Traditions and Family in Full Bloom

After decades, Woodland Floral enjoys continued, flourishing business in the modern age

By Molly Priddy
From left: Penny Kiger, Jordan Kiger, Fay Wolf, Taylor Kiger and her dog Troubadour. Woodland Floral in Kalispell on Jan. 29, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Plenty has changed since 1908.

For example, you could be reading this on your smartphone or computer, but that was the year the first long-distance radio message was sent, emanating from the Eiffel Tower.

Teddy Roosevelt sat in the White House, Oklahoma’s star was added to the flag, and William Durant founded the company that would eventually become General Motors.

It was also the year that greenhouses were built on what were then the outskirts of Kalispell. A flower shop was added in 1934, and Woodland Floral has occupied the space on Sixth Avenue East ever since.

But for Fay and Wes Wolf, who bought the shop from the original owner’s granddaughter in 1979, it’s what hasn’t changed in the last 108 years that matters.

“The reasons for flowers haven’t changed all that much,” Fay Wolf said. “It’s a business that is very enjoyable because we bring the joy of flowers into someone’s life.”

Fay, whose favorite flower is the spicy-scented stock flower, is the matriarch of what has become a family floral business, having sold it to her youngest daughter, Penny Kiger, in 2007. Penny’s daughters, Taylor and Jordan Kiger, also work in the shop.

The family has been selling floral arrangements long enough to have prepared the flowers for weddings, then for the first babies resulting from those weddings, and then for the weddings resulting from those same babies growing up.

And last week, the week before Valentine’s Day, proved a busy one for the shop. The phone rang with consistency, flowers and cards were arranged quickly and expertly, and Troubadour, the floral shop’s resident canine, sought scratches from customers.

It is, for all intents and purposes, a family business. When Jordan and Taylor were each born, they were placed in boxes filled with soft, pleasant greenery. Penny and Fay remember customers walking in to the back office, picking up whichever baby was there, and only then going back their shopping in the store.

“It’s a good, wholesome atmosphere to raise a family,” Fay said.

Fay has stayed on working at the store despite not owning it; she said retirement might not suit her very well, and she enjoys the lively environment there. Having been in the business for nearly 40 years, the heart of it may be the same, but there are some changes.

For instance, e-business is a huge part of their customer base. And with so many online stores selling flowers, Woodland Floral has managed to keep its spot with customers because of the personal service.

If an Internet order doesn’t ship properly, or is incorrect, the customer may have to deal with it through an online form or digital customer service, Fay noted. But all they have to do at Woodland Floral is call and speak to a human being to get the matter cleared up.

“We do a lot of online business,” Fay said.

As the current owner, Penny – favorite flower: sunflower – has considerable experience in the floral world. She went to the University of Montana, worked in Portland, and had a job in the wholesale floral business in Spokane before coming back to take over the shop.

She’s the fastest in the store when it comes to putting arrangements together, a considerable skill for when those emergency “I have a funeral in an hour and no flowers” calls come in. It’s a natural skill, she said.

“I was 10 when mom and dad bought this place,” Penny said.

In the few moment between answering the phone or building orders, Fay, Penny, Jordan, and Taylor – favorite flower: circus roses and red tulips – linger in the store’s office, discussing the impending birth of Taylor’s son and Jordan’s upcoming departure to the U.S. Air Force.

Having graduated from Flathead High School last year and not having the patience or desire to stand still long enough to craft an arrangement, Jordan, whose favorite flower is the Gerbera daisy, is running deliveries until she leaves for boot camp.

It’s been work, but it’s also familiar and comfortable.

“It’s been nice to be with family,” she said.

For more information on Woodland Floral, visit www.woodlandfloralkalispell.com.

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