits that her friends and family have been very supportive. She is also very thankful for all the guidance that the Carrs have provided.
“She has good friends and family who are supporting her with time and energy and in a small town, just as it was for us, it’s what you need to succeed,” Carr said. “When you own a florist shop every member of your family and every one of your friends become apprentice florists.”
Carr said that he and his wife both feel the flower shop has become an integral part of the fabric of day-to-day life for their friends and neighbors in Brandon.
“Flowers, balloons and plants are an important part of so many events in our lives — births, anniversaries, graduations, holidays, funerals, proms, events that all of us share with our friends and family,” Carr said. “It’s a niche that needed to be filled, as many folks have needs and expectations that we helped fill over the past 40 years.”
Chartrand said the demand for flowers in Brandon is enough to keep her busy full-time. She often spends more than ten hours a day at the shop. One of the hardest parts of the job, she said, was preparing flowers for funerals.
“You just have to approach it as a celebration of their lives with the ones they love,” Chartrand said. “But funerals are always tough.”
Chartrand is working to renovate the bays, which are not in use at the moment, and hopes to have a business that compliments the flower shop move in there as soon as this summer.
She said she takes a lot of joy in helping people pick out flowers for birthdays and anniversaries, but there are other reasons for flowers as well.
“It’s a great gift for everything,” Chartrand said. “Any of life’s little celebrations.”