Southern Blossom florist’s grab-and-go bouquets bring a splash of color to Dilworth.
by Page Leggett | photographs by Peter Taylor
The order — 200 soft pink and cream roses — was large even by Valentine’s Day standards. But getting the roses wasn’t the challenge. The customer wanted them all in one container for maximum impact. Giovy Buyers, owner of Southern Blossom Florist on East Boulevard, had to call in reinforcements.
It took four hands to create the floral masterpiece. “It was a challenge,” Buyers recalls. “We put all the roses in a large bucket because our vases were too small … Once we started assembling, two of my designers had to work together to create that beautiful bouquet. One was holding the roses in place, and the other was making sure it was nice and tight.”
It’s just what she does to make her customers happy. “If someone wants us to make something very different, we love it,” Buyers says. “We don’t have cookie-cutter arrangements. We’re not what you get when you call 1-800-FLOWERS or go through FTD.”
Buyers, whose family owns a flower farm in her native Ecuador, always dreamed of owning her own flower shop. Opportunity presented itself in 2008 to buy what she termed a mom-and-pop operation that had been in business for nearly 50 years. Called simply A Fruit Basket, it specialized in the obvious — but had some flowers in the mix. Buyers shifted its focus to mostly flowers.
She bought the business in the midst of a recession and soon wondered if she’d made a mistake.
“It was a very scary time,” recalls the mother of two. “A lot of longstanding accounts went out of business.” She created a website, hoping e-commerce might be the antidote to getting minimal walk-in traffic at the shop on Hawthorne Lane due to streetcar track construction, which blocked the view of her shop.
Gradually, she began doing more events and weddings — she estimates that weddings account for 40% of her business today — and needed a space for consultations. She needed a new brick-and-mortar spot that would attract walk-in traffic.
When her current location in a charming two-story house in Dilworth came open in 2018, she took it. She leases part of the downstairs. She had been operating as an online-only shop since 2010, biding her time until she could find what she considered the perfect spot.
Young professionals are among her biggest customers, and there are scads of them just around the corner in South End. You can walk into her shop and purchase a ready-made, wrapped bouquet, just as you would at the grocery store — but Buyers offers a wider variety of flowers.
Thinking inside the box
The pandemic led Buyers to a smart business idea. “During Covid, when we all had to kind of shut down and stay home, I was approached by several small businesses asking me to help sell their products,” she says. She agreed to post some of their products on her website so customers could buy, say, a candle at the same time they bought flowers. But she took the idea a step further. She thought inside the box.
Charlotte Blossoms Together is a flower-topped gift box that includes locally made organic soap from The Soap Boutique, local honey from Charlotte Honey, an organic beeswax candle from Wellness by Ari Candles, cookies with a Charlotte skyline design from The Little Cookie Shop, a little succulent garden from Living Décor by Valentina and several other treats. It’s perfect for a newcomer to the area, Buyers says, or for anyone who appreciates buying local.
Community engagement is important to Buyers. In early 2019, Southern Blossom began a horticulture and floral mentoring program for Providence High School students. Since its inception, nine teens have served as interns at Southern Blossom, where they learn about horticulture, how to run a small business, customer service and more.
Besides Buyers, the Southern Blossom team includes four floral designers. “A couple of my designers have been in the industry for about 30 years,” she says. “They like art. They are painters; they’re crafty. It’s a really good combination because working with flowers can inspire you to be creative, to do something different. I give them free rein.”
Does Buyers have a favorite flower? She’s shocked by the question.
“That’s like asking if I have a favorite child!” she says. “If I say, the other flowers may get jealous. But the one I’ve always loved is ranunculus.” SP
Room to bloom: Stop by Southern Blossom Florist at 321 East Blvd. Or find a bouquet or other gift online at southernblossomflowers.com.