New Owners of Local Floral Business Gain Insight and Friendship in Meeting Former Hendricks Floral Employee

Published on 30 January 2024 at 14:34

Diane Owens and Jon Hardeman sit for a photo in the apartment above Hendricks on the Square


Diane Owen had been experiencing somewhat of a fascination with Georgia, years before she and her husband Doug, made the move to Washington a little more than a year ago. “Washington found us” she said, when I asked what prompted a move from Northern California to Washington, Georgia. After several trips to visit various parts of Georgia, they saw a house online, for sale in nearby Tignal and came to look at it in person. She had high hopes but found that when she was standing in the house, beautiful as it was, she didn’t feel the way she thought she would about it, it just didn’t feel like it was to be there home.

 

Long time Washington realtor, Deborah Rainey, assured her that she had another house she wanted to show them.  She thought it might be just what they were looking for. That house was Holly Court in Washington and Rainey was right. Even though the home was in serious need of TLC, “there were bird’s nests in the curtains” Owen explained, “and chipmunks running around.” The Owens were soon the proud new owners of the beautiful, historic property. They got to work right away getting the 1833 Federal style home, in a condition closer to how it would have looked when Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, was a guest, as the civil war came to an end.

 

Rainey had another property she thought they might also be interested in, a flower shop on Spring Street called Hendricks that has been in business since 1932.  It was started by Mrs. B.H. Hendricks who began by selling flowers she grew herself at her home on Water Street and ultimately moved to the Spring Street location in 1943. “It just didn’t feel as much like a flower shop as a cute house” Owen said. This lead her to the property on the square that has become the new home of Hendricks Floral. The Owens worked incredibly fast to get the new shop ready as well as completely refurbish the apartment above it. They had to build a walk-in floral cooler from scratch as well as create a beautiful space for customers that includes private areas to meet with future newlyweds to help plan wedding flowers and a special, private consultation area for customers planning memorial services for loved ones. “We really want this to be a place where everyone in the community feels welcome” she said. They even have a small self-serve coffee bar for browsing customers.

 

Owen doesn’t have a background in floral design or the floral business. She and her husband have had successful careers in the tech industry in California’s Silicon Valley.  She described working in her father’s machine shop as did her younger siblings. One could rightfully say she and her family were crucial to the expansion of personal computing and technology that we see today. A young, long haired, Steve Jobs came into her dad’s shop one day asking him to build components of what would be the first McIntosh personal computer prototype, the Lisa, named after Jobs’ daughter. Her dad made the components and when Jobs asked if he would prefer payment in cash or stocks, her dad replied he wanted cash so he could pay his employees.

 

Owen went on to put herself through college and make her own mark in the tech world leading large, very successful sales teams. “I don’t regret anything about it” she says regarding the decision to leave the world of high tech behind and start a new, very different life in Washington, Georgia. She said she and her husband love the process or restoring, creating, and learning about the community.

 

One day, a few months back, a gentlemen came into the shop and inquired about a table. As their conversation continued, he told Owen that he had worked for Mrs. Hendricks. She was eager to learn more about the woman who had built the business she and her husband now owned and Hardeman was happy to share his experience.

 

 

Jon (born Jun short for Junior) Hardeman said he was born in what was then known as Jackson Crossroad near Tignal. He lived there until he was to start eighth grade, in 1954.  His parents were sharecroppers. His father told him that no matter how hard they worked, they could never get ahead and the only way to escape the same fate, was for him to get an education. He had attended a very small school for African American children nearby, mostly other children of sharecroppers, but all the children were in one tiny school and the teachers had little to no training.

 

His parents sent him to live with his older sister in Washington, where he attended the Wilkes County Training School which was the school for black students as schools were then segregated. White students attended Washington High School on Alexander Street. He said they mostly worked on vocational projects such as building mailbox posts and the girls took home economic classes.  He completed the first chapter book he had every read, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, while attending the training school. He was encouraged to read by his sister and parents and developed a love for reading and books. His grandmother, Essie, worked for a family in Tignal and would bring him books from time to time.  She would tell him “Baby, if you can make this book talk, you can be anything you want to be.” He said his grandmother also had a love for flowers.

 

While at the training school, he had a friend named Roy Danner who worked for Mrs. Hendricks and who had moved to New Jersey. He saw an opportunity and went to speak to Mrs. Hendricks about working for her and taking Roy’s place. She hired him and he worked for her doing a variety of things including delivering flowers. Mrs. Hendricks single handedly got him a drivers license. “I didn’t even have to take a test” he explained.

 

Mrs. Hendricks showed him a great deal about the floral business including preparing the flowers for arrangements, considering color in design, care of the flowers “basically everything” he said. He also said she was very patient and didn’t get angry with him if he made mistakes. “She would say, this is not right, I’m going to show you how to do it again.” He was a fast learner and said when she showed him something more than once, he “could do it in the dark.”

 

He worked for Mrs. Hendricks every weekday after school from 3:00 pm-6:00 pm and on Saturdays from 9:00 am-5:00 pm. Mrs. Hendricks provided lunch for her employees on Saturdays which was important to Hardeman because he said they never had enough food and he was “always hungry.” He remembers being paid 25 cents an hour.

 

“I learned a lot working for Mrs. Hendricks” Hardeman explained. “I learned about other people’s opinions and values and I learned how to appreciate beauty.” He said that appreciation for beauty and art is something that has continued throughout his life.

 

After graduating from the trade school, he went to college at Albany State University in Albany, Georgia and earned a degree in political science in 1964. He came back to Washington to help his father who was ill. He also taught school at North Wilkes Elementary in Tignal for one year. He then moved to Chicago and spent his entire career there as a teacher, principal, and school district superintendent. He raised his children there as well and they now live in different parts of the county. When I asked him what brought him back to Washington he said, “I’m here because I want to be.” He admits he could be living near his children but Washington is home and he has two properties in Wilkes County. He still loves flowers and plants and says his home is filled with “more plants than anything.”

 

The Owens are thrilled Hardeman came into the flower shop and that he has shared so much about the woman who started the business they are now continuing to nurture. “It has been important to us, to keep her vision in mind in what we do.” Owen said being able to talk to someone who actually knew her, worked for her and learned from her, has been more than they imagined would happen.

 

Hendricks on the Square continues to serve the city of Washington and surrounding communities as Mrs. Hendricks intended. They are growing and have exciting plans for the future while maintaining the tradition of excellent service that was established so long ago.

 

Written by Michelle Chaffee


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Comments

Mattie M Carson
3 months ago

This is a GREAT Story. Thank you for sharing. A Great Read to begin Black History Month

Elizabeth Johns
3 months ago

Fascinating story!

Angela Booker
3 months ago

This was a great story. Thank you!!!!

Stephanie
3 months ago

Awesome story

Sniggy Eskew
3 months ago

As a very young child, I would go to Mrs. HENDRICK'S shop in the basement of her home with my Mother. I remember the counter where she kept some of her flowers.. She was always so sweet to me.. great memories.
DIANE and DOUG have done such a great job with HENDRICK 'S on the Square. So happy they chose Washington for their home.
They are great neighbors .

Andrew Jackson
3 months ago

Fascinating story!

Doug Abramson
3 months ago

Great story.

Janet Pharr
2 months ago

Nice story. Thanks for sharing!

Cindy
2 months ago

Enjoyed reading that story.

Euna Stripling
2 months ago

What a great and wonderful story!