“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved” (Helen Keller).
April Hunter has experienced success through plenty of hard work; however, she has not always been in the florist business.
“I went to work at Dart Containers and worked in the office there for about a year,” remembered April. “They contacted me from Quitman Upper Elementary and wanted to know if I would be interested in taking their computer lab. At first I said no, but I had a two year old at the time, and I thought that might be better for me. Jeff worked for Burlington, and Burlington was going through a transition where they were getting ready to close. He was on weird shifts, and I thought the hours for the school being 7:30-3:30 would be better than a 7:30-5:00 job since I had a two year old. I took the job and worked with Lashanda Kennedy for a year in the computer lab.”
After a year at the school, changes started to happen, but April was happy with her position at the school.
“The school started doing some changes, and Mrs. Kennedy ended up leaving Quitman and went to work at Enterprise, and they gave the lab to me,” said April. “For seven years, I did computer lab work with the upper elementary.”
As much as April loved her job teaching in the computer lab, a drop in state test scores caused her to undergo one of the most challenging times in her life.
“Around 2004, the test scores were not where they needed to be at the school, and they really started cracking down on raising the test levels,” stated April. “They ended up taking away all the extracurricular stuff while trying to buckle down on test scores; therefore, in May of 2008, they closed down my lab, so I didn’t have a job. We had just built a house. I was horrified, and my heart was broken. I had put everything I could into that layout and took such pride in it.”
Although her heart was broken, April’s life was about to take a whole new direction, leading her to where she is now at Fantasy Cottage.
“It really was just a God thing. My husband, Jeff, does heating and air. The day they called me in to tell me that I didn’t have a contract, the air conditioner in this building went out. We knew this place had been for sale, and Mother had mentioned it to me a few times. I had no idea how to do this; I’ve put a flower in the ground and love working in the yard at home, but this was so far from anything I’d ever done,” recalled April. “Jeff came to fix the air conditioner and saw the opportunity and started on me about it. I told myself that if it’s meant to be then let Jane call me to come look at the store instead of making me call her. One Monday morning I took my son, Cody, to an art camp with Margaret Evans, and when I got home, Jane had called. I thought Mama had put her up to it. She wanted me to come look at the store and I agreed. The whole time I was getting dressed I was praying that if the Lord didn’t want me here that he wouldn’t let me walk through the door; I asked him to either let me wreck or let me fall if he didn’t want me to get this building. Well, I didn’t wreck, and I didn’t fall. Now, here I am 12 years later.”
One of the things she brought into the store when she did get Fantasy Cottage started was the candles that she had previously started as a hobby alongside her mother-in-law.
“In October of 2007, a friend of mine and I went to the Canton Flea Market. While we were there, we saw a lot of different vendos with homemade candles. On the way home, there has to be an easy way to do this, so I googled candle making and made some candles,” explained April. “My mother-in-law started with me, and it was just therapeutic and something we did on weekends. We would even get together and do it for the junior high fundraiser. I brought the candles into the store when I got it started. I would make the candles here, and over the years we put them in everything you could think of; if it could hold wax, we used it.”
After experiencing some uncertain times thanks to the pandemic, she has revamped her store and homemade candles and given them names that relate closely to either her family or the community she loves and works in.
“We were learning how to survive in Covid and wanted to revamp some things, and the candles were mentioned,” said April. “Cody asked me if I’d ever thought about changing the jar for the candle—get rid of the mason jar and do something different. He pushed me to upgrade everything. He then suggested that I changed the names of the fragrances to be something more personal for us or the town, so we did that. For instance, we named one candle 4096 because when Cody was a little boy and we would ask him how much something cost, he would always say 4096. We still joke around and say that now, and he’s 22. We have one called Susie’s on a Sunday because they call my mom Susie and she always cooked dinner for the family on a Sunday. Then, we have one we call Across From the Post Office because our store is across from the post office.”
Not only did she change up the look and names of the candles to make them more personal, but April renovated the inside and outside of the building to make the florist shop even better for the citizens in the county.
Although she was initially nervous about opening the florist, she is now happy with her business and finds that being able to see and make her customers happy is her favorite thing.
“There’s no better feeling in this world than a customer being pleased with what you do,” stated April. “I find it an honor and a privilege for customers to use me for everything from happy times with weddings and anniversaries all the way to the hardest times when they have to ask for a casket spray. I know that they could go anywhere. We’ve got another great florist in Quitman and some in the surrounding areas, but they choose to allow me to do it for them. My customers are the reason I’m here.”
With her experience and love of her shop and community around her, it comes as no surprise that April has the following advice for the citizens of Clarke County:
“Support your local shops and shop local. Our town is made up of a lot of mom and pop individually owned places. Support these guys because we all depend on you.”