After 55 years in business, Bitty's Flower Shop and Market in Beaufort remains family-owned and operated, and the little girl it was named for is proud to keep the store her mother started.
Loretta "Bitty" Brant was 7 when Genevieve "Jenny" Green opened the shop. Brant's father called her his "little bitty girl," so the first time Brant was asked her name as a baby she said, "Bitty."
The name, and the business, stuck.
Bitty's moved between three Bay Street storefronts before rising rent drove the family to its current location at 1202 Boundary St. in 1988.
It started with a record section, and Green added flowers, a Western Union service, music equipment and small-appliance repair, Brant said.
"The very first cooler she had was a meat cooler, and it smelled so bad my daddy and I had to scrub it out," Brant recalled and laughed.
Green was active in the business community, serving as president of the Downtown Merchants Association for two years and helping bring Main Street Beaufort, USA, to town. She was a founding member of the Beaufort Chamber of Commerce and was the first woman appointed to the Beaufort County Development Commission, Brant said.
Green also lived in and operated the Beaufort Inn, where Brant said no one was ever turned away who needed a bed. She remembers her mother getting her out of bed some nights and tucking the little girl in with her to make room for a few more heads.
That kindness is what Brant says has kept Bitty's open all these years.
"We try to treat people the way we want to be treated," she said. "That's just how my mother is."
Although Brant handles daily operations, and the store now focuses on gifts, decorations and flowers, Green still comes in "to check and make sure we're doing everything right," Brant said.
Brant said she has no heirs, so she will be the last family member to operate the store. Although competition and the economic downturn have diminished Bitty's profitability, Brant intends to keep the doors open as long as she can.