By Carmen Brown
Photos by Patrick McGough
Offering a shoulder to cry on after a heartbreaking loss. Hearing countless love stories in preparation for majestic weddings. Sharing tears of sorrow or joy with customers who may have only been strangers seconds before they walked in the door. In any time, in any city, all of the happy and sad moments of life are commemorated in one place: the local flower shop. And one flower shop here has stood the test of time, a fixture in the lives of thousands of Shelby County residents.
Now celebrating the 25th anniversary of its opening in September 1997, Shelby County residents have consistently voted Main Street Florist as a winner or finalist in Shelby Living’s annual “Best of the Best.” Owners Kelly Burley and her mother, Susan Conn, have been warm, familiar faces in Shelby County, helping customers put together the right arrangements for all occasions.
“We’ve been so blessed,” Susan says. “We’ve never slowed down.”
Main Street Florist has two locations: one in Columbiana, which was the first store to open in 1997, and Mt. Laurel, which opened in 2002. Kelly’s husband, Walker, and Susan’s husband, Michael, are also co-owners.
Susan lovingly bragged on her daughter, recalling her love for designing from the time she was a little girl.
“Kelly could be Martha Stewart,” she says. “She cooks, she bakes, she makes cookies, she paints and does folk art. Growing up, she was always inviting her friends over, having parties and teaching them how to make things like Easter packages.”
Kelly had recently finished college and was working a part-time job on Saturdays along with a job in the corporate world, but she quickly discovered how much she was enjoying the part-time job.
“I love making things, and I thought it would be fun to work with flowers,” Kelly says. “I worked a few Saturdays at my part-time job, and they offered me a full-time job, making what I made at my corporate job. I decided after about a year it would be fabulous to have my own shop. I told that to a co-worker who shared with the owner my life goals, and I was terminated. The rest is history.”Susan had been working another job in McCalla when Kelly came to her with the idea of running the flower shop together.
“I quit in 1999, came here to the Columbiana location in 2000 and Catherine [Burley’s oldest daughter] was born in April,” Susan says.
Kelly was already living in Mt. Laurel and had just had her second child, Abby, when she had an opportunity to buy a building for a second location, which was just a few blocks away from her home. According to Susan, the Mt. Laurel location was the first commercial building in the town.
Susan and Kelly, along with each of their small staff, personally design each bouquet “in-house.” The staff also creates personalized, custom arrangements and gift baskets. Areas of specialty include fresh flower arrangements, wedding planning, sympathy arrangements, balloon bouquets, fruit and gourmet baskets, green and blooming plants, custom silk arrangements, dried arrangements, orchids and topiary plants. Both locations also offer invitation and paper goods, linen rental and interior decorating services, including table scapes, stemware and place settings. Kelly says their best sellers are seasonal mixes of colorful flowers. Susan says they also sell a lot of lilies, tulips and garden roses.
Both Susan and Kelly agreed that their favorite memories and activities over the years come down to one word: weddings. Kelly says they do a great deal of wedding planning, where people come in for consultations and go over their visions and dream flowers.
“My fondest memories are doing wedding flowers and sharing in the special memories of friends whose weddings we have done, and all the wonderful people we met along the way,” she says.
Susan says she has especially enjoyed getting to travel for weddings to locations like Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, the Tennessee/Georgia coast and even all the way to San Francisco. They also got to attend a huge wedding at Oak Island Mansion, an 11,000 square-foot mansion on a 6-acre island on Lay Lake.
Ssuan says they have other funny memories “that probably shouldn’t be published.”
“We get a lot of laughs about it. Columbiana is a small town. Sometimes we get calls about flowers that were delivered somewhere, and we can’t give them any information. We’re a business. We just have to deliver and let it go,” Susan says.
On the flip side, they have also shed tears with lots of customers. Working with grieving families is especially hard for both of them. Susan’s son, Jason, (Kelly’s younger brother), along with Susan’s nephew, Ronnie, were killed in a car accident in 2003. They were both 24 years old.
“The worst for me is when I see these people who have lost their young ones,” Susan says. “All you can do is just be there, and cry with them. The Columbiana location is close to a funeral home, so we do a lot of those here. Just today, I have two funerals I’m getting ready for.”
A few things have changed since the beginning. Kelly’s third child, Connor, is now 16, and while they had “no place to play” when her kids were young, she now has a 10-acre farm. Lately, Susan said they have been “kicking around” the idea of opening a new location in Calera.
“Their only florist there closed down a few months ago, and we’ve been doing a lot of deliveries there lately,” Susan says.
Susan says neither she nor Kelly plan on stopping any time soon.
“I doubt we’ll do anything different. It’s a tiring business, but we really do enjoy it,” Susan says. “You’ve got to be dedicated to be a florist.”
More about Main Street Florist
Main Street Florist delivers throughout Birmingham as well as all over the country and offers same-day delivery if needed. The website contains a full list of hospitals, retirement communities and nursing homes where they deliver. Main Street Florist is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The Mt. laurel location can be reached at 205-408-2717, and the Columbiana location’s primary contact is 205-669-3331. Orders can be made in person, over the phone or online at msflorist.com.