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For Gainesville's award-winning florists, arranging flowers is more than a job
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From left: Carol Slaughter, co-owner of Occasions Florist at 100 Washington St. NW on the Gainesville square, and assistant Dee Reising arrange flowers Wednesday, Oct. 14. Slaughter's business was recognized as 2019-20 Small Business of the Year at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce's 112th Annual Meeting & Gala on Thursday, Oct. 8. - photo by Jeff Gill

For Carol Slaughter, putting together flowers for a funeral is more than showing beauty through nature. It’s about expressing deep, emotional sentiments. 

Just ask her close business assistant, Dee Reising. 

“She takes (her work) very personally. She will ask what the person was like … and she incorporates the whole concept into a piece,” she said.  

“We both do,” said Slaughter, getting a big hug from Reising. 

It’s that kind of passion that helped Occasions Florist at 100 Washington St. NW on the Gainesville square, earn a 2019-20 Small Business of the Year at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce's 112th Annual Meeting & Gala on Thursday, Oct. 8. 

Occasions Florist "always goes the extra mile and give their very best to please customers,” said Kit Dunlap, chamber president and CEO, at the gala. 

Slaughter, the store’s co-owner, and Reising worked on flowers as they talked Wednesday, Oct. 14, about the business, which has operated for 10 years. 

Slaughter, originally from Orlando, Fla., bought the business with her sister, Susan Epps, almost on a whim. The previous owner convinced the pair to buy the business. For Slaughter, who has been in the flower and plant business for 35 years, it was a logical step. 

And she hasn’t regretted the move, despite the fact that “we don’t make any money here,” Slaughter said. “This is what we do. We just make flowers.” 

Slaughter specializes in funerals and Reising in weddings and other events, but they often pool their talents. 

“We enjoy our job,” Slaughter said. “People think a flower shop is a very laid-back business. It might seem like it is, but trust me, we get the pressure.” 

She said they may sweat an approaching wedding when they end up with wrong or half-dead flowers. “We scramble,” Slaughter said. 

The chamber’s award, which hangs neatly on a wall in the business next to plants, was an affirmation of sorts. 

“I was just proud, tickled to death,” Slaughter said. “We work hard for the money.” 

As for many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic presented steep challenges. Events, such as weddings, canceled or postponed on Occasions. One of their other annual jobs is the chamber’s annual gala, which was moved from an in-person event at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville on May 14 to the virtual one on Oct. 8. 

“I want my country club dinner,” Slaughter said, jokingly. 

In presenting the award online, Dunlap recognized the business’ contribution to the gala. “We’ll do that again,” she said. 

Overall, “we have been very blessed,” Reising said. 

The flower shop did see an uptick in business as the year moved on, thanks to community support and important holidays. 

“Mother’s Day was the biggest one we’ve had in years,” Slaughter said. “It had been falling down because (children) would rather take mom out to dinner and buy them something off Amazon. This year, everybody was sending flowers to their mothers.” 

But there’s also been a sad side to the year. 

“We’ve been busy with funerals,” Slaughter said. “Anyone who doesn’t believe there’s something with (coronavirus), there is. We know when they (die) and why.” 

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