Photos by Jason Huynh.
Q1: Justin, can you tell us about your background? How did you begin a career in floral design?
JB: I’m from Bullock County, Alabama. I’ve lived in Nashville, Boston, and Dallas. My degree is actually in culinary arts and restaurant management, and I went back to school to get a art history degree, but ended up in flowers! A friend of mine’s aunt had a flower shop. Aunt Jackie needed a delivery driver, and since it was part-time and was easy work while I was still in school, I said yes. And they put me to work one day, and that is the path I’ve been following ever since 2007 or 2008.
But I’ve always been around plants and flowers. My grandmother passed a few years ago, and I got some of her vases. I remember being four and five years, and taking those tiny vases that sat on the sink in front of the window and filling them with flowers. So I guess I’ve always been drawn to flowers. And I grew up on a farm, so we always had a garden, my mom always had a flower garden, and it’s something that’s always surrounded me. I guess finally it just clicked that this is what I was supposed to be doing. And I’m super happy doing it.
Q2: How did you end up working at Bussey’s in Rome, Georgia?
JB: I worked freelancing; I’ve gotten to do weddings at the Biltmore, and I’ve done work for the White House. I was in Europe for part of [this past] summer. But I came back, and I was just tired of traveling. And I thought, “I want to settle somewhere,” but I didn’t know where to go, because I was free to go anywhere. I really like the South. I mean, Boston was wonderful, but it was really cold in the winter! [I had three job opportunities in] Los Vegas, Philadelphia and Rome, GA. They were all event design positions, all very different companies, but I came to Rome, and it just felt like you put a key in a door and opened it.
What I liked about Rome is that everything that I wanted in a community was here. There’s good shopping, there’s great restaurants, there’s a small town feel but there’s a lot of society; that is, there’s garden societies and civic organizations, and those are things you really need to keep an event [business] going. It truly had everything I wanted, including a built-in flower market. And Bussey’s has an incredible reputation around the Southeast. So [when I came to visit for the first time] I fell in love with the town, I fell in love with Todd [Bussey] and his wife, and I spent a full day with Todd. He sold me on the city, and by that afternoon I had a job and was looking for a place to live. That was the middle of September 2018.
Q3: What types of occasions do you design flowers for?
JB: Well we do corporate events, weddings, funerals. We also do luncheons, church events, civic organizations; we’re also constantly over at the country club. And we can design something from $25 to $25,000. I mean there’s no limit; we can literally do anything. And I come from a world where I’m accustomed to large-scale events. So it’s fun to small scale stuff, but I really love the large scale stuff!
Q4: So what does Bussey’s offer for Valentine’s Day?
JB: Above anything, we offer excellent customer service and premium flowers. And we can meet every budget. All of our flowers are locally sourced as much as possible, and most of our plants are grown or propagated within 50 miles of here. And in the coming months, we’re talking to even more local farms, so that we can even more locally grown product.
You’re going to get hand-picked quality, and it’s going to packaged and presented beautifully. It’s not the Walmart experience; truly, I get it, because I live on a budget, so we can provide you with a $15 dollar bouquet, but you’re going to get a $25 experience. If there’s an issue, you can call the store and most likely speak with the person who waited on you. It really is that detail-oriented customer service that we have to offer above anybody else.
I will personally be in charge of production here, and I fully intend to make 300 mixed arrangements (with my assistants) just here in the Rome store, and overall doing between 500-700 orders between the two stores in the next week!
Q5: What’s your advice for those hoping to make a Valentine’s Day order from you?
JB: Call early! Call in January! That’s the one thing I tell guys: Valentine’s Day is coming. It is February the 14th every year. So set yourself a reminder on your phone, that first week of January, to just call and go ahead and put your Valentine’s order in. If you even just give us a week of two in advance, you’re guaranteed to get what you want. And the early folks get free delivery, because that helps us tremendously.
If you call us on Valentine’s Day, I’m not saying you can’t get something; but be patient with us, and know that there’s a good chance that it’s going to be a limited selection for you. And if we can’t deliver, then we can make something that you can pick up. We’re always happy to let someone come by and pick up something. Matter of fact, if it doesn’t have to go on my truck, it makes it a little easier. So you can call, walk in, or go online to order.