Polly's Florist celebrates 60 years
In the midst of a changing downtown, one Canton business has been a mainstay for residents for 60 years this month.
Although much has changed since Polly and Lloyd Parker opened Polly’s Florist and Gifts in 1953, the qualities that made the store so popular decades ago have remained the same throughout the years.
Polly’s opened during a time when downtown Canton was a bustling hub of activity for the small mill town, a time when locals rarely needed to even leave town for their needs.
The store’s first location was facing Main Street near the Family Stamp Store, Janie’s Beauty Shop and Carroll Warren’s Barber Shop.
Polly’s was a popular place for locals to buy gifts of all kinds, said owner Vicki Gregg. Back then, people bought flowers for every holiday, especially Easter.
She remembers tagging along with her Aunt Tootsie to work every Saturday as a child, watering flowers, making deliveries and standing on a box at the counter bagging corsages for holidays and prom.
Even at 10 years old, she knew that flowers would be her life.
Gregg became a fixture in the store as she grew up, learning the trade and following the store to new locations on Park Street.
She helped manage the store for one year while Polly was undergoing cancer treatment. When Polly passed away in 1992, Gregg took over the business, opening up at its current Main Street location. The current home of Polly’s is a stately building rich in its own history — it was the original W.W. Wells Mercantile and Funeral Home built in 1881.
The store is quadruple the size it was when Polly first opened, and is now filled to the brim with greenery, decorations, gifts and of course flowers of all kinds.
Although prices and trends have changed over the years, Gregg believes it’s the family atmosphere that has kept the business going for so long.
"My customers are my friends and each day whether it be by phone, e-mail or just stopping by the shop, I have a day full of friendships," she said.
Life as a florist isn’t always a bed of roses, though. Growing up, Gregg knew never to ask for a Saturday off work and Sundays were always busy, sometimes with a dozen or more funerals in a day.
It also wasn’t unusual, especially near the holidays, for men working at the mill to place an order on their way into work and then pick up their flowers when they got off. But sometimes those made for long workdays late into the night, Gregg said.
“Being a florist and owning the business is different than going to work for somebody every day,” Gregg said. “You’re more motivated to do it. You think about it all the time. It’s just your life.”
Her husband, Danny, is always around the store when he's not working at Evergreen Packaging, she said. Even their daughter, Danna, who studies at the Savannah Institute of Art and Design, lends a hand.
It’s not just the Gregg family who knows what it’s like to fall in love with the flower business.
Even longtime employee Cole Smathers couldn’t pull himself away from it after working alongside her for a senior project in high school. After 14 years, he can still be found quickly crafting bouquets to each customer’s vision.
“Cole is a young, talented designer who amazes me every day with his creativity,” Gregg said.
Gregg has been forced to keep up with the times as the flower business changed over the years. Now, she can do much of her business online and she’s even planning on renting out her variety of antique furniture and store displays for wedding decorations.
The aspect she loves most about the floral business is the opportunity to constantly create something new.
"Of course, I love all flowers, but for example, Valentine's Day could be a special bouquet of daisies or even a vintage antique vase filled with gorgeous tulips," she said.
Even with 20 years behind her, Gregg doesn’t see an end in sight to her beloved business. In fact, retirement has never even crossed her mind.
“I have a wonderful job — every time I create a beautiful arrangement or a special gift basket, I know that I am going to make someone’s day a little brighter. Not everyone is so lucky!” she said.