Forty years of gifts and more

Photo by Christy Porter
A special gift for Licking from Joan Brannam was the beautifully decorated Christmas windows at TJ’s Flowers & Gifts. TJ’s won second place in the window decorating contest.

By Shari Harris

The year was 1979. Jimmy Carter was President, John Paul II was the Pope, Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane were everyone’s favorite TV bumbling villains, Patricia Hearst was released from prison for bank robbery and Margaret Thatcher became the first woman prime minister of the United Kingdom. Times were different; about half of the current U.S. population wasn’t even born yet.
Joan Brannam was a licensed nurse and a mother, with two daughters (Teresa and Johna) still at home. In August 1979, Brannam bought a plaster business from her daughter-in-law’s aunt and opened TJ’s Plaster Crafts in the front part of the building where Rustic Haven is located on Highway 32. She created crafts from plaster molds then painted them to offer for sale in her store.
Turn the clock forward to 2019. Everything has changed, including TJ’s. Brannam and her business have evolved to meet the changing needs of her customers; Brannam’s life has evolved as well. The mother with daughters still at home now often has a great-granddaughter or two in her store. As her customers expressed their desire for different types of merchandise, Brannam adjusted her stock to meet their needs. Plaster transitioned to ceramics and other gifts and fresh flower arrangements were added to her inventory. The small building where she started, once used as a laundromat, is a distant memory for her; she moved to a brick building on Main Street in 1996.
The two-story structure had housed Sisk Pharmacy on the street level and the Masonic Lodge had met on the top level, but the building had been empty for a few years when Brannam bought it. She added an indoor staircase to access the upstairs and added a Re-Use It Shop to her business. Customers who enter TJ’s Flowers & Gifts today will see a variety of gift items, memorial items, decorative items and flowers. The staircase continues to lead to the upstairs Re-Use It Shop. Just a block down the street is another TJ’s, TJ’s Flea Market, where vendors offer items for sale. Brannam manages this business as well.
Over the years, Brannam has juggled many responsibilities. For nine years, until the early 2000s, she worked early mornings and evenings at a café in Success that had belonged to her parents, while continuing her businesses in Licking. Anyone who has attended a community event is likely to have seen her; as a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the Secretary-Treasurer for Licking Downtown Inc., Brannam devotes a great amount of time to making events sponsored by these groups successful. She is also a long-time member of the VFW Auxiliary and is involved in their activities.
Brannam has made comments about slowing down, but if actions truly speak louder than words, it may be another couple of decades before that happens. The pace she keeps is admirable. Says Brannam, “I just enjoy doing it and I enjoy meeting the people.”
In the meantime, if you’ve never been in TJ’s Flowers & Gifts (or TJ’s Flea Market), you should see what Brannam has in stock. She’s spent the past forty years keeping up with the needs of her customers, so she just may have what you’re looking for, as well.
Congratulation on forty years and we look forward to seeing what the evolution of TJ’s will be in the years to come.



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