End of an era

After three decades, Newnan Florist closing

by Clay Neely


Bill and Fran Exner stand in front of the handpainted sign their children created in 1977. 

Since 1977, Bill and Fran Exner have owned and operated Newnan Florist on Greenville Street.

Through their years of overseeing weddings, funerals and everything in between, they have kept a finger on the pulse of the community.

But after 37 years in business, Newnan Florist officially will be closing its doors to the community.

“The years go by so fast,” Fran said, slowly poring over a photo album. Decades of their story fill the pages. After 62 years of marriage, their smiles shared over each picture accent the love they still possess for each other and the community they have served.

Both Bill and Fran grew up on farms. Fran is a native of Madison County, Georgia, but Bill grew up in Illinois. At his father's request to pursue a degree in agriculture, Bill was sent to study in the new veterinary program at the University of Georgia. However, he found chemistry more to his liking and wound up with a bachelor’s degree in the field.

He also found Fran. In 1952, they were married at the Alfa Gamma Rho fraternity house in Athens. They initially moved back to Illinois, where Bill worked as a chemical analyst at Argonne Laboratory in Downers Grove. However, it was their mutual desire to raise their children on a farm that led them back to Georgia.

In 1963, they moved to Georgia to achieve their dream – settling down on their 163-acre farm on Turkey Creek Road. Bill spent the next 23 years teaching school at Campbell High School in Fairburn before retiring in 1987. During that period, Fran helped raise their four children – Mike, Eric, Jane and Craig.

It was in 1977 that the Exner family purchased Newnan Florist from Ruby McMichael after the passing of her husband, Roy McMichael. At that time, Greenville Street and U.S. Highway 29 were the main thruway to downtown Newnan. Interstate I-85 was just being completed.

“Weddington Chevrolet was south of us, along with the Dairy Bar, which many would visit before and after school,” Bill said.

“Our three sons painted the name on the building which is still in remarkable condition today,” Fran said. “The oldest one at the time was 15 but they all did an amazing job. I only wish we could take it with us. It’s the thing I’ll probably miss the most about the shop.”

For the next 37 years, the Exner family worked tirelessly at Newnan Florist – witnessing the life events of the citizens of Coweta County. “Weddings, funerals, birthdays and everything in between,” Fran said. “One of the most wonderful things about working here was that you always knew what was happening in the community.”

“Especially if someone was in trouble with their wife,” Fran laughed – citing her famous “get out of jail” bouquet that was always at the ready for any husband that might be in the doghouse.

Over the years, Bill and Fran were fortunate enough to travel all over the world – Russia, China, Japan, and across all of Europe. However, they were always happy to return home to their farm on Turkey Creek Road.

While things have undeniably changed in Coweta County since 1977, Bill and Fran never deviated from their initial vision of providing the highest quality service with their product.

However, there is no denying the change that the floral industry has seen during the same time period. With stores like Kroger offering 24-hour flowers to big-box stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot offering garden shops, the game has certainly changed.

But for the Exners, it wasn’t something they took personally.

“We just kept running the shop and did our best for our customers,” Fran said. “The true blessing is that fact that all of our customers are our friends and we wouldn’t trade that for the world.”

And while the Exners may have officially closed their doors, they will be sorting out inventory and tying up loose ends until the end of the year and will be encouraging the public to come by and say hello.

“We’d love to see all of our friends,” Fran said. “It’s hard to think that you might not see someone again, so we encourage everyone to stop by and visit with us before everything is gone.”

And for the Exners, that will be the hardest part about closing their shop.

“Over the years, we have been able to see all our friends and help them celebrate the events in their lives,” Fran said. “It’s a bittersweet feeling having to close our doors, and it’s hard not to get emotional.”

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