WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (WVDN) – Gillespie’s Flowers and Productions will celebrate its 100-year anniversary with an open house at The Village Shop on Main Street. The event takes place on Friday, May 26, during the Dandelion Festival from 4-7 p.m.
An original Greenbrier County family owned and operated business, Gillespie’s has partnered with The Greenbrier resort since 1923, providing flowers and event services to the hotel. The beginning of this family enterprise stemmed from a request made by the resort in White Sulphur Springs to Ken Gillespie, asking him to begin a florist service at the hotel by both growing flowers and having them shipped into the area from cities in the North.
In 1925, the business expanded to five Florida locations during the West Virginia off-season with winter locations located at The Breakers resort, Whitehall Hotel, Boca Raton Hotel, Hollywood Beach and the Biltmore on Florida’s Gold Coast.
Once the business of The Greenbrier became a four-season resort in the early 1950s and the hotel activity and customer numbers remained stable, the Florida operations were no longer needed.
Flowers are the heart of this family business, and the quality and range of cut flower design has been solid since the beginning of the business, but when Ken Gillespie’s son, Temp Gillespie, took the company in the 1950s and 60s to another level, he added entertainment and décor for conventions at The Greenbrier.
The business is now run by Temp Gillespie’s children, John Gillespie, Martha Sams and Charley Gillespie. Starting as part-time and summers during their school years, the siblings grew up in the family floral business.
“My grandfather and my father ushered us into the business,” says John Gillespie, stating that he and his siblings started out working part-time and during the summers during their school years.
This third generation of Gillespies expanded the business’s offerings even further, adding a full-service event company which owns and rents tents, staging, tables and chairs, lighting and signage production, as well as over-the-top floral creations to The Greenbrier and for weddings and other events.
This expansion of the services came from necessity as Gillespie’s found area venders could not supply the increasing needs of the convention services at The Greenbrier resort and the growth of the wedding and corporate entertainment business.
John Gillespie is ready to meet the needs of its No. 1 client. “There is no holiday time off in this business; it’s really holiday time ON. We also keep a large selection of cut flowers on hand for any last-minute request for a birthday or anniversary arrangement for a hotel guest’s room.”
Martha Gillespie Sams manages the floral angle of the century-old business. She is quick to point out that there are customers outside the local resort. “We did the inauguration for both Governor Underwood and Governor Wise. Our services and productions have been used by a few country clubs in Charleston and at the Clay Center, as well.”
Gillespie’s Flowers and Productions has been called for in Beckley, Princeton and the Homestead resort in Warm Springs, Virginia. “We even went to Florida for a local customer who wanted to take the display used here to another conference in Florida,” she said.
Gillespie’s now works out of three locations in White Sulphur Springs — The Greenbrier location has a display and sample selection of tables and chairs and a consulting/meeting room for wedding planning.
The Village Shop on Main Street in White Sulphur Springs has 1,200 square feet of show room, offices, production and cold storage for flowers. The third facility is a 20,000-square-foot warehouse that provides storage for tents, high-end structures, chairs, tables and more for the full production company.
As Gillespie’s enters its second century, the family business has expanded into a fourth generation; the company has a leader from the three family branches — John Gillespie’s son, Steven Gillespie; Martha Sams’ daughter, Rebekah Sams; and Charley Gillespie’s son, Alex Gillespie.
Steven Gillespie manages the tents and high-end structures. This part of the business has endless potential and continues to grow, becoming the state’s premier moveable party. The quality and design of the tents they now have are ever changing with the largest tent in their inventory measuring 66 feet by 123 feet.
Rebekah Sams is the wedding and floral design manager, and she works with customers from planning through production and is the “day-of supervisor” for the event.
Alex Gillespie manages logistics and the crew that assembles and takes down of all the large tents and furnishings. His uncle, John Gillespie, said with a chuckle, “Alex is also a farmer now; he is established in that arena and will need to continue with his position at Gillespie’s for steady income.”
John Gillespie says the future is already upon them, and the family will continue to follow the trends in the industry and stay on the cutting edge of décor and event productions.
The next 100 years of premier event and holiday displays should find Gillespie’s Flowers and Productions leading the way.