Flower shop owner thanks mom for turning life around
Jan 20 2011 12:01 am Mar 23 12:30 pm
Donald Bennett, 64, owner of Rose Florist on Spring Street, went into business 38 years ago in a tiny space at another location on Spring Street. He borrowed $500 to open that initial shop, he said. Edward Fennell /
Ask Donald Bennett how long he's owned his florist shop, and he answers very precisely.
By the time you read this, it will have been at least 38 years, four months and 20 days since he opened Rose Florist, now at 117 Spring St.
"I'm a very grateful person to have operated my business for more than 38 years," he explains.
Bennett, 64, said he hadn't planned as a younger man to go into the flower business, and he thanks his mother, Rosa Bennett, for pushing him to put a misspent youth behind him and make something of himself. He said he also owes a debt of gratitude to former Charleston florist Joe Trott, who gave him his first job.
"School just wasn't my thing," he confided about his days at Burke High School. He admitted he cut school too much, something that greatly upset his family.
When he was 16, Bennett said, his mother issued an ultimatum. "Either go to school, and you can eat at home, or get a job and eat at home," he recalled.
The order really hit hard, he said, when he tried to fix himself a meal at home and Mom took the plate out of his hands.
"I did not eat that day, and that day told me I needed to be a man," he said.
Bennett said he went job hunting and was hired at Trott's Florist at Queen and State streets. His first duties centered on cleaning, and he gradually moved into other tasks, including helping to prepare flowers for arranging by others.
After leaving for several years for a stint in the Army, Bennett returned to Trott's. "I had no intention of going into business for myself," he explained. "My plans were to work for him forever."
Bennett said he paid close attention to how flowers were arranged at Trott's, and when he finally got the chance to create some arrangements, he earned compliments from his boss.
"I decided I would try it for myself," he said.
Bennett said he borrowed $500 in September 1972 and secured an inactive commercial space at 66 Spring St. for $35 a month. A shoe business had vacated the 13-by-15-foot space, leaving it a terrible mess. He said he cleared out many old shoes and spent most of his money cleaning walls and floors, painting, and securing electricity and phone service. He also bought a refrigerator for flowers and put up shelves and signs.
When it came time to name the shop, Bennett settled on Rose Florist. His said his mom, who died in 1991, had been called Rose by her boss at a restaurant and had been such a positive influence on his life.
"Rose Florist sounds like a much better name than Bennett Florist," he said. "People would remember that name."
Now ready for business, Bennett said he spent his last $5 for flowers, enough for just one arrangement. "The day I opened, I
had zero cents, no money at all," he said.
It took a week or two for that one arrangement to sell, and when it did, Bennett at first felt sad that he had nothing else to sell.
"But now I had enough money to buy two arrangements," he said.
On Sept. 26, 1976, the shop moved to its current address.
He said he loves his work and that the business he created is like his "child" and needs continued nurturing.
"I've sacrificed a lot of my personal life to survive in business 38 years," Bennett said. "I've taken four vacations in all the time I've been here."
But there's no thought of retirement for Bennett.
"I'm a very strong and confident person, and I plan to work until I'm 99," he added.
Post and Courier link: http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20110120/PC1602/301209896