One city, two business closures, two expansions

Sep. 28, 2013 @ 10:55 PM

Henderson was going to lose two businesses.

But the crews at each place enjoyed working together. And two other businesses here saw opportunity instead of a problem.

At least twice this year in Henderson, business owners have hired crews who were facing a change in employment or no employment at all. At one business, a shop owner had died. At another, the corporate word was to close the location.

“Working together” defined both work crews.

It is specifically the heart-felt sentiment of floral designer Danny Champion, who with shop manager Michael Puckett and designer, delivery driver Sandy Matthews are now the crew at Betty B’s Flowers and Gifts on Garnett Street.

They used to be the crew at Bill’s Flowers and Gifts until owner Linda Woodard died, and on Aug. 6, Bill’s Flowers closed for good.

“That was our last day,” Puckett said. “But Betty B’s found us and hired us to keep on working together.”

So they didn’t actually write a combined résumé together. It was more about serendipity. The way Puckett explained it, his wife Amanda knew somebody who knew Betty B’s shop was looking to open up a floral department.

Also staying together was the crew from Blockbuster Video just off Dabney Drive. The corporate office ordered the store closing in July.

Three of the crew of six are still working together at Triangle Home and Garden at the other end of Dabney Drive.

The original arrangement had all six keeping their job routine going, only transplanted to another location. Manager Judy Harris explained the plan was about opportunity from the start. Two of her employees went to other local jobs instead of staying at Triangle, and one moved out of town.

“We started out wanting to give them a chance at this new place,” Harris said. “Some of them stayed and some didn’t. This is a great place and a great company to work for.”

The shop owners both indicate “thumbs up” to the opening of new vistas for their well-established business models:

• Betty B’s owner Diane Johnson said customers shopping her 203 S. Garnett St. variety shop, finding wedding cake toppers, invitation cards and prom suits for young men, would comment about adding a floral department.

• Triangle owner Phillip Hight said it was customers who were telling him that his Engine Masters business of servicing outdoor power equipment was calling for a sales shop to offer recommended and dependable brands with service backup.

Both ventures, according to their owners, shared a common goal for successful business: putting customers first.

“We decided to give it a try, open up a florist shop and put them in here,” Johnson said. “They have done surprisingly well. We were able to pull them on in here and give them work.”

Champion said that as the lead designer, his routine is very similar if not the same. Flowers, pots and decorations might be stored a little different, but he puts arrangements together as he did at Bill’s.

“The surroundings are a lot different, but we’re continuing to provide the same quality work that we did at Bill’s,” Champion said. “We are all friends and we worked together for quite a few years.”

With a dozen years of floral delivery before putting the past six years in with Bill’s, Matthews said that she came to appreciate the friendships there. She could tell that it was a rare opportunity to get that back together when the word came after a couple months of drawing unemployment and just wondering what’s next.

“Love it, we’re a lot like family,” Matthews said. “We see old customers, they’re coming back. We’re the same crew in a totally new shop.”

Puckett said that after taking a second job’s hours up to full time, he still thought about the old flower shop days that were the focus of 14 years, starting with deliveries and moving up to management.

“Then I got a phone call one day. Diane told me they wanted a florist added on to what they had already,” Puckett said.

He got his crew together.

“We sat down and talked about it, what it would take, and we decided to do it, make it happen,” he said.

When the opportunity to buy a sales crew presented itself, Hight’s business plan was to offer yard machines and grills along with video and game players, movies and theater candy. It is something of a male weekender’s one-stop shop: cut the grass, do some gardening, then grab the remote. Oh and don’t forget to grill up a meal. The candy is just for snacking.

“It has been a transition for them, a good transition,” Hight said. “They’ve been doing a really good job. This has been a new expansion for our company, to be able to sell new products and service that equipment. This adds a retail wing.”

Hight said he offers brands he personally knows, uses and recommends, offering personal expertise that reaches in the direction of an iron-clad guarantee: he’s not letting buyers just walk out the door. His company will back up what he sells.

He was thinking about expanding, then he heard about the Blockbuster crew coming available.

“That customer-first attitude is what I saw in Judy and her crew,” Hight said. “We had been customers at Blockbuster for years, and we knew Judy. She was always about good service there and she had a great staff. It was important to me to continue that, and it has worked out well for us.”

Harris said her view of the new workplace is that it expands on the retail environment she was used to. It involved cross training with Engine Master service employees to expand the retail employees, including her knowledge about the line of products.

“This is more of a one-on-one conversation, and it’s about how we’re going to be taking care of you after the sale,” Harris said. “We don’t just make the sale and forget about it.”

She said the transition included incorporating the two crews together, which came easily because of the friendliness of everyone working with Hight.

“The people are nice to work with,” Harris said. “It is a relaxed place, individualized, so we can focus on the customer and taking care of them.”

Jason Duke came from Blockbuster, were he was part-time. He’s full-time at Triangle Home and Garden.

“This is awesome,” Duke said. “It was an easy transition for me. We are like a family here because that’s how everybody treats everybody here. At Blockbuster, I was getting about five hours a week. Here I was able to advance to head of sales.”

Harris said there are more and more movie hunters coming back also, giving sales people a chance to suggest some gardening-oriented upgrading of their weekend routines.

“It’s good to see old friends,” she said.

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