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Melrose International

Stylistically Speaking

Meet our designers, Ken and Pam.

The heart of Melrose is our décor and the way it is displayed, and that is a direct compliment to our talented retail designers, Ken Fetgatter, AIFD, (the recipient of numerous floral awards) and Pam Schieffer. This week, we highlight their background and experience and share their helpful tips for your displays. Today, we start with Ken Fetgatter.

Ken graduated from college more than a few years ago with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture in the field of Floral Design and Flower Shop Management. He managed two different flower shops until, in 1984, Ken and his wife Donna opened a small retail flower shop of their own in the suburbs of Chicago.

Over the next 25 years, Ken and Donna grew their business while raising two girls and somehow finding time for a few favorite activities. Ken is an active basketball and tennis player, a college basketball fan, and an avid dancer. In fact, dance and music are more than just entertainment for Ken – they’re an important part of his life. And his love for the active life of sports and dance shows in his daughters – one grew up to be a college basketball player, and the other a dancer, before each embarking on teaching careers.

Beyond the busy schedule of the shop and time with family, Ken stayed active in the industry through the years by attending floral seminars and entering design contests. His talents were soon recognized by the Knud Nielsen Co., which offered him the opportunity to join their design team. Traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada, Ken found that he had the talent not only for teaching, but also for captivating and entertaining audiences in the process. In 1987, he was inducted into the American Institute of Floral Designers, and over the next 15 years, represented industry leaders on stage at floral conventions and symposiums – AFS, Teleflora, Professional Presentations and a major balloon company among them. (That’s right, a balloon company. Ask Ken sometime what happens to helium balloon creations in the thin air of mile-high Denver…)

Throughout the 1990s, as Ken’s experience and reputation grew, he had opportunities to match. One fall he decorated the town of Telluride, Colorado, spending over four weeks decorating the area’s ski lifts, 150 lampposts and many 40-foot tall trees throughout the town. Ken also worked internationally, most notably when he spent a month in Hong Kong teaching Western Floral Design.

Closer to home, Ken began designing and helping with showrooms at the Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago markets. It was during this period that Ken was introduced to Melrose, which turned out to be a perfect fit. Not long after, Ken had quite the run of life events over the course of four months: he and his wife became grandparents, they sold their shop, Ken turned 50, and he then became a full-time employee of Melrose!

Ken says today, “I am happier than ever. Melrose is my home, my family and life as a grandpa is awesome.” Ken and Donna have a new grandchild on the way, and are looking forward to all the joys that will bring to the lives of their family members. Meanwhile, Ken still relishes the challenges that Melrose brings. “I love my life with Melrose,” he says. “Creating for our company and our customers keeps me growing and constantly challenged. With my retail background, satisfying customers has always been a part of my life. Pleasing and helping our Melrose customers has been fun and a great learning experience.”

Below, Ken shares some insights from his experience in retail display, and what he’s seeing today that can help Melrose customers set up their shops to sell more product.

Is there an area of décor in which you specialize?

Ken: I like to think that I specialize in taking the ordinary and making something special of it. Some ideas are so simple that many ask themselves, Why didn’t I think of that?

What is the biggest change you have seen in the business over the years?

Ken: Colors come and go but green has always been a sure bet. The shade may change from avocado to lime, mint to celery, but green is always a constant, and 2013 is the year for emerald! The floral industry alone has been through many changes. Years ago we had plastic, synthetics onto latex, fabrics, foam and back again. Today’s florals are cleaner forms with an emphasis on detail. They must look real!

What should be the top goal when creating a display?

Ken: To make money! While a good display should always have great color and a good sense of eye movement that stimulates interest, eventually we want to create the urge to buy!

What do you find aesthetically pleasing when viewing displays?

Ken: When creating a display I always try to keep it simple and use color effectively. You need to understand color and how it works. An aesthetically pleasing display will excite the viewer through color, line and product. It will tell the story and not be confusing.

What advice would you give to those attempting to make attractive displays?

Ken: Too many times, we over display and clutter the view, leaving the customer confused and dizzy. Keeping it clean and simple with one or few thoughts allows the customer to digest and appreciate what they have seen. When we can relate and understand, we buy more.

What do you see as the trends for the upcoming year?

Ken: Being bold with nature. Icons such as owls, birds, dragonflies, frogs and rabbits with lead the way. Colors will be strong with shades of green and neutrals of linen, grays and taupes. You will see tone on tone giving a sense of reinforcement along with creating depth. Patterns and textures will be geometric and repetitive. Grids and lattice will be apparent on metals and textiles adding structure to the urban flare. Burlap is here to stay. You will find it in flowers, linens and ribbons, and you will find burlap accents in home décor on figurines, table pieces and wall décor. It’s not the burlap we grew up with. It has a sense of style and wealth.

What makes Melrose a special place to work or to do business with?

Ken: I would have to say our people. They are great, always kind, courteous and willing to help. Plus, we are a big company with a small-town heart. I used to be a Melrose customer, and they have always made me feel special, like a person, not just a number or an account. Now that I am an employee my feelings have not changed. As a matter of fact, I believe it even more now. Being part of the creative team for the last several years has been some of the best years of my life. I love designing for Melrose and all of our customers. I want to be a better designer and help all I can, so keep the comments coming. I need them so I can improve for you!

Coming tomorrow: meet Ken’s partner in Melrose design, Pam Schieffer!

Melrose International is an industry leader in wholesale home décor, giftware, and seasonal items. Providing outstanding products, service, design, and value since 1985!


  • February 27, 2013

    Cindy McDannold

    I always enjoy your videos and learn a lot from them. I was able to attend Chicago Market for the first time and was in decor heaven.
    As I was standing in the Melrose area I saw a gentleman that I thought for sure was you. I took off running (as much as an old woman can) and waiving my hand saying “Ken, Ken, Ken” and leaving my friends standing with their mouths open and wondering what was going on. I caught up with the man and when he turned around the first thing I saw was his “Chris” nametag. Was my face RED. I apologized and he was very polite to a very embarrassed Ken fan.
    Now my fellow florists remind me repeatedly about chasing men down aisles. I don’t think they will let me forget it.
    I guess I just wanted to tell you how very important your shared information is to everyone trying to do the best job they can. Please keep up the flow of ideas, it is greatly appreciated. Cindy


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