Making Calabash More Beautiful
At Briar Patch Floral & Gift, owner Gigi Smith and her staff create floral arrangements and sell gifts for weddings and other celebratory occasions.
When Gigi Smith bought Briar Patch Floral & Gift in 2014 from Tammy Hunter, she kept the name. She couldn’t think of anything to better fit the floral shop in the heart of Calabash that helps make beautiful memories at weddings and other occasions in Brunswick County.
Smith, a Rochester, New York, native, graduated from high school in her home state then moved to Ocracoke Island with her mother in 1986. While living there, Smith worked full-time jobs in retail, which gave her invaluable experience for later starting her own business.
In 1999 Smith moved to Calabash, where her mother and grandparents had relocated, and she received an associate’s degree in business from Brunswick Community College. She purchased the 20-year-established Calabash Florist from Tom and Joan Smith, where Bennett’s Grill and Café is now located, and operated it for three years. In that time, she met her husband, Joe Smith, who was a silk flower wholesaler. Smith sold the business to become a stay-at-home mom after their daughter, Briana, was born 18 years ago. Years later she returned to the floral industry working for three different florists to gain more floral design knowledge.
“My goal was to have my own business because designing floral arrangements was what I really wanted to do,” Smith says. “Things fell into place perfectly when Tammy Hunter wanted to sell her business and I was looking to buy one.”
In April of 2014 Smith took over the name, the inventory and everything in the store at Briar Patch, and since that time the business has grown. Phone orders are big, and walk-in customers browse gifts and florals. Word-of-mouth recommendations are great, and social media really helps get our name out there.
Smith says that weddings account for 40 percent of her business.
“Destination weddings are the big thing these days,” she says. “Locals will have a fabulous wedding on the beach in Calabash or the surrounding towns and their friends and relatives drive here from Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Virginia, wherever.”
Her busiest times are April to June and then from September to November.
“People take a break during the hot months of July and August but other than that, brides and grooms like celebrating their special days in ceremonies on the coast of Brunswick County,” she says.
Briar Patch Floral and Gift sells many beautiful things: baskets of flowers, green potted plants, silk arrangements, botanical soaps, lotions, candles, specialty fruit and snack baskets and more.
When asked if she has a green thumb, Smith says “not really” but adds that she does have a creative flair.
“Both of my parents are very artsy, and I got lucky by inheriting that gene,” Smith says. “My mother, Jill Hope, is an artist who sells her paintings at Sunset River Marketplace and my father, Ron Grady, is an artist and a writer. I’m fortunate that my job is something I enjoy and have a knack for.”
Along with her six part-time employees, Smith keeps busy taking phone and online orders six days a week, arranging the flowers and delivering them to customers. She estimates that approximately 60 percent of her customers are local residents who want to commemorate someone’s special occasion or have floral arrangements delivered to their homes “just because.” The other customers are visitors who drive past the shop and see the florist or out-of-towners who look them up online for deliveries in southern Brunswick County.