By Keysha Drexel
And the retail veteran who has owned and operated Blackjack Gardens and Blackjack Farms for the last 15 years said she has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“I was retirement age when I started this, but I think if I had gone the traditional route and retired at that age, I would have been bored,” she said. “Here, there’s never a dull moment, and I love it. I’m never going to retire.”
Gorrie, who lives in Crestline, runs the gardens and farms with her husband and children. The 800-acre farmland near Trussville has been in her husband’s family for generations.
Fifteen years ago, Gorrie said, she decided to embark on the next chapter of her life, and she knew she wanted it to involve the farmland.
“When we started, there was nothing here but a vacant lot and my vision,” she said.
Now that vision has become a reality with Blackjack Gardens, a 10,000-square-foot showroom chock-full of an eclectic collection of furnishings, accessories and lifestyle products.
Gorrie said Blackjack Gardens is a natural progression from her career before retail.
After attending Auburn University, Gorrie received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from American University in Washington, D.C. She taught art for several years and then became an active volunteer in the community once she moved back to the Birmingham area.
For several years, Gorrie worked at the Gate House Gift Shop at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
“I think my time working in art and my time working at the gift shop both led me to where I am today. I learned to develop an eye for things during both of those jobs, and that has a lot to do with what I try to do here at Blackjack Gardens every day,” she said.
While the economy has been tough on the retail industry in the last few years, Gorrie said she takes pride in knowing she helps her customers create their own vacation-at-home atmospheres.
“Even if people couldn’t afford to go to the beach, I felt like we could offer them someplace special to relax at their own homes,” she said.
Gorrie said she thinks the continued success of Blackjack Gardens comes down to her understanding her customers and their loyalty.
“In this economy, you really have to find your niche, and we’ve been able to do that,” she said.
Gorrie said she’s never regretted giving up a traditional retirement for a second career.
“For me, rattling around in a house by yourself is not the answer,” she said. “There’s never been a moment where I wanted to walk away, where I didn’t want to come to work.”
What draws her to the office every morning, Gorrie said, are the relationships she has formed with her customers over the years.
“I love people and I love to make them happy. That’s a great motivator. The only problem I have when it comes to getting to work every morning is figuring out what I’m going to wear,” she said.
The grandmother of five grandchildren and three step grandchildren said she thinks continuing to work at a job she loves has kept her sharp and healthy.
“You have to stay active. You have to keep learning. You have to believe in yourself and go after your dreams, no matter how old you are,” she said.