2005-12-16 / Business

Star Profile

Blossom Shop
By John Temple Ligon

How does a flower shop owner get started in the business? Here’s Roger Patton’s way to the Blossom Shop.

Patton’s father was a chief petty officer in the US Navy, which put Patton in Portsmouth, VA, through the third grade. Another few years in Erie, PA, and Patton then preceded Brad Pitt at his elementary school in Springfield, MO. A short stint in Nashville, TN, turned Patton toward Columbia. Patton finished Chapin High School in 1965.

At USC, Patton majored in English when Dickey was a professor, Welch was the department head, and Trotter was the college dean. The three inspired Patton, helped him through and out in four years, and wished him well in Asheville.

Patton returned to Columbia in 1972 to work for Salter’s Florist in the Arcade Building, about the time Down-under Columbia was flourishing. Staying in the business, he moved on to Davis Brothers and then soon to the Blossom Shop, working for founders Jack Roof and Billy Sandifer.

About this time – 27 years ago, actually – Patton married in the flower business and started a family. He and Mrs. Patton have two daughters, 20 and 23.

Roger Patton inside the Blossom Shop    Photo by John Temple LigonRoger Patton inside the Blossom Shop Photo by John Temple Ligon In the early 80s Patton bought out Roof and Sandifer, who both retired, but Patton had no Roof of his own.

He had no truly talented arrangement designer.

Patton found his designer, Tommy Cross, in Spartanburg, and after five years he finally lured Cross to come partner at the Blossom Shop.

When Patton first came to the Blossom Shop, the Art Deco black glass ran along the facades on Saluda Avenue all the way down to Barbara Rocque’s dress shop. Within his first few years as an owner/ operator, a sheet of black glass fell to the sidewalk in front of one of Patton’s regulars, and that was a strong sign it was time to renovate the exterior. Patton pulled down the glass and put up the siding seen today.

In the 35 years Patton has been handling flowers and gifts, the greatest changes are in communications and logistics when dealing with the wholesalers. Typically, Patton can be supplied within 24 hours of his order. Orders go to Holland, Florida, California, and South America, and all can be filled and delivered within 24 hours. Orders to Hawaii and farther out in that direction take another day, maybe even three days altogether.

But that’s delivering goods to his shop at the corner of Devine Street and Saluda Avenue. In the opposite direction business has changed too. The more time Patton spends in flowers, the more contacts become available. Patton recently took a walk–in order for a diplomatic delivery in Washington, DC. The Washington diplomat was being given a live fish in a fish bowl as part of the arrangement, and Patton knew a flower shop near the embassy and near a pet shop.

There are always days when the customer has no idea what to have delivered. Patton and his staff know what does the job. From early introductions to parting apologies, flowers work.

The big business calendar for Patton is marked for Valentine’s Day, of course, and Mother’s Day and Easter and Christmas. The first three weeks following Thanksgiving sell lots of plants, and the fourth week there is high demand for arrangements.

December and June weddings come in such volume and take up so many resources, Patton holds his wedding obligations to two per weekend, never more.

Local deliveries can take up half the day’s activities. Out of a 100–order day, maybe five pick up at the shop while the rest get delivered.

The same age as The Columbia Star ’s business editor, Patton is a young man in a captive market still on a growth curve. Flowers are everywhere, and everybody has to have flowers.

Roger Patton

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