By Erika A. Nichols, contributing writer and SFA student
Avenue Flower Shop and Nacogdoches Floral Co. are two Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce members that have served the community for years. Owners Tommie Hasley and James and Karen Ballow strive to satisfy customers seeking special orders and unique designs for any occasion.
Avenue Flower Shop was founded in 1965 by Tommie’s mother Ruby Lee Wells. After Wells’ death, husband Cecil Wells operated the business before passing ownership to Tommie.
Tommie carries on her parents’ traditions by making the world brighter one flower at a time. The business provides not only flower arrangements, but novelties such as candles, crosses and angels.
“I would come home from school and help my mother out, and that was my sophomore year in high school,” Tommie said.
The mother-daughter relationship has continued with Tommie’s daughter Terri Hasley who works daily in the store.
Tommie takes pride that Avenue Flower Shop has established customer loyalty through the customer service her family-oriented staff provides.
“Building a customer relationship is very important to me,” Tommie said. “I have gained long-term customers over the years, but I do have new customers all of the time.”
Floral designer and family friend Carolyn Vaught has worked at the shop more than 25 years. She said she enjoys working with flowers, because it makes people happy. Vaught recently designed pieces for an upcoming wedding and quinceañera.
On a typical day at Avenue Flower Shop the phones are ringing, customers are walking in as the door chime goes off and online orders are continually received.
“Many people walk in or place their order over the phone, but when I come in every morning I will have received several orders on our website overnight,” Tommie said.
James and Karen Ballow have built Nacogdoches Floral Company together through the development of strong, personal customer relationships. The family-owned company was established in 1925; in 1998 the Ballows bought the company.
James said prior to owning the business he was working 70 to 80 hours a week in his previous job at Walmart.
“At the time I was working and moving all over the place, so I decided I wanted to spend more time with my family, and we started looking for something we could do together,” James said.
The Ballow’s son Blake enjoys the position he has in the business. His duties at the shop consist of answering the phone, taking orders and operating the cash register. “We’re all like family here,” he said.
Blake said his family has made a commitment to quality and its relation to their own family name. Because of the professional but personal relationship the business has established with its customers, many people know that the shop is run by the Ballows and their friends.
“We are family-oriented and our customers know that so we strive for great customer service,” Blake said.
James and Karen both appreciate their business as a place where they can spend time with their family. The Ballows also realize that being in a small town has advantages.
James and Karen agree that maintaining repeat customers are of importance, “especially in a small town,” James said.
When asked the importance of flowers to him, James replied with enthusiasm, “I think the impact that flowers make when they show up; whether it is at work, at school or even at a funeral,” he said.
Whether it is a single flower or a huge bouquet; to most people receiving such a gift expresses love, remembrance, apology, support or simply a thoughtful gesture. James said he never knew the effect flowers have on someone until after he entered the floral industry.
When Karen and I were dating I had no idea,” James said. “Had I known then, I would have sent her flowers, but I never did.”
Karen has made floral arrangements for 15 years and enjoys the creative side of working with flowers.
Karen feels the business has a sense of commitment to Nacogdoches, because it is where she and James were born and reared.
“We care about people, and that makes relationships with employees better too. Everyone here is like family,” Karen said.
“We all work together; my husband and my son and my niece,” Karen said. “Everyone else is just friends; but it feels like family, because we have all been together for so long.”
The Ballows consider satisfying their customers a top priority and working with their competitors to be important as well.
“There is no business in town that we do not work with, even our relationship with our competitors is really good,” James said.
Door bows, balloon bouquets, gift baskets, homecoming mums and flowers are among the variety Nacogdoches Floral Company offers.
Avenue Flower Shop is located at 2211 South Street – contact phone number is (936) 554-0216, and website is www.avenueflowershopandgreenhouse.com. Nacogdoches Floral Co. is located at 3602 North Street – contact phone number is (936) 564-7361, and website is www.nacogdochesfloral.com.