Nancy Carrington marveled at time’s rapid passage while reflecting on more than three decades as the owner of Marco Island Florist Home and Gifts. It’s been a journey filled with warm relationships, rewarding moments and challenges overcome; an experience that she describes as “pretty amazing.”
Located on South Barfield Drive, the shop offers live plants and flowers, floral designs, gourmet gift baskets and other unique gifts, home décor items, clothing, hand-crafted jewelry from local artists and even wines. The creations of local artists grace the walls.
This year marks the 40th anniversary for the business and Carrington’s 32nd year as owner. She bought the shop in 1988 from Werner Schaefer and Tony Schlottmann. The transaction led her to move from Fort Myers to the Isles of Capri, where her parents were living.
Floral design became a passion during her youth in Fort Wayne, Ind. After high school, she attended Purdue University for one year, but decided against continuing down that path. “I said college isn’t for me. I want to move on and get into the grind,” Carrington remarked. So, she decided to follow her heart when it came to a career.
After studying at the American Floral Art School in Chicago, she burnished her skill-set while working at a Fort Wayne flower shop for 5 years. That was followed by a 3-year stint as a flower shop manager in Dallas. Carrington then moved to Fort Myers for 3 years, where she met her future husband, the late Joe Carrington, who passed away in September.
Then Carrington’s parents, Bill and Lois Silver, who’d moved to Isles of Capri in 1978, informed her that Marco Florist was on the market. It was a case of the right opportunity appearing at the right time.
“My mom and dad had owned a Dairy Queen for 35 years, so I guess small businesses run in the family,” Carrington explained. “They said, ‘We’ll invest in you and to help you buy the business, we’ll give you the down payment.’”
With that, the purchase was made and Carrington and her husband became the new owners.
At that time, Marco Island Florist was situated on South Collier Boulevard, where Harborview Realty is located today. Schaefer and Schlottmann also owned a second store at that time, The Flower Bazaar, which was located in the Shops of Marco. They closed that store, sold the Marco Island Florist name to the Carringtons, and they began operating from the Shops of Marco space.
The business eventually outgrew that space. That led the Carringtons to erect a stand-alone building across South Barfield from the Shops of Marco in 1999. “My husband was a general contractor, so we laid it out and built it,” she said. “We’ve added a few extra rooms, but mostly for the last 20 years, it hasn’t changed a lot.”
What the passing years have included are altered landscape for the florist industry and new developments for the shop itself. Carrington listed a few: internet sales, the importance of a strong website, the popularity of destination weddings at the island’s resorts and the advent of competition from the big box retailers and grocery stores that sell blooming plants.
“Before, there were florists and there were grocers,” she said. “Now, everybody has a chunk of what we do, so that changed how we were buying and what we were offering: what do we do that they don’t do?”
Always a part of the shop’s offerings, the selection of home décor and gift items has grown as the florist business has changed. Today, clothing and soaps can also be found on Marco Island Florist Home and Gifts’ racks and shelves.
“The first store I worked in, in Fort Wayne, they had nice things out front and I loved that because it was something more than just flowers,” she explained.
Carrington pointed to several tried-and-true elements of the small business success playbook as reasons for the business’ success. One of them has been strong involvement in the community, doing such things as helping groups and organizations with fundraisers, and her 20 years and counting membership in the Marco Island Area Chamber of commerce, where she’s a past president.
“Churches on the island, whatever raffle they’re doing, we’re right there with them,” she said. “We’ve just always been giving and my great staff has been huge. People who have worked here in the past, have worked here for many years. I think the staff I have now is the best staff I’ve ever had.”
A friendly environment and a focus on delivering excellent customer service have also helped to keep the business going strong.
“Come on in and say hello,” she said with a laugh. “We love people and they’re always amazed when they walk in for the first time because of all the gifts and beautiful displays of home décor that we offer.”
Marco Island Florist Home and Gifts is located at 178 S. Barfield Drive. For more information, visit marcoislandflorist.com or call 239-394-8141.