24 hours with joe jumper

“A day in the life at The Clay Pot is always different, you never know who’s going to walk in the front door—and people walking through the door is the heart of any business,” says Joe Jumper, owner of The Clay Pot, a floral shop and event design company in Chattanooga, Tennessee. For 28 years, Jumper has been putting his heart into his craft, delivering creative and beautiful details for weddings, events, birthdays, and other celebrations, as well as into his community, by hosting a number of events and programs throughout the year that include camps, workshops, and creative ways to give back. “I’ve been very fortunate after all these years to have so many wonderful customers, from all walks of life, who have become lifelong friends,” says Jumper. “They are the heartbeat of The Clay Pot, and what make each day at The Clay Pot so special.” Here, the man locals refer to as an “Imagineer” (a combination of the words “imagine” and “engineer”) takes us through 24 hours in his busy life.


6:02 a.m.: My radio alarm clock goes off. I have this thing about liking the time 6:02—always have. I usually lay in bed for a while and listen to music and the morning news before getting up to start my day. Then, I make a pot of coffee, walk outside to get my newspaper, and sit for a while, drinking coffee and reading.

7:30 a.m.: I’m not a fancy guy when it comes to clothes. It always stresses me out when I have to dress up for an event. With my job, my goal is to look nice, pulled together, but nothing fancy. I’ve ruined many an outfit in the work that I do. My go-to uniform, especially in the summer, is a knit collared shirt, ironed shorts (yep, I iron every morning), and some white socks (a style I inherited from my dad. He gave me new white socks every single Christmas, usually gift-wrapped in a Hefty garbage bag and a random ribbon).

I finish off my ensemble with some comfy slip-on shoes. My family makes fun of me for them, but what can I say? With my work, comfy matters. I once heard a movie director say that the key to keeping your feet comfortable when shooting a movie is to change your shoes multiple times during the day. I totally agree. As soon as I walk in my home after work, I put on my “after work” slip-on shoes.

9:00 a.m.: My work day begins. Each morning, when I first arrive, I make my master list of orders that we have going out for the day. I list the areas, the item, the price, and the description. I compose my flower list for the orders we have on the board, plus additional orders that we might receive during the day. I’ve always felt it was important to buy my flowers daily and not to buy in bulk. This ensures the freshest flowers daily. Before I leave to pick up my flowers, I make a to-do list for my crew (we call ourselves The Clay Potters), check my emails, and everyone starts doing their thing.

10:00 a.m.: I head to my local supplier to pick out my flowers for the day. I have the best salesman, Mike, who I’ve worked with for over 15 years, and have known for over 20. Many times, I have thought about the fact that I see Mike more than anyone else that I know—that includes family, friends, even my staff. He is one great guy, and I couldn’t ask for a better salesman and friend. We kid each other often; he said to me once, “I do more for you than my ex-wife,” which is classic Mike. I’m so grateful for all he does for me.

10:45 a.m.: I get back to the shop, where we process the flowers and start working on orders. Life at The Clay Pot is always pretty crazy. Some days are hectic, some days are even more hectic. Each day is different. It amazes me how time flies, but it sure does.

I’m fortunate to have a great staff. To me, it’s so important to surround yourself with talented people. There is no way I could do what I do without wonderful support. Connie Muldoon has been with me for over 20 years, and she’s priceless! She’s my go-to gal for anything and everything, including climbing the tallest ladders, which is how she got the nickname Connie Chandelier. I also employ a lot of college students. I think it would surprise people to know how well they learn, and their talent is amazing.

We have a few traditions at the shop that have been going on for years. For holidays, I always let my staff make a special arrangement to take home for their mothers—the one catch is they have to include a handwritten note with the flowers. Another holiday tradition is PROJECT SNOWMAN, a free family event we hold that benefits The Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, which was inspired by my mother, Ann Jumper, who was such a selfless person, and who worked by my side for almost 20 years. We also host holiday workshops, where I share tribute stories of my family with the attendees. And it always makes me happy when I receive photos from former Clay Potters who are asked by their families to decorate their homes for the holidays—centerpieces, mantels, you name it.

24 hours with joe jumper

11:00 a.m.: In addition to working on tasks for the day, today we are also prepping for a wedding. We have already met with the bride many times and have a clear vision of everything we will need. For each wedding, we have an itemized list of each item, flower recipes for each arrangement, a list of containers, props, rentals, candles, linens, and layouts.

12:00 p.m.: I like to go somewhere quick for lunch just to get away from the shop for a minute. On days like today, when we are prepping for a large event, I buy lunch for all of us at one of our neighborhood restaurants. This saves time, and we’re lucky to have some great restaurants in Riverview. We’ll usually get lunch from Vine Street Market, Las Margaritas, or Tremont Tavern.

1:00 p.m.: Back at the office, we continue working on wedding prep and getting orders out.

2:00 p.m.: I prefer scheduling our event meetings in the afternoons. Today, I have a meeting with a customer for an upcoming 50th birthday party for her husband at their home, where we go over each detail. I like to start my meetings as if I’m arriving at the party myself—what comes first, then second, and so on. This is so no detail is overlooked. It also helps me envision what the guests will see.

For this party, the plan includes a tent, lighting and sound, music, rentals, linens, and florals. During the meeting, one of our staff members, Ben Allen, takes notes on a laptop so we have all the information we’ll need when we’re coming up with the estimate. Ben is amazing at keeping me organized. If we have a site visit, he goes along with me to keep track of every detail.

3:30 p.m.: After the meeting, we make a list of all the vendors we need to contact and any details we might need to work out. Lots of organization is always required. We may have well over 200 items per event that have to be implemented.

4:00 p.m.: We finish up our tasks and begin prepping for the next day. Before we leave, we straighten up the shop and put any leftover flowers in the cooler.

5:00 p.m. Yep, I blinked, and the work day is done.

5:30 p.m.: When I get home, I like to drink one more cup of coffee and sit for a bit. This is my little “me time” each day. I check my social media feeds—usually, I’ll post something we’ve done that day or photos from one of our events on my Instagram or Facebook—and figure out what I’m going to do for dinner.

6:30 p.m.: I really like to cook, but some nights I enjoy going out to dinner. My brother, Jay, will often call me to meet him and his wife, Dawn, and we’ll go out to eat somewhere. Chattanooga has many great restaurants, and while we don’t do fancy, we always have many options. Tonight, we meet at Il Primo in Riverview, always a crowd-pleaser.

8:30 p.m.: I like a good reality television show (Big Brother has always been one of my favorites). Usually, my evenings consist of watching a little of my “quality” TV, working on my iPad, and just hanging out until bedtime.

11:30 p.m.: You guessed it, I take off my “comfy shoes” and get ready for bed!

Photography by Kyle MacKillop. The Clay Pot is featured in The Scout Guide Chattanooga.