Derek Kernoghan has been selling flowers in the village of Whiteabbey for over 14 years and has seen the community come together to flourish during the darkness of the pandemic.
The Co Antrim man grew up around beautiful greenery and flowers which inspired him to follow his passion and ultimately led him to create DKNI The Florist in the coastal village.
Speaking to Belfast Live, Derek said: “I got into floristry through my mom and dad – they had a garden center just off Station Road in Newtownabbey and had it for about 40 years. years.
“Dad was a big Dahila man and used to show them all over Ireland and Britain so I walked in and about 37 years ago opened my first store in Newtownabbey and she has grown steadily since.
“Whiteabbey is a great little village. We have customers who come from all over because the things we do can’t be found everywhere so it’s a little more unique which is good.”
Flowers are a big part of many major live events such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and it’s something Derek is honored to be a part of as it has allowed him to bond closely with local clients who walk past his door every day.
“Because I’ve been here long enough, all of my clients know me now and we all have a good connection with them.
“I always say that years ago in the village you knew the people to see and as you walked past them you would say hello but now with the customers you know them more as friends because they have you. maybe helped the line somewhere, ”he explained.
Over three years ago, Derek and other businesses and residents in the area came together to form the Whiteabbey Village Business Association to improve the village and connect customers with the local businesses they visit every day.
Dereck said: “It was just great – my part is organizing and planning the local fair we have two of which we have before the lockdown and which over 16,000 people attended in two days. It was like a mini. Lammas fair and was just awesome.
“Our community is the one that supports us and pays our salaries, so I always tell the group that we also have to give something back to them and help them.
“There are ladies who live behind the store and on the day of the fair they came around the corner and stopped and said ‘Derek, this is just awesome’ – there was no cars, no worries and they could just walk the middle of the street at all and they’re 80 years old so they could enjoy it. “
The group not only hosted local events such as Christmas fairs and a successful car rally, but also physically upgraded Whiteabbey’s green space to make it more attractive to residents and businesses.
During the first lockdown, Derek was contacted by the council to say that they had received flowers for common areas in the village but due to the pandemic he did not have the staff to plant them so he had to rallied local volunteers to pot the 7,000 plants.
“The day we were doing it, 30 people arrived and everyone worked in bubbles to plant all the flower beds throughout the villages and in the church as well. work – people will stop and tell me they are “dead headed” on a flower bed on a walk. “
He added: “It has been good to connect people between business and community and although it is a nice little village right now, it could really be lovely with a little bit of tenderness and love. It really brings people together. everyone, which has been so good. “
“I always say this is the only village on the Antrim and Newtownabbey area coastline and we should really make a big deal out of it because we are such a great asset to Loughshore.
“Our big goal is to give a big improvement to the area. 14 years ago this end of the village was dead and there was nothing here, nothing to attract people, but now I think there is There are only one or two empty units in the whole village. “