Jackie Lokey, owner of Evans Florist, has loved, served Hartselle customers for more than 40 years
Hartselle Courier Journal/ Jennifer R. Hill
Jackey Lokey consults with Shea the cat at her floral shop, Evans Florist, located on Sparkman Street in Hartselle.
Evans Florist is a typical flower shop in the fact that it sales flower arrangements, funeral sprays, and gifts. What is unusual about the shop is the care each flower is placed with, and the concern shown for each order and each customer. This special attention is led by owner, Jackey Lokey, who has been in the “flower business” for more than 60 years, longevity longed for by many business owners.
Lokey and her three assistants, June Austin, Debby Orr, and Shea the cat, run the shop. The shop, located at 400 Sparkman Street, N.W., in Hartselle has been in the same place for more than 40 years. The team has been preparing for weeks, placing orders for flowers and supplies for Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, which is one of the biggest days in the florist business.
In fact, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are the two most profitable holidays for floral shops, but sales have been down in the past years, Lokey said.
“It’s not like it used to be when you worked two straight days and two nights, but it’s still long days,” she said.
However sales are looking up for retail sales for Valentine’s Day this year. In fact, based on surveys, the National Retail Federation expects a slight increase in sales this year “with the average person planning to spend $130.97 on candy, cards, gifts and more, up from $126.03 last year.”
The NRF says about half of the Valentine’s gift-givers in the U.S. will “buy candy, spending $1.6million in total, and another one-third will give flowers, with a total spending expected to top $1.9 billion.”
A life full of flowers
Working with flowers is all Lokey has ever done. She “married into flowers” at the age of 16 years old, and worked with her ex-husband at his flower shop, before she started working at Evans Florist.
Lokey, now 78, has worked in the same shop, and with many of the same customers at Evans Florist, since 1973. When she started there, however, the shop was owned by the late Willie Mae and “Country” Evans, she said. She purchased the shop from their son, Bill Evans, in 1999.
Lokey remembers fondly how good Country’s goat stew was and how Mrs. Evans could plait the prettiest ribbon for arrangements.
“Mrs. Evans had been in Hartselle forever. She was a really giving person. She taught me how to run the shop because I’d never run a shop before,” Lokey said.
Debby Orr, who works seasonal at the shop, says the family-feel of the floral shop has carried on. “The customers are like one big family,” she said.
The customers get to know them. Regular customers have even grown accustomed to being greeted by “the big boss lady” Shea, a grey bob-tailed cat, who has been at the shop for about 5 years.
“All of my customers are nice. It’s about the same people all the time,” Lokey said. “Our good work is really what brings them back.”
Never mind the big sales or the long hours in the days before Valentine’s, it is worth it to hear the customers’ stories, June Austin said.
Austin, who has worked at the shop part-time for two years, said one of her favorites customers is a repeat order where a woman calls in for her dogs, and sends her husband flowers and a card from the pups saying they love him.
“I got another one lately where the lady had only been out on a date one time with a man, and that got two dozen roses lately,” she said.
Lokey says they get all kinds of “gooey” cards and lots of flowers sent from secret admirers.
Plus, it is good thing they never reveal the secret admirers because some guys withhold their names for reasons.
On one delivery, Orr was greeted by a father who was not too happy.
“He said ‘Don’t tell me those flowers are for my daughter!,” she said.
The sender didn’t want to put his name on the card “because he knew papa was not going to be happy,” she said laughing.
However, most men who buy Valentines are in real romantic moods, Lokey said, and they love to give big bouquets of public affection during the holiday.
“During the week the women like for you to bring it to their work so everyone will see it and be envious,” Austin said.
It will be hard to top one “love sick puppy” from last year who sent his Valentine a teddy bear, candy, two dozen roses and a letter, leaving his bill more than $200, Lokey said.
Evans Florist is located on Sparkman Street, next to Hometown Grocery. The shop delivers flowers and gifts. To place an order call 256-773-2160 or visit their website at www.evansflorist.net. The shop is open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on holidays, 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 8 a.m. until noon on Saturdays.