An eye for design …
Keen’s Floral in Scranton is one of those wonderful places that immediately inspires a good mood. When you step inside, you’re surrounded with lovely (permanent) floral arrangements and decor – swags, trees, wreaths, garlands, ribbons, silk and dried flowers – and soothing scents like the aroma of dried eucalyptus. You’ll also find plenty of people to help guide you through the process of making something for your home, or who will bring a design to life for you. A Green Ridge Street staple, the business was established in 1987 by Bill and Michele Keen. Today, you’ll still find them working at the shop on a part-time basis. Their daughter, Wendy Wescott, is the co-owner of the business and she wears many hats. Not only does she manage the daily operations and serves as the shop’s buyer, she is also an accomplished designer. We recently caught up with Wescott to talk about trends in holiday decor, where she finds inspiration for her art, and what she envisions for Keen’s in the future. Meet Wendy Wescott …
For people who may not be familiar with your business, what is Keen’s? Can you share some of its history?
Keen’s is a family-owned and operated business. We started manufacturing Christmas products in vinyl, and today we offer custom floral design, wholesale and resale. If you’re a crafter, you can buy supplies here, but also, you can come here if you have an idea for something you want and we’ll make it for you.
How did you prepare for this kind of career?
I have a bachelor of science degree in business management from Alfred University with a focus on entrepreneurial studies and small business management, but I also took a lot of art classes, like pottery and drawing, on the side and I always had a flair for art. Just from being here and working with every designer who’s ever worked here, I’ve benefitted from picking up the best of every style. I’ve learned from every designer who has ever worked for us. And (I learn from) designers at trade shows and people who shop here.
We heard you have some very famous clients.
We work with the designers from Sesame Street, and we’ve supplied their flowers for a very long time. When they went to HD this year, they had to replace anything and everything that didn’t look real with things that looked very real. They came in and revamped their whole set and then they won the Emmy for best set design. When they accepted their award, they mentioned us. They said, “We wouldn’t have won this without Keen’s Floral.” We’ve been supplying them forever. So these amazing designers — they did the Muppet Movie — they come in and teach me. And when I go to a show, I take the classes and watch the demonstrations. I’m always looking for something new that I can bring back to the area and teach here. I’ll teach anyone who wants to learn. I’ve learned through exploration and reaching out and watching not just people who have worked here but the customers who come in, the big name designers. There are some very famous designers at these trade shows who will sit down and demonstrate anything to anyone who sits down and says, “I think you’re fabulous. Will you show me how to do that?” And they say, “Sure! Why not?” They’re so happy that somebody knows who they are and recognizes them.
Since we’re talking about teaching, do you offer classes to help people with their projects?
Yes, we give free classes on Thursday evenings and we try to alternate them. We’ll do a wallpiece one week and then the next week we’ll do a centerpiece for the table. We let people request what they’re going to make, and we let them make it within their budget. We give them a discount on the supplies, so they’re not paying for the class. They’re just paying for what they use. And we encourage them to bring something in from home to freshen up so they don’t even have to start from scratch.
We’re always looking for ways to recycle.
I don’t like to see stuff in the landfills, and there are always things that can be cleaned and reused if you have a quality product. Even if something fades to the point where it’s almost gone, there’s a tint you can apply and can bring it right back. In January a lot of people bring their Christmas decorations in. Don’t throw your things away. Bring them in and we’ll help you reshape or reglue them. It’s a great time before you store it away.
Let’s talk about trends. What are some of the hot design trends for the holidays?
Everybody wants topiaries and wild flowers. Those are huge. Wildflower wreaths are popular. People aren’t into big, bold flowers; they’re into lots of little flowers and multiple colors, and everything is very natural. Natural is in. And, believe it or not, magnolias are in.
Even for Christmas?
Yes, and for spring. And tulips have become the flower for all year, including Christmas. Ivory and red tulips can be used all year around now. We get requests for them all the time. Can you imagine making a Christmas wreath with red tulips on it? And glitter, no matter what the season, is popular. If it has glitter on it, it’s going to sell whether it’s a red heart or an Easter egg or a shamrock, it’s going to sell over something that doesn’t. In terms of ribbons and wreaths, the deco mesh is popular. So those are things to watch for new designs coming out of those.
Once the holiday season comes to an end, what are some future goals you have for the shop?
One thing I want to do is apply for a grant. We’re still looking at what the kitchen was like when this place was a bar. Over the years, we haven’t put the money into the building; we put it into the product and the customers. I want to apply for a grant to beautify this building from the outside. I want to make us look like an old Southern estate or a mansion that’s covered in vines and flowers. I just have this vision of beautifying this corner of Green Ridge Street in North Scranton — especially now. I know that Goodwill is going to do an amazing job with the (former North Scranton Junior High School). It’s really been getting nicer along Green Ridge Street. Coming up from the Hollywood section of Dunmore they built condos, and then Walgreen’s came in. We just have to bring it down to this end, and I really think it can keep spreading. There are such nice, old homes here and people want to keep it that way. So that’s my hope and dream.
— julie imel
Keen’s Floral is located at 7 Green Ridge St., Scranton. To learn more, visit them on Facebook and www.keensfloral.com. If you’re interested in the Thursday evening classes, call 344-0535 to register.