Emilie and Michael Richardson were eager to try something new.
Their eldest son lived in Newport News, and being closer to him was a priority. While searching for floral businesses within an easy drive to their son, the Floridians discovered Gloucester and everything special about Smith’s Florist & Gift Shoppe.
Jean Smith had owned Smith’s Florist & Gift Shoppe for 54 years. The shop located at 6626 Main St. in Gloucester known for its personalized customer service always maintained a devoted following. At age 86, Smith decided it was time to sell. Although she had not worked at the shop for some years, she was still doing all the daily bookkeeping tasks.
The timing was perfect.
“We thought Gloucester was so cute the first time we came,” said Emilie. “It reminded me of my hometown. First impressions are important and we were impressed with Smith’s and with Gloucester.”
They took over the store in January 2018, keeping the name and the staff, including Smith’s twin daughters who had worked there most of their lives. “The core of the floral shop is the designers — we were happy to keep them on board,” Michael added.
Michael Richardson, formerly a vice president for wholesale planning at Perry Ellis International, took over the floral side of the business. He tapped into a passion for flowers that led him to take multiple classes over the years, and to do arrangements and events for friends, family and churches.
Emilie oversees the gift shop and the plethora of administrative tasks necessary to run your own business.
“We wanted something that could be our own,” says Emilie, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art. “It was important for both of us to have a role that aligned with our skills and interests.”
Wherever they went, flowers had to be part of the plan.
Prior to the move, Emilie taught art and design classes at Florida Atlantic University while building a successful Amazon business. Before their marriage, Michael courted her with flowers. Lots of flowers.
“I had to ask him to stop,” Emilie says with a laugh. The repeated flower deliveries began to take their toll, as she had to trek across campus, often in 95-degree heat, to collect them.
“Poor guy. He didn’t know they wouldn’t deliver them directly to my classroom” she says.
The gift shop was once a small part of the business. Emelie expanded it to 2,500 square feet retail space that attracts walk-in traffic, folks who are often surprised by the eclectic finds.
Emilie prides herself in finding unique treasures. “I truly enjoy finding things that I think other people will love and seeing a customer’s delight when they discover it, too,” she says. “I have a buying philosophy when I’m looking for new items. I imagine the different personalities of people who I care about in my life. For each item, I either know someone specifically who would like it or I want it for myself!”
The Richardsons aim to buy their flowers from local growers, daffodils included.
They remain appreciative of the help they receive from the Main Street Association and the Main Street Preservation Trust. “They are fantastic sources of information,” Emilie said. “They have tried all kinds of stuff to help during the pandemic and are instrumental in promoting our local Main Street businesses.”
The Richardsons enjoy the slower pace of their new hometown. Most of their time is spent growing their business, which has allowed them to connect easily with the community.
“We have the kind of business where we walk through people’s lives with them,” Emilie said. “I mean from the birth of babies to birthdays, anniversaries, proms, weddings, funerals, it’s crazy. We have these customers, amazing people, who will tell us, ‘You all did my wedding flowers 30 years ago!’ That’s something I didn’t fully anticipate when we purchased the business, and it’s had an emotional impact. It’s really beautiful.”
Smith’s Florist & Gift Shoppe at 6624 Main Street is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and closed Sundays. Call 804-693-2010 for information.