How Keith McClung and the Crown Florals staff bring holiday cheer to the community.
If you’ve strolled through Parkersburg any given holiday season in the past several years, you’ve probably seen the handiwork of Keith McClung. McClung and his staff at Crown Florals and Gifts, which he owns with his wife, are the de facto team of Santa’s elves for the Parkersburg community. They spend the fall and winter months not only managing their brick-and-mortar store, but also giving businesses and private residences the decorative holiday makeovers they deserve.
McClung got his start right out of high school, working at JCPenney in the visual merchandising department. “I remember that was back in the days where department stores’ displays were very product-driven,” he says. “We spent a lot of time and we took a lot of pride in those decor efforts.” Those elaborate JCPenney installations set the stage for McClung’s post-college career as the marketing director at Grand Central Mall in Parkersburg. He took this position at a time, he says, when a local mall’s holiday decorations would be the talk of the town. If there were ever a boot camp for dreaming up grand displays of holiday spirit, that would be it.
Now, years into perfecting his craft, McClung has come full circle. Grand Central Mall is no longer his employer, but it’s one of the clients his own Crown Florals and Gifts team services each year. They decorated about 35 properties for the holidays in 2017 but, in the years since, they’ve expanded the Crown Florals & Gifts retail space, honed their time and resources, and settled into a routine with about a dozen good installation clients. “In Parkersburg, we live in an amazing community where people that live and breathe the same air as us support small businesses every day,” McClung says, noting that most of his customers repeat from year to year. “Some of that is full-blown—all of their decor. Some of those may be a company that has 20 exterior planters around their building, and we add the Christmas greens. But the majority of them are internal installations for companies.”
He and his wife personally curate and own all the decorations used in the community’s holiday decor projects and take them back to their own facility after the holidays are over. This means they enjoy a consistently growing inventory at their fingertips every time a new idea is needed. The inventory even includes non-holiday items for weddings and themed corporate events that the McClungs also spearhead throughout the year. “I never sell my theme decorations,” McClung says. “So what’s great is, I can always pull those out and say, ‘Oh yeah, we’d love to do a Wild West picnic for 4,000.’”
Using this vast array of tools to mix and match, experiment with, and inspire them each year, the team at Crown Florals and Gifts has made a name for itself creating installations that are elaborate and upscale, yet fit into each client’s specific vision. One client may ask for bright, traditional Christmas decorations throughout an entire building, another might envision something campy and cartoony to liven up their business, and a third may want sleek, modern, minimalist adornments at home—McClung and his team do it all. “I always want the client to tell me what they enjoy,” he says. “I don’t want their decisions to be dictated by what my inventory is or what my personal style is, because this is their Christmas, not mine.”
As for his own tastes, McClung says he favors the traditional when it comes to Christmas—he wants the nostalgia that timeless pieces bring to the forefront. This is perhaps illustrated best by the time, years ago, when he raced across town to snag the original 15 animated elves that Grand Central Mall had used when it first opened. They were about to go in the dumpster when someone called him to ask if he wanted to take them instead. “I couldn’t drive fast enough,” he says. “They had them in the attic of this building, and I looked at them and they were pristine. I got them home and every one of them worked when I plugged them in.”
The timing was perfect, it turns out. Soon after he rescued these animatronic elves, the mall was due to celebrate its 45th anniversary. Management asked McClung to help out with the holiday decorations for the big milestone, and he suggested they bring the vintage elves from the mall’s early years back to life. “We took them all to the center court, and we created this beautiful, nostalgic display,” he says. “We had people saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I have pictures of me beside these displays when I was a kid.’” Now their kids, and McClung’s, too, would have the same pictures.
These feelings of awe and holiday magic—whether they come from revitalized keepsakes or brand new traditions—are emblematic of what McClung aims for with all of his community installations. So next time you’re in Parkersburg around the holidays, try to catch a glimpse. And definitely take a walk through Grand Central Mall—the decades-old elves that created so many memories still come back to make more, each and every year. crownflorals.com