Few people – let alone businesses – can say that they’ve laughed, cried and celebrated with an entire community for nearly half a century. In Lakewood, however, Crane’s Creations has the mementos, “Thank You” notes and pictures to prove it.
Since 1970, the family owned-and-operated business has provided countless prom-goers from Clover Park, Lakes and Steilacoom High Schools with corsages and boutonnieres. It has saved apologetic husbands and boyfriends by offering an array of bouquets for their wives and girlfriends. It has done everything it can to allow grieving families to worry about one less thing after the loss of a loved one.
As owners Bob and Roma Crane explain it, they have helped generations of Lakewood residents during their most important life moments. “Whatever they’re going through, we’re not numb to it,” Roma explains. “Sometimes we’re crying with them.”
The family business began with Bob’s parents – Marvin and Joanne Crane. Marvin was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and the college sweethearts had been stationed in Germany and Texas before being assigned to Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. It was there that Joanne first planted the seeds of what would become Crane’s Creations, so to speak. She became a self-taught florist, working out a deal with a florist in nearby Fairbanks to sell flowers on the base. Joanne operated one of the first flower shops in the military services at Eielson.
Eventually, Marvin, Joanne and their four children moved to the South Sound, where he was stationed and later retired from McChord Air Force Base. He went on to work at Boeing, and Joanne became an instructor for the Clover Park School District, where she taught for nine years. In 1970, Marvin and Joanne opened Crane’s Creations with $3,000 they had saved. As one of the original tenants in the Thunderbird Shopping Center, the business has never moved, although now it occupies a space about three times as large as when Marvin and Joanne first set up shop.
Over the years, the Cranes built a strong and loyal customer base, including military personnel from nearby Fort Lewis and McChord. The family business was busy around the holidays. Bob recalls how, as a young lad, he used to sell corsages around his neighborhood, and his Mom would pay him a quarter apiece. On New Year’s Eve, they were on McChord selling flowers to officers.
As his parents worked the store, Bob Crane juggled school life with helping the family. While attending Clover Park High School, he met Roma “in Mr. Angelel’s marine biology class.” Eventually they married and actually opened their own floral business with the help of Bob’s parents.
In 1978, Bob and Roma merged their flower businesses with Crane’s Creations.Roma, who had come from a job in the government administration world, was thrust into a world of flora, fauna and gifts. She had never chosen wedding flowers for anyone, let alone design an arrangement. To learn the ropes, she consulted the expert: her mother-in-law. “I was intimidated by Mrs. Crane to even talk about wedding flowers. But she taught me a lot.”
Together, Bob and Roma began producing some of the most elaborate arrangements around. They seemed to be busy almost year-round, what with high school graduations, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and other moments that require a pedal or two.
And boy do they have stories. There was the Princess Diana-themed wedding. There was the time they helped a high school student decorate the trunk of his car with 72 roses to impress the apple of his eye.
The hanging flowers over the balcony for the grand reopening of Union Station? The 300 or so centerpieces for the 100-year anniversary of Puget Sound Bank at the Tacoma Dome? Homemade gingerbread houses? The countless wreaths, bouquets and arrangements for services at Mountain View and other funeral homes? They were all, literally, Crane’s Creations.
In 1995, Marvin Crane passed away. His wife, Joanne, passed away this past January. But Bob and Roma are committed to providing the customer service and attention to detail that their parents believed in when they started back in 1970.
They describe how, often, people find out about their store through frustration after hopelessly navigating online floral sites.
“Now people are getting smart and asking if you’re a local florist,” Roma says. “We stand behind our products.”
Crane’s Creations has a staff of seven including the owners, which increases to 25 during the holidays. Employees are considered family. Recently, a part-time designer and the dielivery manager celebrated their 20th anniversaries with the shop.
And the company is committed to staying in Lakewood, which it has watched grow and evolve over the last half century.
Someday, someone who is as committed to the floral industry as Bob and Roma have been will take over Crane’s Creations. Whoever that is better be prepared to work long hours and help the community as it goes through its biggest life moments.
“You could not jump in here and just be a ‘florist,’” Bob says. “This is about much more than being a florist.”
For its years of dedication, commitment and operating in Lakewood, the City of Lakewood would like to recognize Crane’s Creations as its Business Showcase for June 2015.