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From Devastation to a Blessing

From Devastation to a Blessing
 

“FTD’s “Makeover Magic” contest helps a flower shop and a community – recover.”

Every year, FTD’s annual “Makeover Magic” contests helps one lucky florist remake his or her flower shop. Usually the shops are a little outdated and need just some freshening up. But Susan Hearne’s case was a little more extreme.

On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey ripped through Rockport, a town of about 11,000 residents on the southeastern coast of Texas, which is affectionately known as the “Texas Riviera.” It battered homes and buildings, flooded the city and displaced some 20 percent of the town’s population. Harvey also ripped the roof off Lulu’s Flowers, Susan’s flower shop.

“Everything got ruined,” she said. “Afterward, I was forced to leave because my landlord didn’t have insurance. I had nowhere to go. Everything else in town was ruined, too.”

Susan ended up finding one option: an old ice-cream shop in a strip mall in Rockport. “It was my only choice,” she said.

Looking to get Lulu’s back up and running as fast as possible, Susan and her team hastily set up a shop and were back in business by the November, less than three months after the hurricane hit. But the space wasn’t ideal. It was cluttered with random merchandise, the main counter didn’t serve the store well and there wasn’t much that was inviting customers in.

“After the hurricane, no one really wanted to buy flowers anyway,” Susan said. “And the store was a mishmash. Nothing flowed together. It wasn’t what I wanted; it was just what I had.”

A NIGHTMARE FOLLOWED BY A DREAM-COME-TRUE

A little spark of hope was ignited when Susan came across the FTD “Makeover Magic” contest. “I saw it and thought, ‘This would be such a dream come true,’” she said.

It turned out that her dream did come true. FTD picked Lulu’s as the winner of the makeover from more than 100 entries, largely because of “the passion and resiliency displayed by owner Susan Hearne after Hurricane Harvey destroyed her shop.”

The makeover involves FTD education consultant and design expert J. Keith White, AIFD, sizing up the winner’s needs and then implementing a plan. It usually happens in a single weekend, but with Keith based only about 100 miles from Rockport, he was able to spend more time helping Lulu’s.

Keith said the first impression he had of the shop when he walked in was chaos. “It felt like they had brought in the chaos of the storm,” he said. “There were memories there that should not have been there. I thought we needed to start over, give it a fresh coastal vibe – something calming and pleasant for customers and also for Susan and her employees to work in.”

Keith did that by suggesting that Susan first liquidate as much of her mishmash inventory as possible, including furniture, knickknacks and Betty Boop novelties. She had a big sale and posted items on Facebook, and she cleared most everything out.

“I asked him what I needed to do to get ready, and he said, ‘You need to get rid of everything,’” Susan said. “I sold it all within a week.”

Next came rearranging the coolers and making the flowers much more visible. “I walk into so many flower shops, and it’s like, ‘Where are the flowers?’” Keith said. “You have to remember that, bottom line, you sell flowers.”

That helped open up the space while new white farmhouse tables and chairs spruced it up. The new layout also made it easier for employees to work in the space. The design area stayed where it had been, but Keith created a new consultation area where the florists can talk to customers – something that didn’t exist before. That minor change had a huge impact.

“People came in and were sitting down right away,” Keith said. “They had a reason to stay, and that’s really important. I think Susan saw that change right away.”

Keith also brought in all new fixtures, including chandeliers, and several paint color options that Susan and her team could consider.

They went with a seafoam green, which Susan said is “very soothing.” Employees did most of the painting over a weekend.

One of the biggest changes came with the store’s checkout counter. What it had been was a forgettable piece with lattice and painted hot pink. Keith said having a nice counter for the cash drawer, the point-of-sale system, supplies and more is essential for a shop to have both form and function.

“Getting a good counter can make all the difference in the world,” he said. “It’s a focal point for customers, but it needs to be practical and organized for employees.”
Beyond the remake of the shop, Keith also helped Susan and her team with some suggestions to improve their sales. That included everything from adding in seasonal merchandise that works well with the new color scheme – blue pumpkins at Halloween or a Christmas tree with blue and silver coastal ornaments, for example — to how to properly display and price items.

A REBIRTH FOR LULU’S AND AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY

“FTD loves offering this opportunity to our florist members,” said Emily Bucholz, director of marketing communications for FTD. “It is truly transforming for the winning shop, and Keith does an amazing job mentoring and coaching the florists to ensure the transformation is sustainable. He also keeps in touch with the winners for years after the makeovers and is a great resource.”

Though the town of Rockport still has years of recovery ahead of it, Susan said there are signs of rebirth – not the least of which is her store, now that it’s been made over. That’s been uplifting for not only her but also the entire community.

“It’s a whole different look for the shop, and I’m really proud of it,” she said. “Our town is still recovering, but it’s good for everybody to see something positive like this. It’s good for me, too. I feel very blessed.”

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