Wren’s Florist & Greenhouses owners Kelli LeVan and her daughter Baylie LeVan and their staff made an early arrival at the 500 E. Columbus Ave. business — 4:17 a.m. to be exact — on Mother’s Day last year, working on client orders for corsages, boutonnieres and bouquets, as both the holiday and a local high school prom fell on the same day.
While a nap might have been needed later in the day once all of the work was complete, the mother and daughter pair were happy to put in this effort that aligns with their passions — creating beautiful floral pieces to bring cheer to others and taking good care of their customers.
The same tireless work ethic and hometown-centered tradition has been part of Wren’s Florist & Greenhouses now for 100 years, as the business marks the milestone anniversary this year as a family-owned operation.
“We’re very honored to continue the legacy of Wren’s in serving our community,” said Mrs. LeVan, who with her husband, Scott, and daughter moved into their new roles as owners on Jan. 1, 2020, after purchasing the business from Kaye Van Ness Couchman.
“Our customers have been wonderful and the community gracious as we’ve made this transition.”
In 1922, S.C. Wren and Son Greenhouse opened at the same 500 E. Columbus Ave. location by Sample Wren and his son, Pete.
Mrs. Couchman, who later would work at Wren’s for 53 years and serve as owner for 38 years, remembers Sample and Pete Wren and has fond members of the floral shop and the greenhouse as a youngster, as she grew up around the corner on Eastern Avenue.
“They were very kind to the neighborhood children,” she said of the owners and staff.
“We thought we were pretty special when we’d find flowers in a pile that they had thrown out, and we’d rush to take them home to our parents.
“They were very good about letting the kids go through the greenhouse, and they would give us pretty ribbons and bows that had been recycled from various projects.”
In 1962, the business became Wren’s Florist & Greenhouses when it was purchased by Dick and Polly Neff.
Following her 1964 graduation from Bellefontaine High School, Mrs. Couchman began working at Wren’s in 1966 at age 19.
“I had no idea that I’d spend so many years there,” she said of the more than five decades she spent at Wren’s. “It seemed like a good fit at the time, since I had been working at another greenhouse and I heard that Dick and Polly were looking for help.”
Mrs. Couchman said Pete Wren was still a regular face at the business at that time, and would have his “regular stool where he would come in and sit for a spell.”
Kaye and her business partner Carl Lowery purchased Wren’s Florists & Greenhouses in 1981. They each had been longtime employees of the business. Lowery continued his work there until the time of his death in 2003.
“We had the best customers; we were very fortunate,” Mrs. Couchman said. “It was the people and our employees that made it so rewarding. I can say I looked forward to going into work each day.
“It was truly my privilege to work here for so many years. We were able to come alongside people in the good times, and to support them in the hard times.”
Kaye’s daughter Melody Couchman began working for Wren’s as well in 1984, and continuing through until Kaye’s official retirement in late 2019. She said her mother, who turned 75 in September, led by example and her motivated, quiet and unassuming spirit created an enjoyable work environment.
The longtime business owner’s care and dedication also was previously honored with a Logan County Chamber of Commerce Integrity in Business Award and a Bellefontaine City Schools Friends in Education Award.
“It was a heartfelt business for Kaye, by how she treated her employees and her customers,” her daughter said. “It was genuine, not just in her words, but especially through her actions.
“On those long hours that we would put in around certain holidays, she was right here with us. It was a very special place to work. We were a work family in every best sense of the word.”
Being able to serve in an integral role in the lives of their customers — through taking care of their wedding flowers and finding special items to celebrate a birth to remembering those who have passed away through floral arrangements at a funeral — is a privilege highlighted by Kaye and Melody Couchman, and now for mother-and-daughter pair Kelli and Baylie LeVan as well.
“What you’re able to be a part of, you don’t take that for granted,” Melody said of the several generations of families that she and her mother took care of. “That’s what made the business so special, and Mom helped to set the tone for that.”
“We love our customers and talking to people,” Mrs. LeVan said. “It has been so fun getting into this role.
“It’s wonderful to help celebrate birthdays, ‘I love you’s,’ and many holidays, and an honor that we can help remember loved ones, as we will coming up for Memorial Day and for funerals.”
When the LeVans first took over ownership, it was just two months later that the COVID-19 pandemic would begin to affect daily life.
“COVID slowed us down a little, but it was good in some ways, so that that we could get our bearings,” said Mrs. LeVan, an avid gardener and longtime lover of cultivating flowers on their family’s 5-acre property just south of Bellefontaine
“We did receive a lot of orders for flowers for nursing homes during that time. It was pretty neat that we could help families send some cheer to their loved ones at an otherwise difficult time, when they couldn’t visit in person.”
During the last year, activities have picked up once again relating to weddings, prom and other holidays and celebrations, proving a busy and exciting spring and summer of 2021, Mrs. LeVan said.
Through the business, the LeVans also are enjoying giving back to their community through the Vets to D.C. non-profit organization and various school activities, such as the Bellefontaine High School Academic Boosters annual wreath sale and also a recent fundraiser for the Benjamin Logan spring musical.
“We sold punch cards as a fundraiser for the Ben Logan musical, where people are able to receive a bouquet each month for six months,” Mrs. LeVan said. “It brings people in each month and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Baylie, a 2019 Benjamin Logan High School graduate, has been enjoying the creativity aspect of the position and will be attending design classes in the fall in the Dayton area to become a floral design professional.
“I’m excited and am looking forward to growing my confidence in going to school,” she said.
Similarly, Mrs. LeVan said transforming her personal hobby of enjoying flowers and gardening and into a professional business has been an inspiring time.
“I’ve always been crafty and have enjoyed scrapbooking for years, so this creative business just seemed to fit my passions,” said the former insurance agent for A.C. Insurance Agency in Bellefontaine.
“My friends and I had always talked about opening a greenhouse when we retired. I guess I got a little jump start on our plans.”
The 1988 Graham High School graduate and St. Paris native related it is special to her and her daughter to continue the century-old hometown florist tradition. They love finding historic items at the business — including a 1941 calendar advertising Wren’s that is now on display by the check-out area.
Also among their historic treasures has been seed store receipt from 1933 and typed information from the Florists’ Telegraph Delivery Association dated from 1941, now FTD, showing the many changes in the industry.
Continuing through the milestone year, Wren’s Florist & Greenhouses is celebrating its anniversary by hosting various giveaways, including last month’s giveaway of 10 bouquets of flowers for 10 different people. Upcoming giveaways will be announced on the business’ Facebook page.
In addition to their regular services and specialty products, the greenhouse at Wren’s is opening this week with a variety of annuals, patio pots and hanging baskets for sale, Mrs. LeVan noted.
Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The business can be reached at (937) 593-5015 or via www.wrensflorist.com.