For Libby Endry of The Gardener’s Cottage, the keyword is “creativity.”
A fixture of Asheville’s Biltmore Village since 1997, The Gardener’s Cottage was envisioned by its founder, flower designer Bee Sieburg, as a place where locals and visitors could find nature-inspired gifts, unique items for both home and garden, local artists’ works, and unusual houseplants and orchids—in addition, of course, to elegant floral designs for all types of social gatherings. Sieburg eventually sold the business in 2004 to employee Laura Belsinger and Belsinger’s sister, Libby Endry, thereby ensuring an unbroken legacy.
“I had moved to [the Asheville area] in 2004 after graduating from Florida State University with a degree in apparel merchandising,” recalls Endry. “My sister had been living in Asheville for a few years before I got here, and we found out that Bee and Molly had decided to sell the business. We decided to go for it! I was only 22, my sister 24. I remember walking into the shop the first day we were official owners… it was very surreal, exciting, and a little daunting.”
Case in point: When Endry and Belsinger bought the business, Endry put her energies into the retail side—including merchandising and planning out events—and relied on the shop’s “well-seasoned flower crew” that Sieburg had previously trained to take care of the flower side. “On occasion, however, I would find myself in a situation where someone needed an arrangement on the spot and we didn’t have anyone there to do it but me,” says Endry. “Little by little, I began doing flowers more and more and Bee began teaching me. Without her encouragement and mentoring, I would not have discovered that I had a talent or passion for designing flowers. Now I head up the flower side of the business as well, and that has been the most surprising part of my career so far, which I consider a milestone.”
The business continued to thrive, then in 2007, Belsinger and her husband decided to move to Florida, so Endry took the reins. It’s been challenging, she admits, but “extremely rewarding.” And as with any small business, there have been hurdles to overcome. Endry still has vivid memories of the flood in Asheville that hit Biltmore Village particularly hard. (“Six months after we took over the business! Luckily, the water stopped short of our driveway, but the scene was unimaginable. The village was a ghost town for months.”) And then there was the economic downturn a few years later, which changed people’s shopping habits—flowers typically not being considered a necessity—and prompted her to get creative with her own buying and marketing habits for the store.
The Gardener’s Cottage weathered these setbacks, however, a highlight coming in 2012 when they were featured in Flower Magazine. They were also able to buy a new van last year that they plan to use for what Endry calls “flower field trips” to regional cities, where they will host flower workshops, do pop-up shop events, etc. “I am always asking myself, ‘What we can offer people that will make them want to come to us over a possibly more convenient option?’ There is a lot of competition in the plant and flower industry these days, and I think in our case, it’s the fact that when you come to us for a gift or something for your house, you leave with a thoughtful, finished product. As with any small business, it’s customer service and the experience you give them that keep people coming back. I just want people to feel good when they come into the shop and leave feeling happy.”
Endry is optimistic about the future, noting, “We have been working on our outside courtyard area a lot this spring, getting it ready for special events we have planned this year. [We have] a demo/book signing with Asheville native ‘Mossin’ Annie’ June 17.” She adds that they will also have flower/planting workshops and events with artists.
“I have learned so much the past 13 years of owning the shop and have met some of the most wonderful people,” Endry enthuses. “Being a creative person, I feel extremely grateful to do what I do.”
Visit The Gardener’s Cottage online: www.TheGardenersCottageAsheville.com.
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