Backstory

Backstory: Success at growing flowers leads to store that sells them

vbridges@newsobserver.comFebruary 11, 2013 

Terry Johnson works on flowers at her shop, Dragonfly Florist in Coats. The family also runs a farm.

VIRGINIA BRIDGES — vbridges@newsobserver.com

  • Advice from Terry Johnson •  Have the Lord in your business. •  Make everyone who walks through the doors feel special. •  Rely on your team.

— From tobacco leaves to Valentine’s Day roses and carnations, Dragonfly Florist is a new extension of an old Harnett County family farm.

Terry Johnson, who has been farming for 25 years, opened the flower shop in the small town of Coats in July 2011 after buying an existing floral business.

About five years ago, Terry Johnson and her husband Joey Johnson got their start in flowers when they began to grow poinsettias. In exchange, the couple gave up farming tobacco, a crop that Johnson’s family had grown for more than 100 years, he said. Farming tobacco is expensive and it can be easily destroyed by one extreme weather event.

“(Tobacco) takes a lot of you,” said Joey Johnson, a fifth-generation farmer who tends the poultry houses and wheat fields and soybeans fields on the couple’s 180-acre farm.

Joey Johnson built a greenhouse and started trying to grow poinsettias.

“I just wanted to try them,” he said. “I just wanted to see if we could do it.”

The couple planned to give the poinsettias to their church, but they grew too many. Soon, people saw the plants and wanted to buy them, Joey Johnson said.

“They were just real pretty,” Joey Johnson said.

The Johnsons progressed from poinsettias to vegetable plants and hanging baskets. They built a second greenhouse, and sold plants and vegetables to grocery stores and other businesses.

“I think (selling poinsettias) was a good adventure for us to try,” Terry Johnson said.

The farm-to-florist partnership saves the Johnsons money, and ensures that they deliver a quality product, Terry Johnson said.

“Running your own farm is a small business,” Terry Johnson said.

After buying Flowers by Jean on South McKinley Street, Terry Johnson changed the name to Dragonfly Florist. She inherited a customer base that has increased over the past two years through word of mouth, a website and a Facebook page.

She also brought in new traffic by offering Valentine’s Day discounts, a strategy that helps her plan, prepare and handle one of the busiest times of the year, she said. She also saw an increase in customers by selling Christmas trees for the first time last year.

Weddings and funerals also keep the business busy, Terry Johnson said.

Terry Johnson said past lessons have prepared her for the floral venture.

The former receptionist developed her public relations skills at Coats-Erwin Middle School, where she worked for two years before opening the flower shop.

As farmers, the Johnsons work seven days a week, she said, and she helps manage the farm’s employees and books.

Joey Johnson cares for the farm and oversees the greenhouses.

“Growing things are in his blood,” Terry Johnson said.

In the spring, Joey Johnson grows vegetables, hanging baskets and bedding plants, such as petunias, cosmos and marigolds. He grows mums in the fall and poinsettias for Christmas.

“You put a seed in the ground, and you take pride in taking care of it and watching it grow,” Terry Johnson said. “It’s just a part of the farmer in you.”

Bridges: 919-829-8917

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