Molly's Flowers celebrating 25 years in business

November 17, 2003|JOHN T. DAVIS

Molly K. Jacobus began designing flower arrangements as a student at Danville High School.

"At that time, the Danville Garden Club had a high school garden, we would go to competitions and that's how I got started."

Following graduation, Jacobus went to the University of Kentucky where she earned a degree in horticulture and business ("I wrote my own major," she said) and tried to get a job at a Lexington floral shop.

"I couldn't get a job," she said. "I was trying to get a job but nobody would hire me because I didn't have experience..."


After attending a floral design school in Denver between her sophomore and junior years, Jacobus was able to get work. She worked for two shops in Lexington and then worked at Royalty's Florist and Gifts in Harrodsburg to get some experience doing flowers for funerals.

That was in 1979. In November of that year, she bought a building on South Fourth Street and started Molly's Flowers and things, Inc.

This week, she is celebrating the beginning of her 25th year in business with some invitation-only events and a Christmas open house from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For young people dream of starting their own business, Jacobus' career is a good example of how to do it. Find something your good at and enjoy doing, get the proper training and work experience and, finally, understand the difference between owning your own business and working for somebody else.

"I'm happiest when I'm designing," Jacobus said. "Unfortunately, by necessity, a florist has to be a good business person first and a designer second.

"If you're not running your business well, you're not going to stay open," she said. "If you're not paying your staff and taking a little bit home yourself, there's no point in being in here."

Jacobus said she has been fortunate to have good people working for her. Much of the designing is done by Bruce Parker, who has been with her more than 20 years, and Cherie Nimmo, who specializes in freeze-dried arrangements.

Freeze-drying floral arrangements also does brisk business

As a sideline, Jacobus does a brisk business in freeze-drying floral arrangements. She got statewide publicity when she began preservingthe famous rose blankets given to the winner every year at the Kentucky Derby. Customers turn to her when they want a wedding boquet or other arrangement preserved.

Any person in business for 25 years will witness changes in their industry and Jacobus is no exception. One trend that has affected many small businesses, fortunately, hasn't hit the floral industry. Large chains have not taken over the floral business.

"It's one industry that is still the little guy," Jacobus said. "Flower shops require that personal touch. It's really hard to give that personal touch if you're trying to make stuff cookie-cutter.

"What people want in one town is not what they want in the next.

"You have to know your customers," she said. "We always trying to educate our customers, bring new things to the table but Danville is a very a traditional."

She said Danvillians mostly favor traditional flower designs.

One change Jacobus has seen in the past 25 years is the entry into the flower market of big companies, such as Wal-Mart and Kroger, but they haven't affected her business that much.

"All they do is help get flowers up to people's minds more."

When people want an arrangement for special event, "then they call a florist," Jacobus said.

At Molly's, personal service includes allowing customers to go into the "cooler" and "pick a stem of this or that" for an arrangement.

Noting how the business is changing, Jacobus said that in European countries people buy flowers on a daily business - from street vendors and other sources. There, the flower industry is working to get people to be more "occasion-oriented."

The market in the United States is just the opposite. Traditionally, flowers have been purchased for special occasions, and the industry is trying to get people to become everyday buyers.

But wherever or whenever they make their purchase, "flowers make people feel their better," Jacobus said.

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