Flats of grass greet customers outside of Elizabeth House Flowers, ready to be delivered for a party at Google Inc.’s tent set up for the Democratic National Convention.
David Wynn, co-owner of the flower shop at 1431 South Blvd., said he has been nursing 50 flats of grass “to green up” as a part of a flowerless arrangement with greenery and magnolia foliage for the tech company’s event on Thursday.
While the store has been busier than usual creating arrangements for a variety of events at the DNC, Wynn says that when he started Elizabeth House Flowers in 1987 he never imagined designing for events quite like this week’s.
“We are just so excited that Charlotte got it, was willing to bring it in and that we’ve been part of it,” Wynn said.
Shelly St. Laurent, a floral designer at the shop, has worked with event planners from Washington and New York to design arrangements for some of the premier events at the convention.
These include an all-red display for the National Democratic Institute’s opening reception at the Charlotte Country Club and a North Carolina-themed layout that highlighted the state’s beach, mountain and Piedmont regions at the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s welcome event for delegates from the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee.
St. Laurent, an 18-year veteran of Elizabeth House Flowers, says she has enjoyed dazzling delegates and out-of-towners with flowers, like the vibrant bouquet of sunflowers she carefully positioned as she spoke. Those yellow blossoms from North Carolina will be placed in golden boxes that will sit atop peacock blue tablecloths at a Democratic Committee luncheon at the Ritz Carlton on Thursday, she said.
“We are bringing in the country to the city,” she said. “Plus, it will be fun for a luncheon.”
While longer hours have been needed at the store to keep up with orders during DNC, the shop has almost always been busy, Wynn said.
Wynn, along with co-owner Cecil Shearin, opened the shop 25 years ago on the second floor of a house on Elizabeth Avenue. The shop had so much business from the get-go that it took them a few months to put a sign up, Wynn recalled. The shop flourished and eventually took over the whole house.
Within six years, Elizabeth House Flowers outgrew the house that was its namesake, and Wynn and Shearin moved the store to the South End location, where it has been since.
“It was a scary transition to go from a house with a name like Elizabeth House and to come into a bigger space,” Wynn said. “When we found this building, it was a little before this area developed. We pulled the old awnings off the buildings and the old signs, cleaned it up, put in new windows and doors and moved in.”
Now the shop can say it has designed for the DNC. Though the convention has come with its own challenges that Wynn has not faced when delivering the arrangements for weddings, parties and local offices.
On Wednesday morning, their delivery van was stopped at a security checkpoint near 12th and Davidson streets.
“They had a bomb-sniffing dog; they went through the van, opened the hood and they X-rayed the van,” Wynn said.
As President Barack Obama arrived in Charlotte on Wednesday, Elizabeth House Flowers planned to take extra care in delivering the sunflower arrangement to the Ritz luncheon – with the flowers to be taken at 4 a.m. Thursday in case the van encounters problems, Wynn said.
“We pack well and we take into consideration that they will be going through the vans, so we make it easy for them so they’re not tearing stuff up,” he said Wednesday.
Still, the long hours and preplanning that have gone into the flower designs for this week are worth it, as Wynn says the store will make money this week and may gain some new business through referrals from DNC-related customers. The visibility at the events will help get Elizabeth House Flowers get noticed, too.
“There’s still the everyday stuff going on, but I think everyone’s attentions are focused on that convention and not other things,” he said.