By Greg Gelpi
The plant business just takes work. Still growing her plant business, Lola's Flowers, Lola Grizzard refuses to rest. Turning 85 Monday and celebrating her one-millionth customer Sunday, she said she's not quitting any time soon.
Lola's Flowers in Shed 24 at the Atlanta State Farmers Market has been in the same location at the Forest Park market since it opened in 1959.
Through a tireless work ethic and a love of flowers, she has worked about 16,000 days at the shop.
"I don't sit around and watch TV," Lola Grizzard said. "It makes someone happy what can you do?"
She has outlasted many of the other shop owners in the Farmers Market, she said.
"A lot of people have passed away or left," Lola Grizzard said. "As long as I can walk and as long as we have this, I'm going to keep going. You've got to be active doing something."
Watching as customers half her age struggle and need assistance climbing the steps into the plant shop, she said she is thankful just to be able to walk.
Although retail chains with massive resources have popped up around her and her family's business, Lola Grizzard said that her flower shop has maintained its own by finding its niche in the market.
"If they just ever come buy from us, they'll be back again," David Grizzard, her son, said. "That's what we want. We want you to buy from us and come back."
The family-run shop prides itself on the quality of its plants and the quality of its customer service. Lola Grizzard has nine children and 17 grandchildren, many of whom work in the shop.
"They're a big inspiration to keep going," she said.
As the leader in her family, she hopes to also be a leader outside her family. With an international flavor in the market, she attracted the attention of a television station from the Muslim country of Turkistan, where women don't have as many rights as women do in America, she said.
"Maybe they'll learn something about the business," Lola Grizzard said.
David Grizzard said she has always been the center of the family and that her work ethic is just something she grew up with.
"Even when I insisted she take days off, she gets mad and works at home," David Grizzard said. "She's a dynamo. She just goes and goes."
Growing up on a farm in Tennessee as a child, she always had a love for plants.
"Looking back on it I realize how much I didn't know," Lola Grizzard said. "I learn something everyday."
Although she sells a wide variety of plants, Lola Grizzard said her favorite is the orchid since it takes little work and blooms for three to six months.
"She lives for these plants," her granddaughter Jeni Waller said. "She doesn't know any different. We couldn't make it without her for sure. Granny doesn't think ?Oh, I'm 85.' She lives like she's 20."
Dean Breest, a retired Delta Air Lines employee, and his wife Renee have been customers since the late 1970s.
"She is an amazing source of information," Dean Breest said. "She is an amazing person. Everything about her is impressive."
Living through the Great Depression, World War II and other historical events, she will never slow down, he said.
"She's quite an inspiration and not only in gardening," Dean Breest said. "You just don't get the impression that she is old."
State Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin recognized Lola Grizzard during a special breakfast for her birthday.
"Well, that's quite nice of him," was her only reaction to the commissioner.
Irvin made a presentation to Lola Grizzard and honored her for her commitment to the Farmers Market.
"We are very proud of the accomplishments of the companies doing business at the Atlanta State Farmers Market," he said.
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