40 years later, Kay’s is still making people smile

Now run by the original Kay's daughter, Tracy, the enterprise is blooming

Tracy Kingston, the second generation owner of Kay's Petals & Plants, is getting ready for the 40th anniversary of the business her mother founded in 1976.
Tracy Kingston, the second generation owner of Kay's Petals & Plants, is getting ready for the 40th anniversary of the business her mother founded in 1976.

Tracy Kingston has fond memories of the time her mother, Kay Hammond, decided to open her own floral studio in Corunna, having worked first worked at a store in Lambton Mall for a couple of years.

When Kay’s Petals & Plants opened in 1976, it was the beginning of a journey that’s now 40 years in the making. Now retired, Kay, sold the store to Kingston in 2008.

But it’s that 1976 debut of Kay’s, today a landmark of sorts for Corunna and area customers (many in Sarnia and surrounding areas as well) that has Kingston pulling out all the stops as far as a 40th anniversary.

Tracy Kingston
Tracy Kingston

The big day is August 20 when Kay’s will hold its “Petal Palooza” a 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. celebration that will include a corn cookout (remember it’s August, an ideal time for that sort of thing) and what Kingston has dubbed a “Lone Arranger” competition that will feature four “celebrity” guests who will be handed a basket and surprise ingredients.

Those four, who have not yet been announced, will take part in an elimination contest.

The entire 40th anniversary celebration is actually being extended, having started earlier this summer, a reflection of the impact that store has had on Kay’s family, and especially her daughter Tracy, in those four decades.

“I was involved from grade eight,” notes Kingston. “My sister and I would be commissioned to do deliveries and it was the only job I had after school. I’ve been doing that sort of thing since.”

Kay’s Petals and Plants, which is on the river side of the road, was originally across the street before the property (originally a house) came up for sale. Kay jumped at the chance to buy it.

Kingston says she’s enjoyed the experience of almost literally “growing up in the business,” which included doing virtually every job in the operation, which has encouraged others to do the same and added to the flexibility built into the enterprise.

“We’re pretty flexible here,” she adds.

It’s also a family focused business, although Kingston has a sister who works as a pharmacy technician and is no longer involved in the business.

Her father, who passed some 14 years ago, worked in maintenance in Chemical Valley and helped behind the scenes at the floral studio.

The transition of ownership from Kay to Tracy was an easy one, again largely due that “do everything” rule.

“Mom had the foresight to allow me to do everything,” says Kingston. When the office manager retired, she took on that role.

Kingston went to floral designer school at the University of Guelph when she was 17, taking a “short but intensive” course that gave her the technical knowledge needed.

“I’m used to do designing,” she says. “But I can also do everything as an owner, which is something that’s important, especially if someone calls in sick.”

And perhaps most important, she still enjoys the work, although like any other business, there are some days that are more pleasant than others.

“Some days, you’re pulling your hair out,” she quips, although with a smile.

And the relationship with her Mom remains strong, as it was when the two ran the business.

“It really was a great relationship in the store,” says Kingston. “Mom did her thing and I did mine.”

At the August 20 event, there will also be a bit of a “walk down memory lane,” including a visual presentation of vintage pictures.

There will be a cake cutting at 3 p.m.

The 40th anniversary celebration will also continue through 2016, with drawings for free flowers (to the value of $400—a nod to the four decades).

“We’re trying to do everything 40 for obvious reasons,” says Kingston.

Even later in the year, Kingston has plans for an October Halloween colouring contest and in November, the store will hold its customary open house and design show.

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