Stepping inside Stroud’s Flowers is like stepping into the past. From the stained glass window out front that reads “Stroud’s” to the old piano in the lobby, the floral shop is filled with nostalgia and the sweet aroma of its flowers.
Gerardo and Nancy Stroud opened Stroud’s Flowers in 1977 on Beatties Ford Road. It’s now one of Charlotte’s oldest Black-owned businesses still in operation.
When Stroud died in the late 1990s, his family planned to sell the business to a buyer unknown to them — until Neil Nivens, Stroud’s godson, offered to buy it himself.
Neil Nivens took over the shop in 2010 and now runs it alongside his wife, Christine Nivens.
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Stroud’s Flowers has been in the same location for more than 40 years but will be moving in March due to a building sale.
Initially, the Nivens didn’t want to move locations, but have since warmed up to the idea.
‘Don’t sell it to somebody else’
Neil Nivens said that once he got to a certain age, taking over the shop was a “no-brainer.”
He grew up seeing Gerardo Stroud’s impact on the community and commitment to his work.
“To me, he was an artist,” Neil Nivens said, “He’d keep you laughing, always saying something funny to brighten up your day. He was one of those cats.”
Neil Nivens said he couldn’t always envision taking over Stroud’s Flowers but found that many people who worked in his godfather’s shop stayed in the florist field. As a teenager, he would watch Stroud work in the shop and sometimes make deliveries for him.
“At first, I wasn’t really into it,” he said, but as the years went by, he realized he could do it.
So when Nancy Stroud shared plans to sell the shop, Neil Nivens insisted he be the one to buy it.
“I was like, don’t sell it to somebody else that may just come and change the name and not keep the quality of work,” he said.
“Because that’s one thing [my godfather] was known for; quality of work,” he said.
Keeping the tradition of quality was essential to Neil Nivens, and something he said makes Stroud’s Flowers different from bigger flower companies. He said he has heard “war stories” of customers ordering from big companies and not being satisfied with their flowers.
“With us, it’s still personal,” Neil Nivens said. “You call, come in, and see exactly what you’ll be getting.”
A personal touch
One aspect of Stroud’s Flowers that Neil and Christine Nivens pride themselves most on is the “personal” touch they give to their flowers and their unique connection with their customers.
Neil Niven’s said many of their elderly customers have known him since he was “knee high to a grasshopper.” Due to their age, he said, some customers are either unable to leave their homes or don’t feel safe traveling to the shop.
So, a few times a week, he loads up his car and personally delivers their flowers to them.
But not every request for a floral arrangement is a happy occasion. During the pandemic, Christine Nivens said there were days when Stroud’s Flowers would make floral arrangements for multiple funerals within the same family.
“It’s a lot of tragedy. A lot of stuff that goes home with you,” Christine Nivens said.
“My worst thing is when they come in, and it’s a baby or a mom that’s got little kids.”
A blessing in disguise
According to the couple, crime has been an issue in the community and the store. It’s currently located in an area where 166 crimes were reported in the last 180 days.
“We’ve watched a lot of murders, a lot of drug transactions. So yes, it’s time for us to go,” Christine Nivens said. She added that while they had no plans of moving before the building was sold, it seems to be a good option for the store long-term.
The Nivens’ said they were given 30 days to find a new location when the convenience store attached to them bought out the rest of the building. Christine Nivens said that initially, she and her husband were angry about the forced relocation.
“And then it just hit me; I looked at my husband and said, ‘it’s a blessing in disguise.’” Because of the crime in the area, she said she feared for the safety of her husband and their customers.
But if they were going to move, they wanted to remain close to the Beatties Ford Road area, the community in which the shop had built its presence.
Then, according to the couple, the same day they learned they would have to move, they found a space just a few stoplights away.
The new store, a standalone building with more space, will be located at 1504 Beatties Ford Road, across the street from Northwest School of the Arts.
“It’s home,” Christine Nivens said. “There’s no other way to put it.”
Evolving for the future, keeping tradition
While Stroud’s won’t be losing its long-standing presence in the Beatties Ford Road community, other things have had to change.
Christine Nivens said some things “had to happen.” Certain changes like creating a website and increasing their prices — but still keeping them “reasonable” — were unavoidable.
The couple noted rising rent costs and inflation for price increases.
As far as the shop’s future, the Nivens want Stroud’s Flowers to be busy, but keep its local charm.
Neil Nivens said he does not want Stroud’s to become a chain. Instead, he wants to continue the quality and personal connection the shop is known for.
Christine Nivens said she hopes Stroud’s Flowers’ future is “busy” and putting smiles on customers’ faces.
The couple also noted that as much as Stroud Flowers means to them, they do hope for a vacation someday, so long as they know the shop is left in good hands.