By Gerhard Schneibel

Some businesses naturally play a sentimental role in the lives of their patrons. For many area residents, the big moments and changes in their lives have meant the purchase of flowers at Botany Bay.

“Just the card messages are interesting because you get people asking people to marry them or people who want to break up. The card messages can be so bizarre,” said Candace White, co-owner of the florist shop on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs.

White’s husband, John, bought the business in 1974 when the original owners, Buel and Lori Cox, sold it in a bankruptcy case. The shop had been open four years at the time, and the Whites rented the building until 2003, when they bought it and began to think about doing a renovation.

The building used to house a Maryland Fried Chicken restaurant and still has the basic floor plan of one of those franchise locations. Now, however, the Whites want to improve the building with a cupola, large glass windows, a tan stucco facade and a green metal roof. The city’s Design Review Board on Aug. 26 unanimously approved their application to make those changes.

“Over the years we’ve kind of built onto the sides, and we’ve spread out as far as we could,” John said. “We’re going to keep the same footprint and improve the outside of the building.”

Candace added, “We decided to polish it up a little bit. We still have people who come in and say this looks like the old beach places and they don’t want it to change, but we’re excited about the updates.”

Fran Neil and her husband, Ed, have been customers of Botany Bay for 16 years. They send flowers to family and friends on a regular basis, according to Fran, who said she gets good quality for a fair price.

“I think they’re honorable, I think they’re friendly, and with the flowers we’ve bought here — they’re just absolutely beautiful,” she said.

Candace said the store has been in business so long because “people know freshness, and they’re willing to pay for it.”

One person whose life has been affected by Botany Bay is 62-year-old Bill Louis, who is mentally disabled and lives in a halfway house. He worked at the store on a full-time basis for 17 years and has since gone into semiretirement.

When he started, Louis worked in the greenhouse and wasn’t capable of communicating with customers. Over time, however, he became more talkative.

“Working has helped him become just a great individual that he would never have become if he had just been in a group home and had never gotten a chance to get out with people,” Candace said.

One thing that makes Botany Bay unusual is that the Whites buy flowers directly from growers and have them shipped in by Federal Express.

“Most stores get them from a local wholesaler, and they could have been on the truck for five days,” John said. “I guess living together and working together for all these years has been an accomplishment. You’ve just got to know how to do it correctly, and that’s what keeps you going for 34 years.”

The store not only has helped the Whites keep going, but also got them started. They met when Candace was working in a now-closed Buckhead branch of the shop John owned, and they now have been married for 32 of their years in business together.