If you’ve ever looked back to chapters in your life and thought, ‘that was a mistake,’ Ann Turner Williams understands.
But the Yazoo City native and longtime florist says every decision – good or bad – leads you down the path you’re on today.
With plans to go to college to be an interior designer, Williams got pregnant in high school and was married at 17 instead.
Her mother-in-law at the time owned a florist and so she and her now ex-husband bought a florist.
“I thought I was going to live happily ever after,” Williams recalls. “Seventeen and dumb and all that,” she adds with a laugh.
Divorced at 19 going on 20, the floral trade was all she knew.
“I went to work for Foster Duggan, a florist and landscape artist, ‘the guru of Yazoo City.’ He trained me and we became close. I was like the daughter he never had. I took care of him in later years until his death and would tease him, saying, ‘you’re making me pay my tuition, aren’t you?’”
When Duggan passed away, Williams set out on her own, opening Drake’s Designs, working from home.
Newly remarried, her husband Mike came home from work, declaring he had quit his job to work with her. “After a complete meltdown,” Williams laughs, “we opened a storefront across from the former Colonial Baptist Church. I remember when that first customer pulled up and saying, ‘Okay, y’all act normal!’”
Williams looks back over her upbringing in Yazoo City, realizing life was picturesque.
“It was pretty Norman Rockwell. You know, one brother, a dog, my mom and dad, in church every time the doors were open. We did a devotional every morning before school. And I could have gone to any college I wanted to.”
But getting pregnant so young crushed that dream.
“I had gotten married and September is when I had my baby,” Williams says. “My parents kept telling me ‘You can go back to school,’ but I just didn’t see that in my future. I felt like this is where God wanted me to go.”
While not an interior designer, Williams says her floral work has satisfied her need to be creative. “The similarities are there. I’ve done some design work. Color and texture – it’s not the same, but the worlds are so close.”
It’s not the path Williams had planned for herself, nor one her parents believed she would ever take. But, Williams can look back now and see it was part of something bigger than her.
“I always say, ‘Had it not been for me doing that, I wouldn’t have done this, I wouldn’t have done that.’ I wouldn’t have met the husband [I am married to now] because I wouldn’t have gone down these other paths. I wouldn’t have met Foster (Duggan), who I loved so much.” She adds, “Even though we don’t make the wisest choices, everything is meant for a reason. God can take something bad and make it good.”
What advice does Williams give to young people who have made mistakes? “I made lots of them, many past getting pregnant… bad decisions, one after the other. There were times I did not think (I could), but you can. You can survive anything.
Never afraid to get her hands dirty, Williams says she was never lazy.
“Florists didn’t make a lot of money, especially way back then. I worked four jobs, including cleaning houses. I knew I needed to make money and provide (for my daughter). You do what you have to do to put a roof over your head.”
It’s a point of pride for Williams these days.
“People who say, ‘I just can’t?’ Oh yeah, you can. I worked four jobs at one time, living out of the I-220 storage facility while I stayed here and there. Don’t tell me you can’t. I never stopped.”
About Drake’s Designs
Located in Canton Mart Square (summer 2018 makes seven years), Williams’ shop is not typical. “We do unusual flowers,” she says. “We’re not a ‘carnation and mums’ shop. We’re a bit more out-of-the-box.”
Drake’s Designs also specializes in gifts and gift baskets and home décor including art.
“Besides the quality of the work, we’re here every day, hands-on. Mike delivers – he wants it to be as good when he delivers it as it was when I stopped making it. He is as invested as I am.”
Of her work, Williams tells, “I’ve had people say, ‘I can walk in a funeral home and there are 30 stands and I can tell which one is yours.’”