Franklin Flower & Gift Gallery: Debbie Burns

Debbie Burns, owner of Franklin Flower & Gift Gallery, can tell you something about following your heart. After owning a successful corporate business, she abruptly made a life-changing decision to sell it and buy Franklin Flower, and she’s been impacting people’s lives in her new role ever since.

Burns grew up in Nashville, attending Hillwood High School and then Belmont University. She moved to Franklin 25 years ago with her husband—before much of what’s here today—and has watched the community grow and evolve over the years.

At the time, Burns owned her own business, Westwood Management Corporation, as a real estate broker and general contractor.  She was successful, and her business was booming.

But 13 years ago, she felt a pull to pursue a different career path.

“I’ve always had a creative side, and owning a retail business would open that door for me to pursue that love,” explained Burns. “My family thought I was crazy—they didn’t quite understand why I would make the change to the floral industry.”

And so she wrote seven letters to seven retail businesses asking if they’d be interested in selling, said a prayer and put them in the mailbox.

The business that topped her list was Franklin Flower & Gift, saying she had visited the store once before and felt a special connection to it.

“I walked in and immediately felt like the place embraced me,” Burns said. “It tugged at my heart, and that’s where the story began.”

As fate would have it, 23 hours after mailing her letters, Burns received a call from Reid Lovell, the owner of Franklin Flower at the time.

“I saw the number on the caller ID and I was blown away,” Burns said. “But he said the store wasn’t for sale.”

A few weeks went by and Burns received a second call from Lovell.

“He told me, ‘I keep looking at your letter and we’re still not for sale, but I’d like to meet with you in person,’” she explained.

Burns had full ownership of the store five months later, and has been happily greeting customers from behind its counter for 13 years. She calls the experience an absolute walk of faith.

Franklin Flowers & Gift Gallery offers chocolates, body and bath baskets, home accessories, balloon bouquets, custom potted flowers, baby clothes and, of course, floral arrangements.

Burns says she loves getting to work with families most, whether it’s celebrating a marriage by supplying the flowers for the wedding ceremony, or helping a family heal after a loss with a funeral arrangement.

Recently, Burns’ path has led her down another road of opportunity to help others: a few years ago she founded Seeds from the Son, which focuses on teaching third-world countries how to properly garden and then how to sustain themselves from it.

Seeds from the Son was born from the idea of needing to create more public exposure for the flower shop, but also wanting to help the community in doing so. Using a converted studio behind Franklin Flower, Burns hosts community events such as floral design, holiday design and wood-working classes, and uses the proceeds to support gardening programs and other needs at two African orphanages—one in Uganda and one in Kenya.

To learn more about Seeds from the Son, visit their website at www.seedsfromtheson.org.

Her involvement in the Downtown Franklin Association is also rooted in her desire to help others.

“We feel strongly about being involved in the community,” Burns said. “There’s enough business to go around, and we need to work hand-in-hand in bettering one another and ourselves.”

While Burns has been owner of Franklin Flower for 13 years, the shop has been in business for 59, and she says she’s been blessed by its longevity and the reputation Lovell founded the business on. As a tribute to his gift to her, she dedicated a garden behind the flower shop to Lovell’s mother before her passing.

The flower shop has resided in the beautiful home located beside the historic Carter House for 34 years.  The recent announcement of the sale of the building to Franklin’s Charge, Inc. and The Battle of Franklin Trust was not a big surprise to Burns.

“We were aware of the historical significance of the property and the impact this will have on the thousands of people visiting the Carter House each year,” Burns said. “This location has served the business and our customers well, and we will leave with a lifetime of fond memories.  Relocating will be bittersweet when the time comes, but we will enjoy the new opportunities this will bring us to offer more services and products to our customers. I feel truly blessed and honored to be a part of such a great business and community.”

Franklin Flower & Gift Gallery is located at 1152 Columbia Avenue. They’re open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. till 4:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. till 1:30 a.m.

For more information, visit their website at www.franklinflowershop.com.

“Faces of Franklin” is part of a series on merchants and small business owners in downtown Franklin, Tenn. To read more, go to www.downtownfranklintn.com.