BRANDON — Annie Chartrand says she wants to fill the void left by Bernie Carr.
“Flowers make people happy,” she said.
Bernie and Beth Carr sold their florist shop on Center Street in January after 40 years in business.
Chartrand, 58, of Leicester, quietly opened Brandon Florist Shoppe in October, ahead of a grand opening held recently. She said she was inspired by Carr to leave her position at Otter Valley Union High School after 27 years and open a flower shop.
“I got this crazy notion in my head,” she said. “It all started with Bernie Carr going out of the flower business. That’s when everything clicked for me. ... I’m trying to fulfill everything that Bernie did. He served the community 40 years and did well. I’m just trying to do what Bernie did, keep everything the same and make everyone happy.”
The store is located in the former Brandon Auto Sales building on Route 7, just north of downtown Brandon. Chartrand said she closed on the property this summer. Friends and family circulated through the store Saturday, as a man in a Santa suit waved at passing traffic.
Chartrand said she has no professional background in flower arrangement, but dabbled in it at Otter Valley, where she worked as a vocational job coach.
“Every Christmas, this is what the kids and I would do, make centerpieces,” she said. “That’s how I’d help them earn money to do things. ... I am doing an online course that I haven’t had time to keep up with, but I’m doing it.”
Chartrand said she also gets some mentoring from Carr, who continues to run a gift shop in downtown Brandon.
“I call him two or three times a week, at least, both Bernie and Beth,” she said. “I can’t stress enough how much Bernie and Beth have been wonderful.”
Chartrand, who said she is the only full-time employee but has relatives and one friend who help her out as-needed, said the biggest surprise has been just how much work goes into the store.
“I didn’t realize how many hours I’d put into this,” she said. “I’m normally here 12 hours a day. ... The Brandon people, the community, have been fantastic to me.”