Seeds of change

After 30 years, Steinbruecks sell Scotts Florist to new owner

Isabel Williams, center, is taking on the Scotts Florist business in Saranac Lake from Kathy Steinbrueck, left, as Kathy and her husband Roger retire from the flower industry after 30 years of owning the shop. Williams said with employee Nina Derby, right, staying with the business, she feels comfortable taking it on. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Scotts Florist is turning over a new leaf.

As Kathy and Roger Steinbrueck retire from the floral business they’ve run for around three decades, Isabel Williams, who recently moved to town from Colorado, is picking up the trowel.

The shop on Woodruff Street will close at the end of the day on June 16 and reopen under Williams’ ownership on June 20, the day after Kathy and Roger’s 50th anniversary.

Kathy said that at 71, and with more than 40 years in the business, she has been ready to retire. After she and Roger moved to town in 1979, Kathy worked for the previous flower shop owner since the day he opened in 1981. The couple bought the business in 1990.

A couple of years ago, they started looking to get out of the business. The coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in those plans. But they resumed actively searching for a successor this past year.

“We got lucky,” Kathy said, gesturing over at Williams.

Williams has worked in a flower shop before and loved it. She has always toyed with the idea of owning a shop of her own.

“I’ve always been interested in owning my own business and I love the idea of spreading joy with flowers,” Williams said. “So when I found out that Kathy and Roger were retiring I was thrilled about the opportunity to continue. They’ve made a wonderful business after the last few decades.”

Williams has been visiting Saranac Lake for years to see family and fell in love with the area. Ever since she moved to town, she’s been hearing great things about Scotts Florist. Eventually, she was introduced to Kathy and Roger.

“You know how it goes here. Small town,” Williams said.

She said she has lots to learn as she takes up the business.

“It needs to become her own, too,” Kathy said. “As much as we took over from the previous owner, it eventually became my vision. And then hopefully it will grow and become her vision.”

Kathy will be handing off her phone book of wholesalers to Williams.

“Kathy has all the connections,” Williams said. “So I’m not starting from square one.”

She’ll also have the expertise of Nina Derby, who has worked there for around 20 years and is staying on for continuity.

Williams said Derby staying on is what motivated her to take on the business, knowing that she will have a knowledgeable mentor to teach her. Kathy said Derby has always been an integral part of the business — managing the shop and designing flower arrangements.

Derby loves the work, and especially loves seeking the customers who come back again and again.

“You’re helping people at their happy times, you’re helping people at their really sad times,” Derby said.

Flowers are not an “essential” for a wedding or a funeral, per se. But most would not be complete without them. They’re in the backgrounds of wedding photos, bringing color and beauty to the still image memories. They are a meaningful and symbolic memento for the dead, as the living commemorate them with new life.

Kathy said flowers can mean as much for the sender as they do for the receiver.

“Probably our most common walk-in is guys that just want to bring flowers home,” she said.

Kathy said the best feeling is when she gets the calls from happy customers telling her they nailed the design, created what they envisioned and provided flowers that last a long time. With a wedding last weekend, she was able to help out in a pinch. The people got flowers and wanted a watering can. She does not sell them, but loaned the group a can from her own shop for the day.

Williams is glad to be part of a business that brings joy and hopes filling that role will allow her to become more a part of the Saranac Lake community.

She knows it’s cliche, but she loves roses. Well, she also loves peonies and hydrangeas.

“I’m a sucker for all flowers,” she said.

Kathy hopes in retirement to get involved in the things that she hasn’t had much time for because of work — pickleball, paddling and visiting their son Sean in North Carolina. And she’s already planning trips around the world for next year.

“We love to travel, that’s how we met,” she said.

She and Roger met in Europe while they were both self-described “travelers.”

They got married and lived in the Bavarian Alps and Manhattan before making their way to the Adirondacks.

Kathy said they had found a place to live that reminded them of where they had been living in Europe, so they stayed. For around 30 years, they’ve been bringing planters overflowing with flowers to the community they’ve made their “forever home” — dozens of planters with colorful arrangements that brighten up downtown.

To the Steinbruecks, it’s a love letter to Saranac Lake.

Kathy said this summer will be their last season organizing these planters with the village. She said they are working with the village on a plan for next year.

When Williams said Kathy is moving on to “bigger and better things,” Kathy denied this.

“Just more relaxing things,” she said.

On Wednesday, a butterfly floated its way into the outdoor flower area and Kathy clapped her hands together once as it caught her eye.

“Oh! They just started,” she said. “That’s the first one today.”


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