Photos Andy Calvert
Kate Spencer co-owns Southern Seasons and Company with pal and mentor, Aida George-Brockwell. The two women are as different as night and day; Aida is self-asserted and quick to laughter and Kate’s smiles are warm and genuine if a bit modest, but their partnership is pure gold. As the anchor and backbone in their military families, these women are who kept routines in flow and their household bedrocks solid.
Their husbands Kelly Spencer and David Brockwell served together in the 108th Calvary in the United States Army National Guard. “It’s a hard lifestyle; always being away from each other.” Kate says of her husband, Kelly. “I became a single parent when he was deployed. Of course, it can be exciting being on your own; experiencing new places and new things. It’s difficult to explain- but every military family will know what I am talking about when I say- you find yourself in a constant state of preparedness. Like you never know what is going to come about next.” says Kate.
Kate grew up in Rome, and for years has worked out of the spotlight in various floral shops around town. It wasn’t until she met the Aida George-Brockwell that she ever considered opening up her own venture. “Aida told me that she and David were certified in the Boots to Business program, and we should consider going into business.” explains Kate as she looks around Southern Seasons’ sales floor. “Without them, I would never have thought anything like this is possible.”
What is Boots to Business
Boots to Business is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the Small Business Administration of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program. Aida and David were certified through the Boots to Business program and are mentors to veterans and active military families, and assist them as they transition into business. “As mentors, we teach them how to do everything from A to Z; from learning to develop a business plan, everything about banking and permitting, balancing the books to managing inventory. Every step of the way we hold their hand.” explains Aida.
“We help support Boots to Business families on a motivational level as well. Take a wounded veteran, for example, who at this point may be struggling with a bit of PTSD and reintegration, not sure how to view themself out of service, at home, or perhaps not having a clear vision of what the future holds for them. We can make connections with their talents and interests and compliment that.” says Aida.
For Kate Spencer it was flowers. She loves creating with her hands and bringing smiles to people’s faces. “What I like most is that no two arrangements are the same.” That is the inspiration for the floral department of Southern Seasons and Company. “Thinking outside the box, we keep our plants and flowers in the open for customers to come in and see what tickles their fancy. We offer repotting services for all the plants we sell, as well as, offer fresh market bouquets for $25. These fly out the door Friday and Saturday afternoons.
What a sight it is to see so many bright blooms being carried up and down Broad Street. There is something so wonderfully simple about these market bouquets in their delicate tissue wrapping-of course we cater to church contracts, wedding venues and events, – but there is nothing quite like meeting someone, and getting to know them as I put together a unique bouquet just for them.” says Kate with a broad smile.
Time Stands Still
In 2020, the doors remained closed on its grand opening. For ten hard-fought months, Aida and Kate prepped to give Rome more than a shop, but rather an experience of the whimsical. The women found the perfect support not only from their military family but from local professional feedback and insight as well. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Tole Temple and Wright, Andy Kight, building owners Mark and Kimberly Floyd, there was no doubt Rome was the right place for Southern Seasons and Company to set anchor.
The ladies worked side by side to create the perfect balance of traditional appeal and artistic whimsy. In the space each of the women’s personalities were so clearly defined and intertwined in an elegant and playful manner. Display shelves were stocked with an inventory selection to appeal to all tastes and genders, , forlornly the doors would stay locked for months yet. There was no knowing what would happen as the country was gripped in a pandemic.
“There were times I questioned, ‘do we still do this? But we had come so far. We had to push for it. Saying to ourselves, ‘If it doesn’t make it, it’s not because we didn’t try.” says Kate. They waited three- nail-biting- months and finally opened their doors on June 5, 2020.
Southern Seasons Imagined
It was to be a florist and fresh flower market and tea emporium located in heart of the cotton block, but Southern Season’s is so much more. A trip inside is more akin to a full bodied experience. Each new customer is greeted at once with a friendly “hello” and a fresh cut long stem rose to savor as they peruse the shop and all its unexpected wonders. World-renowned American Harney & Sons tea grace the shelves in a myriad of master blends, and shiny eclectic tea sets are dispersed cleverly amongst gifts and plant arrangements.
Elusive jams, cigar humidors, jewelry, and hand bags; the collection sparks intrigue at every turn. Is it any wonder people are clamoring to hear when the tea room, You, Me & Tea will open? The buzz ‘Mother’s Day’ is in the air. “There will be a full-fledged three tray service: scones, sandwiches, and the teas. To start, we will have two seasonal menus spring/summer and fall/winter, but with a twist.” Says Aida with a spark in her eye.
“We are aware of the difficulties that other small businesses bakeries, little restaurants, and cafes have experienced this past year. We have interviewed several and plan to bring in their products in our restaurant to help boost their revenue.” She adds, “We look forward to opening the You, Me & Tea for pre-booked seatings and special events soon. It’s going to be Gatsby. Black and white murals, chandelier lighting, and similar era specific décor to add to our already unique profile.” she beams.
A Soldier Comes Home
In July 2019, Kelly Spencer was injured in deployment tours to Afghanistan. He spent last year in the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Stewart, Georgia until he returned home March 2021, upon his medical retirement. “He is very proud of the work Aida and I have done.” says Kate. “I have always supported Kelly in all his adventures, and now the roles are flipping. With his support, I am getting to do something so exciting, something I never thought I would be able to, because I was always taking care of everyone else. I feel really empowered.” says Kate, “and by doing this I am better able to support my husband’s and family’s transition.
Throughout this first year, Aida has been approached my many hopeful business owners with questions about the Boots to Business program and the secret to their success in such difficult times. Aida’s answer, “It takes resilience and determination.” They credit the support of their 1-108 CAV family based out of Calhoun, Georgia, their own military families, and their teamwork; but most importantly they credit the small businesses that rallied for their success.
The businesses on Broad Street that stick together to generate buzz and traffic flow for one another makes a huge impression. Aida passionately adds, “I tell these hopeful entrepreneurs that show up with their notepads, ‘If we can make it. You can make it. Stick with your dream. Dare to be different. Find your unique.” This is exactly the vibrant spirit you come to expect when popping into the shop. Stop in for a spell. Taste the teas and smell the roses; Southern Seasons and Company gives a joyful immersive experience for the senses.