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As 2020 begins, local florist recalls legacy, contemplates future

The face behind the flowers: Sara Broyles Engel has created countless unforgettable floral displays for her Jonesborough neighbors. (Photo by Lisa Whaley)

By LISA WHALEY

Publisher

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Flowers may have bloomed throughout Sara Broyles Engel’s childhood, but she admits that it took a while before she was truly captured by their beauty.

“At first I kind of resented the flowers because my parents were always busy on holidays,” admitted Sara, who grew up in Broyles Florist, her parents’ Jonesborough business. “It never failed. That’s when you are the busiest — Christmas, Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.”

And even though some of her earliest memories were of making mounds of bows for upcoming holiday bouquets, the path of a florist was not one that beckoned her.

“It was not something I was really interested in doing,” she explained.

But today, that is exactly what Sara is doing. While she holds a master’s degree in speech and hearing therapy, her flower shop on Main Street consumes much of her time as she works to carry on the legacy that her parents, Mitchell and Blanche Broyles, began in 1947.

“Mother had the floral talent,” said Sara, who is currently co-owner, with husband Walt, of Broyles Florist – now with stores in both Jonesborough and Johnson City. “Mom was really good at it. She took a written course and she was very talented.

“My dad had a winning personality. Everyone liked him and he did a lot of deliveries.”

Eventually, Mitchell too found he had a knack for design.

“They made a good couple,” Sara said. “They started (the business) in a side room of the house, next to where the shop is located now.”

The little business grew, and the current Broyles Florist building was soon erected to meet the community’s growing interest.

Sara lost her father suddenly when he was just 49 years old, but her mother, Blanche, was able to keep Broyles Florist going, thanks to many helping hands. But when her mother became sick, Sara knew it was time to come home.

“I didn’t do a whole lot at the shop until my dad died and then my mother got sick,” Sara explained. “When she got sick, Walt and I were living away. I came back and took care of her and ran the business for a while.”

It was at this point that Sara began looking at the flowers in a whole new way.

“When I got into it, I found out I kind of have a knack for it and I like it,” she said with a smile. “And I like dealing with the customers.”

There is something so rewarding not only in the appreciation she receives for her floral arrangements, she said, but also in faces of the many first-, second- and third-generation customers that continue to come through Broyles’ doors.

Still, Sara said, it is hard work and she has begun to look toward the future.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’m just not sure how long I’m going to be doing it. I have a problem with my knee. And I’m thinking of retiring soon.”

But she is not ready to go just yet.