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    Saturday, May 27, 2023

    It’s always a time for celebration at LeFrancois Floral and Gifts

    Joanne LeFrancois poses in her store, LeFrancois Floral and Gifts, in Norwich. (photo submitted)

    Everyone loves to celebrate — a gathering of friends, neighbors, and family. Sometimes we forget to celebrate the people who help us celebrate, the people behind the scenes.

    Where do those little details come from that make these moments so memorable? Joanne LeFrancois is a superb florist and has been for 28 years, but she is a community asset and tremendously generous person. Her sense of wonder and passion haven’t faded in nearly three decades.

    LeFrancois is never short of ideas or projects she vigorously puts together for the Norwich community. She’s been the owner of LeFrancois Floral and Gifts located at 50 Pine St, Norwich that whole time.

    “We are a family-owned, neighborhood, full-service florist with a commitment to offer only the finest flowers and gifts. Our ethics and philosophy may be the traditional, valued sort, but our designs are as fresh and contemporary as you want them to be,” according to the business’s website. “We are not a chain. We are not a supermarket. That allows us to be as creative as we want and also allows us to prepare and take care of your flowers like they should be treated.”

    The array of plants or gifts you can buy or even rent is staggering. From plants in full bloom and silk flowers, to gifts for all occasions, including gift baskets, candles and home decor, to sweet treats and sweeter gestures, with, of course, the perfect card.

    They have everything needed for weddings, proms and life’s celebrations, from the arrival of a baby or the passing of a loved one.

    Customers entering the cute little shop are refreshed by the air of fresh flowers and creativity. LeFrancois was found in the back, busily working away on a beautiful arrangement across a wedding arbor for an event she had later that week.

    “Things that are big right now are pampas wraps, hydrangea, because they are dry, (tiddly) winks, wheat, cattails, along with, for fall, sunflowers, different kinds of mums, there’s so many novelty additives you can put in there Hypericum berries, yarrow,” she said. “Fall is just a great time for different textures.”

    People may not think of bright and cheery colors when it comes fall colors, but LeFrancois said there is no need to stick with boring yellows, oranges, and browns.

    “If you look at the tree lines in the fall...fall is beautiful, fall is colorful,” she said. “There’s yellows, oranges, and reds. And then burgundy and dark fuschia..you put those colors together and it’s actually very happy. Yes, you can have rust, gold, and stuff like that too but it’s just a beautiful time filled with texture and color.”

    Just because it might be slightly off a main road in town does not mean the shop is unknown. LeFrancois and the shop have been huge community resources and members of the Norwich Chamber of Commerce since 2010.

    The gift shop is only the beginning of LeFrancois’ creative endeavors. She thought up The Norwich Harbor Fire, and last year, with the help of her husband, a few contractors, the fire department, the Rotary and people like volunteer Zechariah Stover, LeFrancois was able to make it a reality.

    They send out floating fire pits into the harbor and the town gathers for a food festival. It’s truly a beautiful sight to behold. She made it not only a reality, but a dream come true. LeFrancois had her husband, Bob, build the prototype for the floating fire drum barrels. He had their prototype made and then went to Chris Jewell from Collins and Jewell, and they made the other five drums.

    They premiered the event at the 2019 Taste of Italy in Norwich. Unfortunately this year because of COVID-19 restrictions, the event had to go on hiatus. It’s something they plan to resume as soon as restrictions are lifted and safety can be ensured.

    LeFraincois’ generosity doesn’t stop there. Her main project right now, she says, are shoes.

    Her friends Darlene and Steve, lost their son Eli in 2019. He was only 23. Eli always wanted to own his own sneaker company. LeFrancois, being the guardian angel that she is, decided this tragedy could be a way to help a lot of people, and she has. She started Sneakers For Eli, where she takes financial donations and buys as many shoes as she can. Once her inventory of foot accessories is full she starts finding donation centers to send all the shoes to people who need them.

    Sneakers for Eli has raised thousands and is continuing to take donations. LeFrancois says you can contact her directly at the shop or you can write checks or make the donations directly to the Rotary Corp.

    For someone whose day is filled with flowers, LeFrancois is busy as a bee! Her days are filled making days just right for our most precious celebrations, making free events and gatherings for the community, and making sure everyone is clothed and safe in such uncertain times. She is a reminder of what can blossom if we nurture the best aspects of each other, and she should be celebrated as much as she helps her customers do the same.

    LeFrancois was adamant that because their quaint shop is a little off the beaten path, most of their business is actually done over the phone at (860) 887-4695.

    Brian Barganier lives in Salem.

    A display at LeFrancois Floral and Gifts in Norwich. (photo submitted)
    A display at LeFrancois Floral and Gifts in Norwich. (photo submitted)
    A display at LeFrancois Floral and Gifts in Norwich. (photo submitted)
    An arrangement by Joanne LeFrancois of LeFrancois Floral and Gifts in Norwich. (photo submitted)
    An arrangement by Joanne LeFrancois of LeFrancois Floral and Gifts in Norwich. (photo submitted)
    An arrangement by Joanne LeFrancois of LeFrancois Floral and Gifts in Norwich. (photo submitted)
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