What does 50 years of loyalty and service look like? For us, it looks like Kathy Blaine, the Manager of our Sidney store.
We love to joke that Kathy started in the industry as a literal baby, but it’s kind of true. Kathy was a teenager when she began work experience through Royal Oak Middle School. Now, with 50 years of experience under her belt, she’s decided it’s time to hang up her floral clippers and take it easy.
Kathy is set to retire this September and we couldn’t be more happy for her as she enters a new chapter of her life! Of course, for us, it is a big loss. Kathy’s 50 years of knowledge, skill, and experience have been an invaluable asset to us.
More than anything, it’s Kathy’s steadfast presence that we will miss most. She hates it when we say it, but we’re going to go ahead and say it anyway… Kathy has become the Matriach at Brown’s (sorry Kathy!). We look to her when we have a problem we’re not sure how to solve, she’s always got the answers to our questions, even if it’s an answer we don’t really want to hear….she’s not one to sugarcoat things! Kathy is realistic, she’s incredibly wise, and she’s funnier than she knows. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to work with Kathy you probably know what a privilege that is.
Recently our Marketing Manager, Katherine, did an interview with her to get some of Kathy’s experience in her own words;
Can you walk us through your floral design experience from when you started?
K: My experience in the floral industry starts back in high school. I was given three choices for placements through our careers program at Royal Oak Middle School. I opted to work at a flower shop through this work experience program because it sounded the most fun. I worked at Ballantynes for a few years before working at Sidney Florist in 1978. It was purchased by Chris Dysart in 1980 when it became part of the Brown’s group. I have been with Brown’s The Florist for 45 years and worked as a florist for 50 years.
When did you become the Manager at our Sidney location?
K: I was manager of the Sidney flower store and our downtown location briefly before moving to Ottawa for a few years. I returned to Sidney in 1988 and officially came back as a manager at the Sidney location in 1989.
What have you enjoyed most about working within the small business community in Sidney?
K: I love being connected to the milestones and memorable experiences. I also love being a part of a team like Brown’s The Florist who really cares and being able to translate that compassion and quality into the community with flowers.
What were your greatest successes or accomplishments that you are proud of from your time working?
K: Training other florists and seeing them grow; watching someone gain new skills and see them surpass you is the greatest accomplishment. It’s humbling.
What were the most significant challenges you faced as a florist? How did you grow from them?
K: In all my time working, there was nothing quite as challenging as the pandemic; we were so fortunate that we were able to keep the store open, even if it meant selling through the door and not having customers in the store. Having to send flowers to the windows of some of the most isolated populations because the flowers couldn’t come inside, and not knowing what the future would hold. Through current owner, Natasha Crawford’s strong leadership, we grew through many of the changes that Covid brought us, and we were able to keep showing up for birthdays, new births, losses, and thoughtful messages.
What are some floral trends that you have seen come and go? What do you personally enjoy?
K: Pretty well every floral trend has gone and come back in style. I never thought I would see Pampas grass again! Many styles are recycled; there is an emphasis on unique combinations of flowers, textures, and colours. Sustainability and eco-consciousness have come into focus which is positive.
What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in your work environment since you started?
K: The industry has gone through many transformations. When I started, floral arrangements were more traditional and focused on classic designs, and there were fewer varieties of flowers available than there are today. There are so many different flower types, colours, and hybrids of things available to us now! It is amazing what we are even able to grow so close to home and bring into the shops too. The internet changed everything. Mostly, it freed up time and resources to be able to make more arrangements and help more customers send flowers. Transportation has improved immensely as well. Everything happens much quicker.
What advice would you give to other upcoming or aspiring floral designers?
K: Be humble always. There will always be someone better than you and lots of people to learn from. You can never stop learning.
Did you ever have a mentor? What did you value most from them?
K: Chris Dysart (previous owner), has been a huge mentor to me professionally and also just as a person. I have valued her insight and her ability to see things through a glass “half full”. She is a large part of who I am today.
How has this business affected your personal life?
K: This business can be hard on your family life at holidays with its long demanding hours. Our children end up being without us for a while. I am very thankful that my son was who he was, and that we were able to make this our “normal”.
Which flowers have held the most symbolism to you throughout your career and why?
K: Carnations. They’re resilient, the colours they come in are amazing, and they last a long time. Carnations have withstood the tests of time and have a lot of symbolism, just as roses do. They have come in and out of style and adapted to the changes in the floral world.
What are you most looking forward to in your retirement?
K: I have never not worked, so I don’t know what I don’t know yet. I am not going anywhere so I look forward to continuing to be a part of the Sidney community and having a new routine.
Apart from her role at Brown’s, Kathy’s also been a staple of the business community in Sidney for many years. She always knows what’s happening and is a willing and enthusiastic participant. We know the community will miss her just as we will!
As we move into a future with much change, we honor all that Kathy has done for us and taught us over the years. We know we are better for having Kathy as one of our leaders and will miss her greatly. We also know that she leaves us well-equipped to carry on her legacy of kindness, professionalism, and community-mindedness.
Kathy, as you look towards a very bright future, thank you doesn’t seem quite enough. We promise to do our very best to take all you’ve taught us and make you proud. Cheers to you as you take your time all to yourself and enjoy not working for the first time in your life!!