As the city of Starkville debates how to reinvigorate Highway 182, a flower shop along the forgotten highway is already making moves to reinvent itself.
Lois Rice took over the House of Flowers three weeks ago after owner Frances Person, who has supervised the shop for the past 17 years, decided it was time for a break. Person has given Rice creative control to take the shop in any direction she sees fit.
“I”m not micromanaging her. Lois has experience,” said Person, who has known Rice for the past seven years through Rice”s work at the Green Leaf in West Point.
With the possibility of a new police department coming to Highway 182, Rice is hoping to place the House of Flowers ahead of the curve in reinvigorating business along the northside highway.
House of Flowers and Gifts is located at 512 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Rice can be reached at the shop at 662-324-0345.
How did you get started in the floral design business?
It”s an inherited thing. My dad”s mom and all my dad”s sisters started in the flower business in Oxford and it just rubbed off on me. I”ve never had any classes, never been to school for it. It”s a gift from God. That”s my thing, I”m a happy person and I love to make people happy.
How old were you when you started?
I was real little. My grandmother always had a flower garden and she worked for Oxford Floral Co. for many years until she retired. Then her daughter started running Oxford Floral, and I worked there for a little while helping out and learning a lot of different techniques. My aunt worked their 40-something years.
How long have you been in the flower business?
Probably 20 years or a little more. It”s been a long time.
Where else have you worked?
In West Point at the Green Leaf Flowers and Gifts. I worked there seven years. I came from there straight over here with no break in between.
Why did you decide to switch shops?
I”ve only been here three weeks because Mrs. Frances was looking for someone to manage her shop and I decided it was time for an upgrade. Sometimes it takes different jobs to get you where you need to go. That was my stepping stone.
I ran (the Green Leaf) by myself, but over here I”m definitely going to need some help. It”s a college town, so this will be a lot different.
Mrs. Frances kinda gave me the OK to do it like it was mine. She”s been doing it for so many years and doing it all really by herself. She”s had some help but she”s been the main person doing it so she”s looking to take a break. And I”m her “blessing in disguise” as she would say.
How long did you consider the offer before accepting?
I had to think about it because it was a hard decision. I thought about the years I put in at the Green Leaf and the people I worked for, who are wonderful people.
I went through some changes in life, I went through a divorce while I was there, so it was time for a change. A different environment.
What are some of the ideas you have in mind for House of Flowers?
I want to offer more gift items. Right now I think we”re just in the line of flowers, but I”d like to offer more gifts, maybe get a baby world going, where people can come in and look around and pick some things out instead of always sending orders over the Internet. Sometimes people like to see what they”re getting so they”ll feel better about spending their money.
How much of House of Flowers” business comes from the Internet?
I”d say 90 percent. We”re part of two networks, Dove and FTD.
If we can get more people to come in, that would be a great asset. We”re trying to do a lot of outside stuff to draw people in. We”ve gotten a lot of compliments from the 10 percent of walk-ins. Everyone has been amazed at the transformation of the shop and we”re getting some pretty good feedback.
You”re in a unique setting being in an actual house. What”s that like?
Working in this house has been a challenge. (Person”s husband purchased the house in 1977, but is unsure when it was built.) It”s a different atmosphere than I”m used to, but guess what? The Oxford Floral Co. was in an actual house.
I wish it was a little more open, but I think it”s going to be a great thing.
I think people find the environment more welcoming than a typical shop because of the energy that”s in the house.
How many employees do you have?
Myself and one other designer, and Mrs. Frances can design as well. She”ll be in and out of the shop.
We”re operating right now with three delivery people and will have probably eight people for weddings and Valentines Day and Mothers” Day. For bigger events we have more people we can call in.
What”s your delivery area?
We deliver everywhere depending on what the customers want. We have some customers as far as West Point and Columbus that say “I want it to come from your shop” and we”ll travel if that”s what it takes to make the customer happy.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.