By Brandon Martin
From the aromas of seasonal favorites to the sights of fall foliage, perhaps nothing beats the ambiance of the holiday season, as homemakers delight in creating a perfect environment for their families and friends.
In Martinsville and Henry County, holiday decor and the memories it may stir is in ample supply, according to Buck Davis, owner of Simply the Best Flowers & Gifts for nearly 20 years.
Davis said the seed that bloomed into his floral career began in high school. From there, he studied the craft at Virginia Western Community College before embarking on a 16-year stint at another floral shop. Davis opened his shop on Broad Street in Martinsville on January 9, 2001.
With much of his time dedicated to the business, Davis said he has gained a lot of personal satisfaction from the job.
“You get to help a lot of people in difficult times. We do a lot of funerals,” Davis said. “There are a lot of happy occasions too, like birthdays and anniversaries. Being able to help people when they need it is probably the most rewarding.”
Davis said the business can get a bit prickly at times, as well.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Davis said. “People don’t think it is but there is a lot that goes into making the arrangements just right.”
Between processing the flowers, managing inventory and “getting in shipments every day of flowers,” Davis said, “there is something to do all the time.”
While the silk flowers don’t require any care, the abundance of real flowers are a different story.
“We keep them in refrigeration, so they last a lot longer,” Davis said. “Even though we get flower trucks every day, we don’t use everything we get every day, but we will have to use it before the week is over.”
With the short lifespan of the flowers, Davis’ team works quickly to build the arrangements.
“We’ve been doing it for so long that it comes naturally at this point,” Davis said. “I’ve got a lot of great designers that are creative, and they feed off each other. We don’t really have to think about it anymore. You just do it.”
Davis said he employs about 12 people on average, including part- and full-time staff.
The creative side really shines in the fall, according to Davis. “You can do so much more with fall colors than you can some other seasons. There’s just this huge array of colors that’s pretty this time of year.”
As the holiday season gets into full swing, the bulk of his employees’ time is dedicated to creating fall centerpieces and arrangements which are gobbled up for Thanksgiving and Halloween.
“People like to decorate their doors and put stuff on their tables,” Davis said. “As far as Thanksgiving, we send out a lot of centerpieces that they use for their Thanksgiving dinners. People request fall arrangements for a variety of different reasons, but they can all be used pretty interchangeably because it’s the fall season.”
Davis noted the business often changes with the season.
“Even though they may come by for a birthday, if it’s in the fall, they may still get something that is fall-looking just because it’s the season,” Davis said. “A lot of the time, things will just flow with whatever the season is.”
Once fall starts to wind down, Davis said his shop will enter its busiest season, with Christmas around the corner.
“We have busy holidays like the week of Valentine’s Day or the week of Mother’s Day which are the busiest, but the season for Christmas lasts so much longer,” Davis said. “It lasts almost two months, from the first of November to the end of December. People start their Christmas shopping early.”
Normally, Davis said he is in the shop all seven days of the week.
“We are only open six days of the week, but I have to come in on Sundays because funerals are normally on Sunday,” Davis said. “That’s stuff you’ve got to deliver.”
Once the holiday seasons are over, Davis joked that the thing he most looks forward to is “having a day off.”
When that happens, staff members pick up the slack.
Kellie Wilson said she fell into the career about 20 years ago. Since then, she has become an expert in incorporating nature into the home.
“For inspiration, you just kind of think back to the holiday at home,” Wilson said. “You’re thinking about the natural things from outside and the colors that you are seeing. You just kind of want to bring that indoors with you. When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of bounty, so you might add certain elements of produce or other fun elements.”
It’s this kind of freedom that Wilson enjoys most about her job.
“Allowing myself to be creative every day is probably my favorite,” she said. “It’s never the same every day.”
With each new challenge, Wilson gets to be part of each customer’s life.
“It’s a neat thing, because you are sharing so many people’s memories and happy times,” Wilson said. “Even if it is something sad, you get to help them through that. It’s a good feeling.”
For Thanksgiving specifically, Wilson said she is most fond of the centerpiece arrangements.
“It’s something when people come in, it just sets your display off,” she said. “You’ve taken all this time for this food and it just kind of amplifies your table and sparks it up a little bit.”
Tracey Haley, another florist at Simply the Best, said she has the most fun doing “silk work.”
With 35 years in the business, Haley finds her “Zen” when arranging the silk.
“There’s no pressure. With the daily activities, it’s just pressure, pressure, pressure,” she said. With silk, “it’s more like manufacturing work because I get to be more creative. I get to do my thing. When it comes to silk, I am the silk person.”
Fall and Christmas are Haley’s favorite times of the year. When customers come in, Haley said she pays close attention to their orders.
“If they want something specifically for their home, you have to talk to them about color, style and exactly where they are going to put it, so you can get a feel for what it’ll look like in the home,” Haley said.
All the displays inside the flower shop are her handiwork.
“I usually do more of the making and Kellie helps me with the placing,” she said. “We work as a good team.”
Russell Harris is another team member. Harris said he racked up a bouquet of experience working in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and now has worked 12 years at Simply the Best.
“If you come from a bigger city to a smaller place, you are usually ahead of the trend,” Harris said. “The big thing about the floral business is you mostly listen to the customer and try to figure out what their feeling is, what their want is, and you do the arrangement to try and capture those feelings. That’s what they are buying. They’re not buying flowers. They are buying feelings so when you tap that feeling, you please that customer.”
Harris said everyone in the shop has their own focus.
“We can all do everything, but Tracey does a lot of the silks that you see out here, Kellie handles all of our customers and I do most of our funeral work,” Harris said, and added about half of the shop’s work is dedicated to funerals.
With Collins-McKee-Stone Funeral Home next door, Harris said the business comes naturally.
Harris said the pandemic has damaged Thanksgiving business this year.
Davis also said the business initially was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I could sense his (Davis) stress because he could see our business dropping off,” Harris said. “We’ve only worked for a little bit over the last several months up until now.”
Davis said the drop in business was mostly due to the cancellation of events like graduations, proms, and funerals.
“There was a little transition there, but it’s gradually built back up to where it was before,” he added. “Not all the way, but pretty close to what it was.”
Now that business has picked up, Davis said he and his team are getting back to doing what they do best, “making memories.”