SALISBURY — Five years ago, David Harrison had every intention of leaving his family’s flower business in the capable hands of someone else.
Plans don’t always pan out.
He is still assembling arrangements and keeping corsages in his florist shop at 1012 Holmes Ave. His faithful dog, Louie, continues to watch the action unfold from his perch on a worn green leather chair.
Harrison has yet to call it a career, but he has changed the way he approaches managing Harrison’s Florist.
“I have decided that the company will no longer run me,” he said, “I will run the company.”
Harrison, 74, may work seven days a week, but he sets his own schedule. Some days he makes the short walk from his house to the store behind his house until 10 am. Most of the time, he leaves the store in the early afternoon. He calls it semi-retirement.
He is no longer afraid to leave the store unattended during the day. He will cut a few hours here and there to pursue his passion for finding treasures at garage sales. But he always keeps his phone handy in case a customer calls.
These are just some of the ways the business has changed since Harrison started running the shop in 1975, taking over from his parents who opened it 30 years prior.
Back then, florists were “the place” people went to when they wanted someone to feel appreciated, loved, or remembered. During the first three decades of Harrison’s Florist business, Harrison’s parents sold over one million roses. This was when there were over two dozen flower shops around Salisbury. In the years after Harrison took office, that number began to dwindle.
He’s made it his goal to make sure Harrison’s Florist makes it into the bottom four, and by his tally it’s one of only three independent stores still standing in the area. The store’s longevity can be a testament to its reputation for customer service.
“It makes me feel honored when someone calls me and I know that person has called me 50 times over the years,” Harrison said. “Apparently I’m doing something right.”
Aside from a delivery driver, Harrison does all the work himself. He takes calls, makes arrangements, even signs the cards that go with it. This last job got him in trouble once years ago when he signed an “I can live without you” card instead of “I can’t live without you” as the client wanted.
“I didn’t charge her for those flowers,” Harrison said.
And the next year, the customer was calling again to place an order.
Even though the number of florists has dwindled, Harrison can’t imagine a day when florists will disappear altogether.
“The florist business will always exist,” Harrison said. “This is the motto I advertise and live by and which fully explains the craft of floristry: in the beauty of flowers, life’s most precious words are spoken.”
And that’s one of the reasons he still loves what he does.
“I come to work every day and it doesn’t even feel like I come to work,” Harrison said. “It’s something that is in my life. I like it and I do it at my speed, at my pace, at my level. And I talk to a lot of good clients.
Harrison hopes someone else comes along who loves the company just as much. He still plans to retire – a pink “For Sale Harrison’s Florist” sign on his desk makes that clear. But he wants to leave the business in the hands of someone with a passion for flowers. He already has his pitch ready.
“I would be willing to sell the business at a very reasonable price,” Harrison said. “You’re going to have a florist who’s had an excellent credit rating for 75 years, and you’ve got a florist with a five-star rating.”
It’s true. Harrison’s Florist has a five-star rating from the Rowan County Florists’ Association, and Harrison has the plaque to prove it.
Harrison doesn’t want someone who’s disappointed with what freelancing is. It can be a lot of work, Harrison said. But when the company works for you, it can also be a beautiful thing.
The Harrison Florist can be reached at 704-636-4251.