GOLD HILL – Amid the pandemic last spring, Melissa and Drew Hammill wanted to give local graduates something joyful.
On the side of the renovated barn overlooking the flower fields near their home, the couple painted a mural congratulating the 2020 graduates with a quote from the Avett Brothers group that reads, “Decide what to be and go for it.” “
The quote is one of Melissa’s favorites, and the one she and Drew followed two years ago when they left Charlotte and bought a farm in Gold Hill. Soon after moving in, they turned the fields around their house into rows of flowers and founded the Gold Hill Flower Company.
The celebratory mural was also an exciting project for Melissa, who studied art at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and still teaches every now and then.
Like moths in front of a flame, the mural drew graduates, families and travelers who took photos in front of the quote.
“People were coming from Raleigh to take pictures,” Melissa said. “… I was amazed at the number of people who came to take pictures of places like Charlotte and beyond.”
With the success of last year’s mural, Melissa and Drew decided to paint another one this spring. The new mural, which was recently completed, features a North Carolina-inspired butterfly, several lines of writing edged with pine cones, and two golden banners with “Gold Hill” and “North Carolina” written on it.
The couple’s canvas was the side of the modest building next door. Needing a place for their business and flower shops, the two began renting out the historic building last year.
Although it is old, it is not just any building. In his past life the building was a Texaco gas station located on NC 52. This is where Drew’s great-grandfather once worked and this is where his parents first met. . About 20 years ago, the entire building was moved to its current home at 860 St. Stephens Church Road.
Now the building is where Melissa and Drew run their flower business and where they painted a mural together.
“It makes me feel like I’m in the right place,” Melissa said. “It was a complete moment, as if you were in your place. It’s definitely a cool story that we love to tell people.
The new fresco also has special meaning for the couple. The last line of the official North Carolina state toast, which was passed by the General Assembly in 1957, is painted under a golden Gold Hill banner.
“That last line was something I said at our wedding,” Drew said. “We’ve always liked it and I thought it was kind of a neat line where people can walk out and if they want to have their picture taken in front of it.”
North Carolina, Drew likes to point out, is the only state in the country to raise a toast.
Painted on the right side of the mural, below the portion of the golden banner that reads “North Carolina,” is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Not only is it the official state butterfly, but thanks to Melissa’s painting, it is imprinted with the state flag..
“When I was preparing the mural, I wanted something that I see a lot of different cities doing, that is to put angel wings or butterflies on the side of buildings and make it an interactive thing in front of which people can stand, ”Melissa mentioned. “I thought it would be cool to mix the flag with the state butterfly.”
After starting the painting process in February, the butterfly was the first part Melissa completed. Even when the rest of the mural wasn’t finished, she saw plenty of people already taking photos in front of her exactly as she envisioned them.
The mural was completed in two months in the couple’s limited free time at the end of the day or on weekends. Melissa is a program coordinator at Central Piedmont Community College and Drew works full time at the couple’s home.
The rest of the couple’s waking hours are typically spent tending to the 20 or so flower varieties currently growing on their small farm. Melissa’s passion for growing flowers began in their Charlotte home several years ago. They didn’t fully blossom until the Hammills left town.
Being able to grow flowers on the land was one of the main reasons the couple moved to Gold Hill to start.
“(Melissa) does a lot of crafts and I love working in the yard, so it was a natural fit,” Drew said. “We thought it would be a good way to raise our daughter to be interested in the science of flowers and the environment and to do something more natural, not on a computer or in a cabin.”
Growing and selling flowers also gives the couple an excuse to meet new people and bring some happiness to strangers.
“Flowers bring a lot of joy to people, I think,” Drew said. “It’s fun to be able to meet locals or people who are driving from Charlotte to come here in the area.”
During peak season, Gold Hill Flower Company offers a ‘you choose’ option which gives people the opportunity to visit the farm on weekends, pick their own flowers, and make their own bouquets.
Hand-picked bouquets of flowers arranged by Melissa are also sold daily at a self-service stand under the awning of the old Texaco gas station.
“The goal is not that we have a business model, but we are trying to provide the opportunity for people to make it relaxed,” Drew said. “You need something for your girlfriend or you are going to an event, you can come see us and we will do it for a price probably much cheaper than buying the material in Charlotte.”
In addition to the flowers, which can be paid for by putting a few tickets in a cashier or electronically through Venmo, the couple have Gold Hill Flower Company stickers for sale at the stand. There were butterfly stickers painted on the mural, but these sold out almost instantly.
“A friend of mine who owns a shop in (Gold Hill) even asked me when I got more stickers,” Melissa said. “She said ‘I have all these sticker stalkers asking me where they can get a (butterfly) sticker.'”
Good news for “sticker stalkers” – Melissa has already placed an order for more.
In the meantime, people are welcome to visit the mural at any time. Many have already done so.
“We had a bunch of people come over and took pictures,” Drew said. “We have seen people who are getting married go out and take pictures together.”
Gold Hill Flower Company is located at 860 St. Stephens Church Road. His facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/goldhillflowerco/.