In the past five years, Chris Fahmie has had to endure ongoing roadway construction that shrunk his parking lot along Memorial Drive and led some passersby to think his shop was closed.
A troubled economy hasn’t helped matters. But through it all Fahmie’s customers have kept coming back to his American Designer Flowers florist shop. Fahmie and his father Sam opened the store, located just east of I-285 on Memorial Drive in Decatur, in 1992.
While other businesses have come and gone along that stretch of Memorial Drive, American Designer Flowers has been helping people make memories for about 17 years.
“I have the best customers in the world,” said Fahmie, who estimates he has lost about $300,000 in revenue over the past four years because of extensive construction in front of his shop. Fifteen feet of his parking lot was sacrificed for the widening of Memorial Drive. The constant shuffling of barriers and barricades, along with an unpaved entrance made some customers think the shop was closed, Fahmie said.
“I kept hearing people tell me, ‘I thought you were closed,’” Fahmie said. “But now they’re slowly but surely coming back.”
He has two employees, both of whom previously worked full time but now average about 20 hours a week, Fahmie said.
“I have to come in more than I used to just to keep my overhead down,” he said.
During the construction process, the strip center that houses American Designer Flowers had only one way in and out. It took a meeting with Georgia Sen. Steve Henson and the DOT to put in an exit last year.
Construction tribulations aside, once one is inside the shop it is easy to see why customers keep coming back. In addition to low-priced flowers bought directly from wholesalers in Miami, American Designer Flowers offers balloons, vases, stuffed animals and greeting cards.
To Fahmie, customers are like family. And he’s never short on helpful tips like which color roses are best for certain occasions.
He also does bouquets for weddings, averaging nearly two per week in the summer, and had been selling Christmas trees on his lot until 2007.
A native of Miami, Fahmie started his own flower shop out of his school in 1989. He moved to Georgia when his father asked him to take over his epoxy-resin flooring business. It wasn’t long before Fahmie was longing to get back into the florist industry.
“In Miami it’s a lot harder because there is so much product,” Fahmie said. “Here, with my connections in Miami, it’s easier. I’m able to get product cheaper because I buy directly from wholesalers there. I’ve been dealing with the same people for 20 years.”
Fahmie has endured when other businesses, including restaurants, around him have not. The average life span of a business in his building is three years, he said.
He and his father opened the business in February of 1992, and in four years Fahmie had made enough money to pay back his father. In fact, his very first Valentine’s Day was his top selling day until Valentine’s Day in 2001.
“I’m blessed and I’m humbled that I’ve been able to have such great customers and be here since 1992,” Fahmie said. “I have thought about selling, but it would be hard not to come back to DeKalb County. There are other places where I might make more revenue, but I can’t leave my customers and my (employees).”