What started as a hobby for two young women has blossomed into a flourishing floral business that has been a staple in Dawsonville for half of a century.
When Gail Wright was just 21 years old in 1969, she wanted to embark on a new hobby with her friend and neighbor, Beverly Ball, who lived just across the street.
“We kind of decided we wanted a little bit of a hobby in 1969 so we trained under a flower shop in Dahlonega for two weeks and then she kind of taught us the tools and how to do things and where to buy things,” Wright said.
The passion for designing floral arrangements grew beyond just a hobby as the duo decided to go into business, opening up Dawsonville Florist on Nov. 8, 1969.
“We started on her back porch at her house and then about a year later I guess we built this little building here on my side of the road, so we’ve been here ever since,” Wright said. “We just both liked flowers and we thought it might be a neat thing to do, and it just kind of bloomed from there.”
While Ball retired from the floral shop six years ago, Wright hasn’t slowed down. Inside the little white building on Hwy. 9, Wright and her husband of 53 years, Wayne, work to keep their loyal customers happy.
“I’ve always lived here so our customers are people that we grew up with and they helped to start the business, really, and then have been customers all this time a lot of them,” Wright said. “With funerals and weddings and birthdays we see people through their happy times and through their sad times.”
Gail designs fresh cut flowers, green plants and silk flowers in the shop while Wayne goes out to deliver arrangements and helps around the shop by cleaning buckets and helping with Gail’s preparations.
“People walk in and they’ll say ‘I’d just love to do this. This looks like it’s just so much fun,’ but it’s hard work, long hours. Sometimes you don’t get a day off for several days so it’s not quite what people think it is,” Wright said. “Everything that comes in has to be made so that takes time and that’s why we put in a lot of long hours because a funeral doesn’t wait on you. There’s a time. A wedding doesn’t wait. You can’t be late for that so there is pressure in the timing of all the orders that come in.”
It’s not always easy work to run a floral shop. Over the last 50 years, Wright has had to adapt with the changes in Dawson County which includes adapting to a growing population and expanding the shop’s delivery services.
“Not having a hospital like a lot of areas, our business kind of depended on funerals and weddings, and now we have a lot bigger area to deliver to and so many new addresses and so many new people moving in,” Wright explained. “We’ve just seen a lot of change in our little bitty county.”
Over the years, Wright has adapted to the changing times and trends that seem to come and go. Years ago, before the development along the Ga. 400 corridor, Wright recalls stocking up on blooming flowers because there was no other place for people to purchase plants for their gardens. Now, the store carries wind chimes, a relatively new addition, because customers now look for gifts that can be taken home after special occasions.
But through it all, Wright has remained committed to doing her very best work for all of her customers, after all, in many cases, she creates floral arrangements for once in a lifetime moments.
“Weddings are a happy time but there’s also a lot of details to weddings, and you can’t – weddings and like a blanket for a funeral – you can’t go back and do that again,” Wright said. “It has to be right that first time so making sure you have what the customer wants and they’re pleased with it is really important.”
Knowing that her customers are pleased with her work is the most rewarding aspect of her career, Wright said.
“You have people that come in after a funeral and say ‘it was just what I wanted,’” said Wright. “That kind of makes your achy bones feel a little better when you know you’ve pleased somebody.”
Through the long hours, the pressures of deadlines and the constant changes in the county, Dawsonville Florist has weathered it all. As flower shops have come and gone in downtown Dawsonville, Wright’s little shop has continued to flourish.
“We’ve been blessed. We’ve been able to be here,” Wright said. “We raised our children here in the shop and they’ve played in boxes in the floor and then our grandchildren, they’re here all the time and play with boxes.”
Looking towards the future, Gail and Wayne have no plans to retire or end Dawsonville Florist’s legacy in the community.
“When you’re my age you never know when your health may change your plans, but we just do what we can, keep plugging along,” Wright said. “We’re just very thankful that we’ve been able to operate for 50 years. Not many businesses can do that.”