Sweet Bouquets: Southern Living Meets Southern Hospitality - TribPapers

Sweet Bouquets: Southern Living Meets Southern Hospitality

Sweet Bouquets arranges everything from small, buttonhole designs to huge funeral sprays. Credit: Sweet Bouquets.

Asheville – Sitting back from the traffic on Hendersonville Road, just south of Long Shoals, is a quaint little cottage. In fact, the abundance of blooms at the entrance gives it a touch of Thomas Kinkade. Inside, one is at once rejuvenated by the fragrance of fresh roses.

Alecia Godfrey, the owner of Sweet Bouquets, has been working at the store since she was 18. Her mother started working out of their basement in Bent Creek in April 1984, and business was so great that they moved to the Arden location about a year later. Godfrey bought the store from her mother in 1997.

Like most florists, Sweet Bouquets offers plants, balloons, and gourmet and fruit baskets, in addition to floral arrangements. A lot of business comes from weddings and funerals.

“Funerals are the last chance to say good-bye. This is a very emotional business. We work with people on their best days and their saddest days,” said Godfrey.

The store is FTD, so Godfrey has helped people send flowers to places like Ecuador and England, but they do their own arranging for local deliveries. Godfrey said one of the things she likes about the business is how things change with the seasons. Right now, dahlias, zinnias, and sunflowers are in.

The conversation drifted into a volley along the lines of, “We get local peonies.”

“Peonies? I didn’t know they grew locally.”

“Yes, and they smell so nice.”

“Do you get gardenias?”

“We used to. They remind me of my grandmother. They don’t ship well because they turn black.”

This spring, Godfrey was buying tulips from a lady in Flat Rock. A lot of the flowers are grown regionally, but roses and other very high-quality flowers come from Ecuador and Holland. Godfrey said they’re shipped via a wholesaler in Miami.

Their flowers are mostly naturally colored, but Godfrey will dye them on occasion. For example, she’s currently working on an order for Rams blue roses for a TC Roberson graduate.

Godfrey designs and arranges flowers, and she holds consultations for more intense events like weddings and funerals. She is helped by her sister, who used to be an emergency department nurse but quit after COVID hit. Two of her nephews also work in the shop. Other employees help with design and delivery.

Godfrey said she tries to work out whatever her customers order, and she’s had “a lot of odd and unique requests.” One memorable arrangement was for the funeral of a little girl who loved Krispy Kreme. They made an arrangement that looked like a box of doughnuts.

“We’ve done baseball gloves and racecar arrangements. A lot of stuff for famous people, because a lot of famous people live around here,” she said.

The COVID shutdown shook things up. Godfrey regrets having to lay off employees (all of whom have since been rehired). Her sister stayed on because, as a family member, she wasn’t breaking any rules.

They lost a lot of business because big weddings and funerals were not allowed, and families were not allowed to gather for holidays and anniversaries. Many other events that would use floral arrangements were canceled.

They, however, gained business because family members in social isolation often found flowers to be a good way to communicate their love to those they could not visit in person. “People could call in orders even though they couldn’t come into the store.

“So, we were very busy, never bored. My house is still a mess,” she said, alluding to all the folks who, stuck inside indefinitely, had to make their homes as habitable as their offices had been.

Sourcing flowers was another quagmire. Quarantine orders for interstate travel and questions about whether or not transporting flowers was “essential” persuaded many vendors to play it safe. A grower in Boone continued to deliver, but the Atlanta vendors didn’t. Roses and other special flowers were difficult to obtain.

9-11 was worse. “Traffic went away to nothing. It was a ghost town.” Godfrey said she had just been talking with her bookkeeper about how profitable the year had been. “That died in about one month.”

Now, business is thriving. For this, Godfrey wanted to give a shout out to all her loyal employees, some of whom have been with her for 25 years, and especially the customers, some of whom have been buying from them for 40 years.

Godfrey says what makes Sweet Bouquets different is, “We put our heart in it and enjoy what we do. We love our customers and try to make everything different and special.