Home Around Town Granddaughter of a Franklin Street Flower Lady Carries On Her Legacy

Granddaughter of a Franklin Street Flower Lady Carries On Her Legacy

After Bettye Jenkins grandmother instilled in her a practice of picking, arranging and selling flowers, she felt compelled to return to the career that was more a part of her than she realized

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“I still visit the farmers market. That’s one of my favorite places. I go to the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and the one at University Place [Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market]. I especially buy flowers for myself there. I love the homegrown flowers. I’m in business because I can put a bouquet of flowers in every room of my place.” Photo by Briana Brough

Bettye Jenkins

Owner, Bettye’s Flower Design

Growing up, were you always drawn to flowers?

My grandmother Ada Edwards was one of the original “flower ladies.” She raised me, and we had to go out in the fields and woods and pick flowers for her to come into Chapel Hill on Franklin Street to sell. We would get the flowers ready, like daffodils (we called them buttercups), and she would come to town and sit on the side of the street and many Chapel Hillians and university folks bought them from her. At that time, the birthing of loving flowers was not in me, I have to be honest with you. We [picked the flowers] and she made money. It was our livelihood. As I grew older, I kept saying I never want to do this again. But because it is so much inside of me, [eventually – after working as a secretary for the school of public health at UNC and then as a caregiver at Carolina Meadows –] I longed to go back to making flowers.

How did your business get started?

It has had three starts. [The first was when] I lived in Pittsboro in my home, then I moved to Graham Street in Chapel Hill [and again] to where I’m at now [on Purefoy Drive], with a building set up for the flowers. I started, I can honestly say, over 30 years ago. I actually got started making flowers for my church [Terrells Creek Missionary Baptist Church]. Whenever they needed flowers, I would volunteer. Then, from a hobby business, it turned into a real business. I took some classes, and I studied on my own.

What do you provide for your customers?

I supply people with personal-touch flowers. People call me because they want a flower that represents the person receiving the flowers or themselves in sending the flowers. I do pray as I do flowers. I can [express] not only my feelings of what might be pretty or what [the client] may like, but God leads me so that I make something that would cheer this person up.

Over the years, how have you attracted business?

We don’t belong to a wire service. I could not afford to do advertising, but I could afford to do a good job and let word of mouth advertise for me. I’m so thankful for every order we get.

Walk me through your process, sourcing flowers and building arrangements.

I have two small coolers, so I have a limited amount of flowers I can keep in there. I make contact with local suppliers who serve other florists in Chapel Hill, and I keep flowers on hand in case some orders come in. Then, if I have not sold those flowers and they still look nice, I find someone to give them to.

What is your favorite thing about owning your own business?

My joy is creating lovely bouquets to encourage someone, make someone happy or replace a loneliness in their heart, whatever the case may be.

How has being in Chapel Hill influenced your business?

I’ve been in this town 71 years. I’ve seen it change; I’ve seen it grow. Chapel Hill is a place that I can really say loves flowers. People here just regularly send flowers to people. Chapel Hill is a place that we should be thankful to live in. There’s much love here. This community works together in so many things, [offering] outreach where people help each other. I’ve had so many people encourage me along the way, to give a helping hand.

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Associate Editor Laura Zolman Kirk is a Kentuckian turned Chapel Hillian and totally in love with this special slice of North Carolina.