Career blossoms for longtime floral designer

February 22, 2011

By Laura Geggel

Wendy Taggart designs all of the floral arrangements at the Michael’s arts and crafts store in Issaquah. She earned two corporate awards for her work at Michael’s. By Laura Geggel

As a girl in Kent, Wendy Taggart often had a trowel in one hand and a plant in the other, a leafy shrub waiting to enter its earthy home in the ground.

Since then, her materials have changed, but not her passion for beautifying her corner of the world. Instead of limiting herself to real flowers, Taggart also uses artificial flowers made of silk, balloons of every color, candles and cloth galore for decorative events, including parties, weddings and auctions.

Many may recognize the Sammamish resident from the flower stand at Issaquah’s Michael’s craft store. Every artificial flower that enters the store passes through Taggart’s hands. She arranges some in custom-made floral arrangements, weaves others into wreaths, spruces up artificial ivy plants with moss and ties bows around spring bouquets.

Her creative work at Michael’s has earned her two corporate awards: 2010 outstanding performance in custom floral and creating holiday ambience, and top performer in custom floral sales for October 2010.

She has reason to celebrate in 2011, too; Taggart leads in sales in her entire district of 27 Michael’s stores since the new financial year began in February.

“Wendy is a true blessing to have at the store,” Issaquah Store Manager Chris Donahue said. “It’s the overall attitude she brings to the store. Wendy can cheer up our day if we’re feeling down.”

Cultivating her craft

Taggart credits her mother, who participated in a gardening club, for her lifelong affair with plants.

“I’ve always done stuff with flowers,” she said, “I’ve always gardened.”

She earned a business degree in Central Washington University, but spent her first few years after graduation getting married, having five children and doing secretarial work.

When a friend dragged her to a flower class in Kent, she resisted.

“I said, ‘I don’t want to do that. That’s boring,’” Taggart said.

At the class she made a wreath, and her husband “just loved it so much, he said, ‘Why don’t you just do a bunch of these things and sell them?’” she said. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”

She and her girlfriends began holding craft sales, and Taggart did decorative design work on the side, creating displays in furniture stores. She took the big leap into the floral world in 1985, when she opened her first flower shop in Tacoma.

Her store did so well, she opened four more, adding stores in Kent, Auburn, SeaTac and Bonney Lake. Wherever she opened stores, Taggart made connections at local grocery stores and hotels, designing flowers arrangements for new customers.

One store she bought from a friend was floundering, but after she took the helm its sales skyrocketed, and she sold it at a profit for $1 million.

Balloons take off

One day, a man walked into one of her stores and asked if she had any balloons. He turned out to be a balloon salesman who became a friend and the catalyst for her balloon expansion. For the next two years, Taggart studied balloons and passed her exams, becoming a certified balloon artist. Incorporating balloons into her business improved her bottom line by 60 percent.

There is much to consider when working with balloons, including a balloon’s type and size, the math of fitting balloons together and the design of the creation.

In one instance, Taggart made a giant cowboy out of balloons, with the children riding ponies under the cowboy’s legs.

“There is more than just blowing up a balloon,” she said, though, “My mother always said, ‘You’re going to balloon college.’”

After working for herself, Taggart opted to diversify her career, returning to office work, but later arranging flowers at Flintoft’s Funeral Home and Crematory, and then taking the floral designer job at Michael’s. She also started her own company, Simplee Wendy, so she can decorate weddings and events in her free time.

She charges between several hundred and several thousand dollars, depending on the project.

“I just enjoy the people,” she said. “I enjoy designing. I’ve always done flowers, no matter where I worked.”

On the Web

Find Simplee Wendy on Facebook or e-mail her at wttaggart61@aol.com.

Laura Geggel 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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