Alabaster’s orchid man
By SANDRA THAMES / Community Columnist
Some people have several jobs in their lifetimes, even changing fields of work and interest, but not Johnny Sarris. Born in 1938 at Norwood Hospital and raised in the “Hollywood” area of Homewood, Sarris was working by the age of 15 for a gentleman who ran an orchid nursery across from where Brookwood Village stands today.
He started this job doing odd jobs, hauling dirt, making pathways and placing plants. Then he began to really study and learn with all his heart about the many varieties and delicate constitution of one of the most treasured flowers on earth.
“I went from the crib to orchids with no stops in between,” Sarris joked.
Graduating form Shades Valley High School in 1957, Sarris continued to grow and learn the orchid business from Harold Wright. When the plans for Brookwood Village were being considered, Mr. Wright’s 12 acres of land were needed, and he decided to sell.
Sarris bought all the stock from Wright, came to Alabaster and bought the Butler homeplace from Mr. Robert Butler.
Although it was a wholesale business, Sarris’ orchids have decorated the shoulders, waists or wrists of many Alabaster ladies – whether for proms, pageants, weddings or parties.
In 2001 a friend/customer bought the nursery and paid Sarris to run it for him. In 2006 the stock was moved to Florida.
Sarris still has some 95 rosebushes and five varieties of orchids.
“It’s a hobby now, but more than that, it is a passion of mine,” Sarris said. “I have traveled extensively: Seventeen cruises to the Caribbean, five to Cancun and most of all an orchid safari in Belize to collect rare specimens. But if money were no object I would love to go around the world.”
From 1988 until 2000, Sarris was an Alabaster City Councilman. The last four years he served as council president.
Of Greek descent, he has a ready smile, a helping spirit and an easy wit. “Life has not always been great, but it is what it is. I try to make the most of each day I’m given,” Sarris said.