17Plaza florist 3When it comes to growing her business at Hope Mills Plaza Florist, Debbie Jones has a simple philosophy that seems to be working.

“You make one customer happy, then they tell three,’’ she said. “Then those three tell more and it keeps building.’’

That logic helped propel Jones to being the first winner of the new Hope Mills Small Business Award.

“I can’t believe I was chosen to be the first one,’’ Jones said. “It’s an honor and a privilege. The things I do, I do because I want to do them, not because I ask for anything in return.’’

With the help of her son Robby, now 26, Jones has expanded the services offered by her business since she bought it from the previous owner in 1996. She owned her own florist business before moving to North Carolina from Pittsburgh, where she specialized in weddings. But when she took over Plaza Florist and renamed it Hope Mills Plaza Florist, she knew from the beginning she wanted to expand her offerings to the community.

“I expanded all the gift items,’’ she said, noting that when she first opened, there were no Walmart or Dollar Tree stores in Hope Mills. She wanted a variety of gifts from $1 up, so any child could walk in and purchase something for a parent or grandparent.

She developed strong ties to what was then the only high school in Hope Mills, South View, and benefited from the promotional interest shown to her by former South View principal Bob Barnes and former Hope Mills Mayor Eddie Dees.

“I feel they both got me where I’m at,’’ she said, noting that Dees once commented to her that her store reminded him of one of the shops on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

Times have changed since the only high schoolrelated gifts in the store were in the orange and black of South View. With the eventual addition of Jack Britt and Gray’s Creek, Jones has expanded her offerings to include those schools. You’ll even find items from nearby Douglas Byrd High School.

Plaza Florist is a favorite destination for local high schools preparing to observe Senior Night.

She carries not only mascot balloons but balloons in the shape of various kinds of athletic balls.

“We’ve even had people from Lumberton coming here because we had volleyball balloons,’’ she said. “A lot of people come here because of the uniqueness of what we do.’’

That includes things like putting names and numbers on the sports balloons, she said. “We try to do everything in school colors,’’ she said.

It doesn’t just stop with balloons. You can find stuffed animals, license plates, bracelets, mugs and T-shirts among other things.

But Jones is also famous for the traditional kinds of things that florists do, but even there she takes it a step further.

Her custom funeral work is some of her best. For one special arrangement, she created a replica of a minion from the “Despicable Me” film franchise. Another special request for a funeral was a horse’s head.

“I love to draw,’’ she said. “I can take anything somebody wants and make it into a floral piece.’’

Jones said she’s willing to deliver her creations to a pretty wide area. She’s taken floral arrangements to Elizabethtown and Dublin, down to Lumberton and north as far as Lillington and Linden.

“I just want to continue doing what I do and keep the customer happy,’’ she said.

For more information on the business, including phone number and hours of operation, visit Jones’ Facebook page at Hope Mills Plaza Florist.

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