By Burton Speakman
Almost seven years after starting her careerSFlbas the quiet woman her bosses at Edible Arrangements thought they would have to fire, Shakera Brown grew enough that the company recognized her as manager of the year.
Brown, of Youngstown, was recognized out of the more than 1,000 Edible Arrangement locations nationwide.
“When she first came here, I said, ‘I don’t think the quiet one is going to make it,’” said owner Ron Taylor, who had just opened the store along with his wife, Lori, on U.S. Route 224 in Boardman.
Brown started with the store in its first day. Edible Arrangements sells baskets of fruit that are cut into shapes and assembled to resemble flower arrangements.
The North Lima couple quickly recognized, however, that Brown would make it after she showed a great skill in making fruit arrangements, said Lori Taylor.
Brown has helped the Taylors to expand their business to five stores. She now manages both the Boardman location and the store in Hermitage, Pa.
Ron Taylor nominated Brown for multiple reasons, including how she trains and manages employees.
One example of Brown’s managerial skills came out during the holiday season in 2012 when the corporate office called and asked for help because a Florida store couldn’t meet its order requests for that day, Ron Taylor said.
The Hermitage store, in addition to doing retail sales, fulfills orders made for the company that are then shipped to areas where Edible Arrangements doesn’t have a retail location, he said.
“Shakera agreed that her staff could do an additional 100 orders [that day] on top of the 368 they were already doing,” he added.
The issue came when employees were waiting for copies of the work tickets so the arrangements could be shipped. They came in too late to get them on the UPS truck, he said.
“She had already arranged to have a driver take them straight to the UPS hub, but by the time he arrived, he was told the truck for next-day air had already left,” Ron Taylor said.
Brown then had the driver continue to the Pittsburgh airport, where the driver helped load them onto the plane, he said.
“There were several times along the way where she could have given up,” Ron Taylor said.
Brown was able to find a way to get those products out on time so they would meet delivery deadlines in Florida, he said. It saved the company from having to refund the orders and call a bunch of customers to cancel.
Brown, however, didn’t think the incident merited much attention.
“I didn’t think I was doing anything special.” Brown said. “I was just doing what I needed to do to get the job done.”
She was surprised by the award from the company, though they had called to tell her she had been nominated.
The award was presented at the national conference for the company in Las Vegas, she said. “It was nice to be recognized,” Brown added.
Brown said she first took the job because she wanted to do something to get out of the house a few hours a week after her youngest child started preschool.
“I thought it would be something fun and creative to do,” she said.
Her management style is to make sure things get done, but to try and do it in a relaxed manner, she said. There is no reason why people should dread coming to work, she added.
The goal is to make all her employees comfortable, Brown said.
“It’s become more than just a job to me,” Brown said.
One of the more-interest-ing aspects of the job is being able to help people celebrate the special events in their lives, she said.
“The first thing I ask a customer when they come in is what the arrangement is for,” Brown said. “People allow us to be a part of the events they care about.”
It can be anything from a birthday, to an anniversary or even congratulations on receiving a last chemotherapy treatment, Brown said.
The oddest requests have been orders for pets, because the fruit, particularly chocolate-dipped fruit, isn’t good for animals, she said.
Brown said her favorite part of the job is still when she gets to go back and work on making the arrangements shaping fruit and getting it prepared for customers.
Although work during the summer moved at a decent pace, the business does have a busy season. Many of the orders come in around the Christmas holidays and Valentine’s Day, Lori Taylor said.
The Boardman store might create 400 to 500 arrangements a day during the holiday season, Ron Taylor said.
“The draw to these items is their beauty. I became attracted to the product and interested in the business because it’s something I would like to receive,” Lori Taylor said.