By Joe Earle

Charley Brown figures she was 7 or 8 when she started to learn the flower business.

Back then, her mom owned a flower shop in Florida. Young Charley was recruited to help out around the place. She learned to do the things florists do – processing flowers, trimming flowers, washing the buckets used to store and display flowers.

“I started out washing buckets and I’m still washing buckets,” Brown said with a laugh.

“I grew up in the business.”

It’s paid off. On April 19, the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce picked Brown’s business, Flowers of Sandy Springs, as its Small Business of the Year. And seated beside Brown when her name was called during the chamber’s meeting was her mom,

Gloria Brown, who’s retired from the flower business now and was up from Sarasota, Fla., for a visit.

“She’s the reason I got into a flower shop,” Charley Brown said. “I think it was nice for her to see the fruits of her labor.”

Other Sandy Springs businesses won honors from the chamber, too. The business group named Nancy G’s Café and Bistro its Restaurant of the Year, gave FastSigns of Sandy Springs its Technology Award and chose Optech Monette LLC for its Community Service Award.

All the winners received a bouquet of roses from Flowers of Sandy Springs. Including Brown.

“I very seldom get flowers,” Brown admitted. “I give them all the time, but I very seldom get them.”

So when was the last time anyone gave Charley Brown flowers? “The last time anyone really gave me flowers, they were plastic tulips with little lights in each one.”

How did she take that? “I’m the light,” she said, laughing again. “I make everything sparkle.”

Her shop seems like the kind of place built for sparkling. It’s stocked with stuffed animals. A porch swing hangs beside the front window. Before it was a flowershop, the building housed a sports bar, and the old bar itself is still there, covered with flowers waiting to be arranged.

Behind the bar, of course, stands a flower cooler filled with snapdragons and lilies and irises and fresh-cut roses in colors ranging from the traditional bright red to electric orange to a yellow-and-red one called “circus.”

“I don’t want to go to work every day of my life, so I come to my playhouse,” Brown said. “I get to play every day.”

She’s been playing in the Sandy Springs flower business for 15 years. She worked for its previous owners and then bought the business from them in 2004.

She likes it. She enjoys “expressing the emotions and sentiments and feelings for the sender and the recipient. It’s very gratifying when you’ve helped someone … let a loved one know they’re loved.”

At this time of year, of course, there are proms to make corsages for. And year-round  there are weddings to decorate. And, sometimes for Brown, to officiate. She’s a non-denominational clergywoman, she said, and can perform weddings herself. She’s done it many times, she said, even hosting two or three in her shop.

But mostly, she just likes the flower business. After all, she grew up in it.

“It’s a feel-good business,” Brown said. “Everybody loves flowers. Young. Old. Female. Male. It doesn’t matter. … Everybody loves flowers. … And everybody deserves them.”