Flowers have been a part of life’s signature moments since practically the dawn of civilization, and few know that better than Chris Norwood. The McCrory native is vice president of mainstay central Arkansas florist Tipton & Hurst and president of the Arkansas Florists Association. Norwood took time to visit with Soirée about Tipton & Hurst’s legacy, the changing nature of the business and his own legacy as association president.
What is something about the floral industry that might surprise people?
As a florist, we help people celebrate all life’s joys — from births to weddings to anniversaries — but we also offer solace during the difficult moments.
What do you enjoy about your work?
Every day I have the opportunity to work alongside our clients to help bring their visions to life. Their happiness with our end product is what drives me.
What are the challenges?
Like any business, we have to deal with day-to-day operational issues, whether it’s hiring new staff or researching the latest e-commerce platform. We’ve also had to adapt to a social media-driven society. Often we have clients who want to recreate an arrangement they’ve found on Instagram with products that are either out of season or not commercially available. Our team has to think on its feet to come up with alternative solutions to achieve that same look.
What changes have you seen in the industry during your career?
Over the last several years, we’ve seen many florists in small towns across Arkansas close up shop. Others have cut back on their services to stay competitive with Amazon and national online brands, which can drop ship flowers and products on a short timeframe. Fortunately, Tipton & Hurst has been able to stay ahead of the curve by doubling down on technology while still maintaining our signature customer service.
Tipton & Hurst is something of an icon in the local floral industry. What responsibilities come with such a reputation?
At the heart of our company is a commitment to customer service. Many florists carry the same products. It’s the value and dedication to serving our customers that has set us apart for 133 years.
Can you reflect on the role of flowers in our lives?
By nature, flowers are ephemeral, but they have a long-lasting impact on people. Fun and playful blooms can spark joy at a birthday or anniversary celebration. Conversely, a classic arrangement can provide a moment of peace to a family grieving the loss of a loved one. At Tipton & Hurst, we are with clients for every moment of their lives — happy, sad and all the times in between.
Describe the experience you want a typical customer to have when they walk through the door.
For us, it’s always been about experience. The instant customers walk through our doors, they’re greeted by beautiful sights, aromas and textures. Whether it’s for wedding planning or Christmas shopping, we’ve designed our stores to be the go-to places for customers who want the latest in floral design, plants, gift and décor.
What are your responsibilities or ambitions as president of Arkansas Florists Association? How does it affect the lives and livelihoods of its members?
As president of the Arkansas Florists Association, I visited more than 160 floral shops across the state. This gave me a firsthand look into the challenges many florists faced, particularly in our rural communities. With this knowledge, I felt confident we were offering the training our members needed to better their business models and, hopefully, increase their profitability.
What is the importance and impact of such associations?
In addition to networking opportunities, the Arkansas Florists Association is focused on providing our members with continuing education. Our programs cover topics from new floral techniques to design certifications.
Joe Hurst Jr., son of Tipton & Hurst co-founder Joe Hurst, was a past association president. Does that add any gravity or sense of history to the way you approach the job?
It’s an honor to hold the same role Joe Hurst held with the Arkansas Florists Association. As a company, we treasure our rich history in the state, but we also recognize the benefits of looking ahead. It’s why we’ve invested in e-commerce, bridal registries, social media and other digital platforms. As we did in 1886, we want to deliver guaranteed satisfaction in our stores, at events and online.