They’ve come full circle

Published 8:41 am Wednesday, February 25, 2009

FRANKLIN—For Cliff and Sandra Brinkley, setting up shop in downtown Franklin is just like coming home.

That’s because Designs by Sandra, the shop known for selling custom-made silk flower arrangements and Yankee candles on Armory Drive, has just moved back to its original location at 111 N. Main St.

It’s the same spot where Sandra’s mother, Carolyn Bryant, started the business on Nov. 1, 1972.

“We really have come full circle,” Cliff said with a laugh Tuesday morning.

“We actually raised our daughter, Mary Beth, here for the first 10 months of her life,” Sandra said, pointing to a small room in the back of the store, formerly the Downtown Franklin Association. “And my father (Jimmy Brinkley) worked shift work (at International Paper) and used to keep a twin bed back in the back.”

Bryant opened Sandra’s House of Flowers when Sandra was just 17.

“I was planning to go to college and major in home economics,” Sandra said. “That was my dream. Then they opened the flower shop and I fell in love with fixing flowers.”

That’s not the only thing she fell in love with.

Cliff’s parents, Marjorie and Bill Brinkley, owned Oakridge Florist in Suffolk, and Bryant and Marjorie Brinkley would trade tips on the business.

Then they set their kids up.

“Our first date all we did was talk about our mothers,” Cliff Brinkley said.

The couple was married 10 months later and, despite Cliff’s youthful declarations to stay out of the business, have been working with flowers ever since. They also have a son named Jason.

Cliff Brinkley retired last year as a wood inspector from International Paper and now is helping in the shop full-time.

“We started in the flower business 36 years ago and here we go again,” Sandra Brinkley said.

The shop has seen name changes, location changes and major catastrophes.

“We have lost our business twice to water,” Sandra Brinkley said. In 1991 a flooded roof destroyed their entire inventory, and in 1999 the massive flood after Hurricane Floyd ruined the business again.

Through the years, the couple has relied steadily on faith to get through those tough times.

“It is through God’s help that we have faced ups and down and can be in business today,” Sandra Brinkley said. “We have so much to be thankful for. We look forward to what He has planned for our return back home.”

An open house is scheduled for April.

For more information, call 562-6455.