- Your Town
Downtown Dillon business Wildwood Floral blossoms with new owner
With her recent purchase of Wildwood Floral, Rebecca Knotts traded a job based around teaching the language arts for one dedicated to the floral arts—and the art of living life with beauty and verve.
“It was all inspired by the last two lines of a poem called ‘The Grasshopper’ by Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/With your one wild and precious life?” said Knotts of her decision to last month become the new owner and lead designer of Wildwood Floral.
“I was contemplating that line of poetry and thinking about how I wanted to live my life with more vitality, more creativity,” recalled Knotts, who left the University of Montana Western, where she had taught literature and writing for almost a decade to take over the downtown Dillon business.
“Last spring, I brought one of my students who was looking for a job down to Wildwood Floral, and they told her they weren’t hiring because they were selling.
“And as I was contemplating those lines of that poem, I thought it would be a really great match for me.”
The move represents a joyous leap of faith into the future for Knotts, but also a step back into experiences from her childhood and early career.
“My parents both owned small businesses,” recalled Knotts, who grew up in Great Falls, where her beautician mother owned Fifth Avenue Salon and her father owned and operated an insurance office.
“My stepfather ran Gliko Aviation in Belt, Montana. He was a pilot who flew helicopters and small planes.
“So, I witnessed three different people following their passions and sharing their love of them with other people,” recalled Knotts, a Great Falls High School graduate who helped finance her way through college by working retail jobs.
“And I’m very familiar with the hard work and determination that owning a small business takes.”
Knotts said before getting a job as an assistant professor in 2003 at Montana Western, where she had studied for two years the previous decade, she lived in Santa Fe, where she worked for years as a marketing director for a real estate trust that owned a shopping center with 50 small businesses.
“I’ve always been passionate about flowers and gardening,” said Knotts, who used to create flower arrangements for ads and special events staged by the small businesses in Santa Fe she helped promote.
“Wildwood Floral has allowed me to circle back to some skills I applied earlier in my career, and to my passion for flowers and for art and beauty,” commented Knotts, who, after her studies at Montana Western and subsequent work to earn her undergraduate degree at Boise State and master’s of fine arts degree from George Mason University in Virginia, was determined to get back to Dillon, the town she had grown to love.
“Wildwood Floral had always been one of my favorite stores in town. I really admired the quality of their products and the choices they made and the gift lines they carried,” said Knotts of Wildwood Floral’s previous owners, Anna Belle and Lindsay Gaasch.
“I so respect Anna Belle and Lindsay—they did a great job of establishing the business in Dillon and it seems like a really good business to step into with a great customer base to work from,” commented Knotts, who said the former owners will occasionally return to the store to help her during special events and busy spells.
“That may be my favorite thing about buying Wildwood Floral—that Anna Belle and Lindsay will continue to be a part of it,” added Knotts, who said she will sustain and expand the store’s line of flowers and high-quality gifts established by the Gaaschs.
“Wildwood Floral not only has the freshest flowers but has an incredible gift shop that offers a variety of home and gift décor,” said Knotts, noting that the store will carry major gift lines by Elegant Baby, Paddywax Candles, Mountain Madness Soap, Split Pea table linens, RSVP Kitchen, cards by Curly Girl Design and Positively Green, Compendium stationary and gift books, Punch Studio, and Tickled Pink.
“We also feature Made in Montana gifts, such as: Winddrift Hill soaps and lotions made in Conrad; Sturdy Girl made in Twin Bridges; as well as laser cut wood Christmas ornaments made by Nina Hoyer in Belt, Montana,” said Knotts, who added that the shop also sells lavender fairy wands, a traditional item from the Victorian Era, when people used them to keep their homes and themselves smelling fresh.
“We offer free gift wrap on any gift items purchased at Wildwood Floral, and are happy to prepare gift baskets for special clients or loved ones.”
Knotts said the store will also continue to exhibit art work.
“I’m making a conscience effort to feature work by women artists to showcase a lot of the talent we have in the community and region,” said Knotts, whose store currently features, among other local artistic offerings, Marian Turner cards, Beth Brillhart watercolor paintings and holiday cards from woodcut prints by Maria Gallegos.
Art not only represents a key component of the business Knotts recently purchased, but of her life.
“I became enchanted with poetry and other art when I was a child,” said Knotts, who was featured at this year’s Montana Festival of the Book reading selections from her Lunar Gypsy, a book-length poem recently published by Foothills Publishing in New York.
“I grew up in Great Falls in a multi-generational household with my parents and siblings, and my great-great aunts and my grandmother read to us nearly every night, or sang to us, or recited poetry they had memorized. That rhythm of language through the voices of women I loved so deeply just became embedded in my heart,” recalled Knotts, who said poetry also helped her cope with the death of a beloved family member, her older brother, who died when she was 17.
“After his death, that same outlet, which had always for me been about the delight and the possibility of words, also became a life saver—in that it was a great way to write about and record the grief that family members feel when they lose someone they care about, and for me to try to understand his death.
“I decided then I wanted to be able to share that beauty and possibility of the language arts with other people to help them see that as an outlet for celebration and for sorrow,” said Knotts, who believes the same is true of her current business endeavor and artistic outlet.
“I think the most beautiful part of the flower business is that I’m changing the words into blossoms, and now using the visual beauty of flowers to help people mark their most glorious moments—their birthdays and weddings and anniversaries—and also their hardest moments, when they are burying a loved one.
“Flowers help give us a marker for our life journeys,”
Knotts said numerous studies show that flowers can also make life’s journey more pleasant and healthful, particularly in a climate like southwest Montana, where flowers can bloom and survive outside only a few months of the year.
“A florist can help bring a little bit of sunshine into your life at any time of year. There’s a lot of research that’s been done about how having fresh flowers and house plants in your home year-round improves your life in many ways,” said Knotts, citing a recent Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital study that found people who see flowers in the morning feel more positive and energetic throughout the day.
“They clear toxins from the air and create a healthier environment for people, and brighten the mood and cheer the spirit. They mark special occasions and help people express feelings that they might otherwise not be able to put into words.”
Wildwood Floral is located at 35 E. Bannack St. in downtown Dillon and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with extended hours through the holidays. You can gain more information or place orders by calling 683-2618 or by going to www.wildwoodfloral.com