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Rose Florist - 43 Years And Counting
9/9/2015 4:35:33 PM

By Barney Blakeney

A couple of years ago I did a story about the 40th anniversary of Rose Florist shop in downtown Charleston. Owner, Donald Bennett, since then has demonstrated his appreciation. He’s sent flowers to my church twice. The first time I had no idea he sent the flowers. Wesley just let me back in the other day.

Thanks Wesley. The second time, he refused to let me pay. Thanks Mr. Bennett. September 1 Bennett celebrated his 43rd year in business at Rose Florist. I can’t imagine how he did it, giving away flowers.

Donald Bennett’s Rose Florist Shop is a classic example of a successful small business struggling to stay afloat and a testament to how doing things in a good way can really pay off. You see, when we think of successful businesses, we too often think of businesses that are financially prominent. We get it twisted.

Material success, financial success is one thing and a good thing. But it ain’t the only thing. I think success also is about providing a service and making a contribution. I recently had a horrible dining experience with a sister so caught up in the material, her very successful business got swallowed up in her bitterness. Today she’s sittin’ on the sidelines waiting for something to happen. That’s hard at 70.

I talked with Donald Bennett about his 43rd anniversary, he’s also up there in age, but the brother seems to be cruisin’ in on an easy flowing wave of contentment and satisfaction. He said it’s been hard trying to make it 43 years. I know that’s right. And I also know you don’t make it 43 years unless you’re doing something well.

I learned about Bennett’s 43rd anniversary from a lady who called the office to ask that I write something about Bennett’s accomplishment. And it is an accomplish for a Black man to stay in any kind of business that long in this town.

They say money is green, and business ain’t about black and white. But when it comes to Black people doing business, most folks forget about the green and the black and white of it becomes real prominent. Ya’ll know what time it is. Them folks ain’t gon let a Black man make but so much money. And you still have to get past the jealousy of some Black folks!

The caller who asked me to give Bennett the exposure is evidence of some of what he’s done to overcome challenges. Some people appreciate it when you do things the right way and they’ll try to help you. Apparently some folks like how Bennett, who grew up in Summerton and later in downtown Charleston, does things. An unlikely florist described by former classmates as a smooth kind of guy, Bennett just kind of landed in the profession.

He grew up in Summerton near Sumter until age 12 when he came to Charleston. He didn’t like school, but his mother made it clear that he either would go to school or go to work. He chose to go to work.

He told me, “After I quit school my mother made my favorite meal of smothered chicken wings and stewed tomatoes the next day. But when I fixed a plate to eat she took it out of my hand and said I couldn’t eat in her house unless I had a job.” He went out and got a job the next day working at Trott’s Florist on State Street. At first he just cleaned up, but owner Joe Trott soon had Bennett helping with floral arrangements. Bennett’s skill and talent grew and soon he was creating arrangements on his own.

Bennett was drafted into the Army in 1967. After completing his two-year obligation, he returned to work at the florist shop. He’d work there about seven more years until deciding in until 1972 it was time he went on his own. With $500 Bennett started Rose Florist, named for his mother Rosa, whom he credits for his success. He says it was his mother’s no nonsense discipline and the lessons he learned from her and his former boss that have contributed to his longevity in business.

Along the way Bennett’s applied those qualities. Although often overlooked in business - his is one of only two Black owned florist shops in the area - he doesn’t overlook opportunities to make a difference whenever possible. His reputation in business speaks for itself.

That focus has been repaid with loyalty from his customers, he said. If just the Black churches and funeral homes alone split procurement of their floral needs among the two Black owned floral businesses both could be more successful. And there’d room for others, he said!

Despite the challenges, Bennett says he’s having a good run. He just turned 69 and hopes to continue in business at least until he’s 99. That may not be a cakewalk, still Bennett says he’s extremely grateful to have lasted in business this long.

“I consider it an anniversary every day I put the key in the door. It’s special at the end of the year, but I’m grateful for every day,” Bennett said.

Me, I’m grateful for the service and business example he’s provided our community. Thanks, Mr. Bennett.

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