Longtime Lakeview employee honored

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2005

The Selma TImes-Journal

For nearly four decades, customers who have stopped in to Lakeview Nursery and Garden Center for a rose bush, watering can or gift basket have come away with more than their purchases.

They’ve left with a smile on their faces from a hug or a chat with longtime employee Carolyn Shell.

Shell has worked in the retail part of Lakeview for 36 years, doing a variety of jobs, from counseling customers on the right plant for their yard to assembling creative gift baskets to fixing broken tailgates on the nursery’s trucks.

Now, the retail part of Lakeview is closing its doors to allow owners Lane and Bradford Brackin to concentrate on the nursery’s other endeavors: its commercial and residential landscaping business and Brackin Construction.

Lakeview’s new direction is bittersweet, said Bradford Brackin, because with its progress comes the loss of Shell, an employee who has been a part of the Brackin family for years.

“Carolyn has been an absolute joy to have in our lives,” she said. “To call her an employee is an understatement. She’s a part of the family, and we’ll miss seeing her on a daily basis.”

Shell began to work for Lane Brackin’s parents, Ann and Bill,

while the nursery was still in its original location on Summerfield Road. It moved to its present location on Medical Center Parkway in 1988.

When Shell began her job, current owner Lane Brackin was just a tyke.

Shell said that she has loved being able to see him grow up and start his own family, whom she says are “so very special” to her. Brackin feels the same way about her.

“Carolyn is an integral part of the nursery for 36 years, and Carolyn is Lakeview,” he said. “Much of our customer base is strictly because of Carolyn and her love for this business.”

Beyond just the personal relationship Shell has enjoyed with the Brackin family, she has also amassed a wealth of knowledge about plants and gardening, plus a love for the community, she said.

“My life has been enriched by my job,” Shell said of her time at Lakeview. “Gosh, I could just go on and on. It has been a good learning experience for me. Not only about the plants, but I’ve had to learn about people in general.”

Shell stressed the bonds she has formed with her co-workers over the years, many of whom she worked with while they were teenagers.

“All the young people I worked with are like my own children,” she said. “And I’m so proud of them. So many of them have gone on to do such good things in the world and be so successful. They’re like my own children, so there’s no end to my family.”

Shell added that “it’s been a joy working with all the men here at the nursery over the years.”

Shell’s Lakeview family doesn’t end with just her co-workers, either. Many Selmians are her loyal customers and come in to see her, whether they planned to buy any merchandise or not.

“All of my customers are special,” she said. “I just appreciate the opportunity I had to serve them and work with them. I’m always looking forward to seeing them come in. Even if they didn’t want to purchase anything, their smiling faces just made each day so special.”

But just because Lakeview’s retail operations have ceased doesn’t mean that Selma customers will be deprived of Shell’s knowledge of the garden business.

From Lakeview, she’ll go on to work for another longtime Selma institution, the Central Alabama Farmer’s Co-op, now located in its new building off U.S. 80 West.

For those loyal Lakeview customers who wish to see Carolyn Shell one last time in her “natural environment,” the Brackin family is hosting a reception in her honor beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Lakeview.

Refreshments will be served, and the reception is open to the public.