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Sweetwater Flower Shop

Rediscover the All-New Sweetwater Flower Shop and The Mansion Restaurant

This month Everything Knoxville magazine is delighted to be bringing you a special interview with Jack Wilson, owner of the iconic Sweetwater Flower Shop located on W. North Street in historic downtown Sweetwater.  The oldest flower store in Sweetwater and the second oldest flower shop in Monroe County, Sweetwater Flower Shop has been serving the needs of area friends and families since the 1920s.

EK: How did you become involved in this nearly century-old business here in Sweetwater?

Jack: Having been raised in Sweetwater, I was familiar with most businesses and their owners.  The two women (the late Gladys Lawson and Wilma Thompson) who owned the shop in 1964 befriended me then at the age of eleven and hired me on a part-time basis.  I’m not even certain if there were any work age restrictions back in those days.  We’re a small southern town, and I helped out doing small chores, including taking out the trash, sweeping, cleaning, and a host of other odd jobs… sort of a “Jack” of all trades.

EK: When did you first recognize that you had a creative talent for both floral design and entrepreneurship?

Jack: Well, having worked here from such an early age, I gradually became familiar with the floral and gift industry over time.  The shop owners, recognizing that I might have a talent for creative design, slowly introduced me to the floral industry where my skills were nurtured over time by these two wonderful and caring women.

EK: Aside from discovering your creative and artistic skills here, what else attracted you to the floral industry?

Jack: That’s easy, the people… the wonderful customers and the creative staff that has been my privilege to serve and work with.  Sweetwater is unique.  It is, by definition, a “city” I guess, but it is really a charming, small, southern town.  Everyone knows everybody else.  In this business, you watch generations of friends, families, and neighbors transition through their lives.  You can celebrate births, birthdays, graduations, engagements, weddings, anniversaries, and, sadly, the loss of loved ones.  I don’t know of any other career that offers a person the opportunity to serve their community in such a personal way that I have been blessed to do.

EK: You explained that you purchased Sweetwater Flower Shop from your two mentors in 1985 and operated it uninterrupted for 26 years when tragedy struck.  Explain what happened.

Jack: It was my worst nightmare when I learned that the flower shop where I had spent nearly 47 years of my life had tragically burned.  The structure itself had survived, but the entire interior, including fixtures and equipment, and all of our merchandise were destroyed.

EK: What happened next?

Jack: Well, I was devastated.  It was as if my life had come to an abrupt halt, but then a miracle happened. My loss was quickly replaced with an outpouring of support and encouragement from the same community that had been my privilege to serve for most of my adolescent and adult life.  It was then that I discovered just how rich and blessed a man I was.

EK: How did you recover from this misfortune?

Jack: In large part and thanks to the generosity of fellow entrepreneur, Debbie Oden, owner of The Paris Apartment & Tea Room, we were able to relocate our shop into an unused portion of her store until our building was restored.  I can never thank Debbie enough.

EK: Tell us about the all-new Sweetwater Flower Shop and The Mansion Restaurant.

Jack: Very simply, it’s incredible.  There is not enough space in your magazine to describe what we have been able to accomplish.  Our new shop, located in the same building and location as the original store, is simply gorgeous.  Bright, cheery, warm, and inviting are just a few of the words used by visitors to describe the shop.  You just have to see it for yourself.  Mostly it’s just a look of surprise and amazement, followed by “wow!”

EK: Tell our readers about the new merchandise you’ve added.

Jack: First and foremost, we’re a flower shop, which continues to feature its signature designs, but our gift and home décor area has been greatly expanded and will change with the “seasons” as they say.  We now carry ladies scarves, jewelry, handbags, and other women’s accessories in addition to our large selection of gifts, art, and home décor items. I think your readers will be truly amazed.

EK: What about the restaurant?

Jack: It’s our work in progress.  The Mansion Restaurant, located on the second floor of the flower shop, is scheduled to open this month.  By their very nature, restaurants are a major undertaking.  We’re completing the working kitchen and securing our final inspections.  Chef Lea Watson, who completed her internship at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, is scheduled to have a “soft” opening this month.  We encourage you to call for dates and times.

EK: Tell us a little more.  What type of food will you feature?

Jack: As its name implies, The Mansion Restaurant will feature southern fare in a truly upscale southern-style ambiance.  We will begin serving lunch and expand both our menu selections and hours as we progress through the inevitable learning curve associated with any new business, and we indulge your patience in advance.  I assure it will be worth the wait.

EK: Anything else you would like to add as we conclude our interview?

Jack: Just thank you to all of you who have supported and encouraged us, particularly during the past year.  I hope that you will personally enjoy what we have created for you at the Sweetwater Flower Shop and The Mansion Restaurant.  Words cannot express our heartfelt gratitude.  Please accept my personal invitation to visit us and all the other fine merchants here in historic downtown Sweetwater.

Sweetwater Flower Shop
118 W. North Street
Sweetwater, TN 37874

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