A few minutes with a holiday decorating pro
By Jim Dodson
For Greensboro native John Herron, Christmas begins the day after Halloween. That’s when the owner of the popular Herron House Flowers in Thomasville begins fielding calls from new and longtime customers across the Triad eager to have his firm decorate their houses for the holidays.
“It happens like clockwork,” Herron says. “They call up wanting something new and exciting for their parties or family gatherings.” Given the fast pace of American life these days, that doesn’t surprise Herron: “Holiday decorating takes time and creativity. Everyone wants something beautiful and memorable, larger and grander than last year — but something they can take down and put away when the holidays are over.”
Fortunately, Herron has both the talent and the chops to deliver. He cut his teeth working in flower shops around the Gate City and opened his first flower shop in Charlotte at age 22. Following a stint in the Army, he worked for a major wholesale floral supply company and built a loyal customer base on the QT by custom-decorating showplace homes for special events and holidays in some of the region’s most desired neighborhoods, from Greensboro’s Irving Park to High Point’s Emerywood, from Winston-Salem’s Buena Vista to enclaves in Blowing Rock.
Herron’s shop sits in the shadow of the Thomasville chair. On a recent rainy afternoon, we dropped by to see if we could pick up a few tips on holiday decorating trends and found Herron taking a brief five-minute breather before the busiest weeks of his year begins. During a typical holiday season he will decorate anywhere from half a dozen to 15 homes across the Triad, some taking up to a week to achieve the desired Christmas magic.
“Back in the 1980s and early ’90s, the trend was to decorate with lots of live material. We did parties you wouldn’t believe with fresh boxwood garlands and wreaths, pine cones, seasonal flowers, white lights and so forth.” But all that changed with 9/11, he says. Since then, there’s been a big shift toward high-end, artificial decorations that look amazingly real but are easier to put up and take down and store. “That industry has really grown in recent years. You can find beautiful artificial trees and garlands that look absolutely real.”
He mentions a longtime customer in Lexington who carefully stores her decorations in a temperature-controlled attic, and others who rely on Herron House to create something new and different with their own ever-expanding gallery of designer decorations. “Sometimes it’s a blend of both,” says Herron. “We’re fine with that. What they want is something joyful and perfect!”
He’s also noticed an interesting trend that is tied to the nation’s economic state.
When the economy is doing poorly, he says, customers tend to reach for the glitter. “They want something shiny and glamorous — to elevate their spirits, I think. In the early 2000s, for instance, when things were kind of shaky, lime green was a very popular color for Christmas. Shades of lime green were everywhere.”
By contrast, when the economy is doing well, he explains further, customers tend to be more understated and traditional in their decorating tastes.
“What about a year like 2020?” we were bold enough to inquire.
Thomasville’s decorating guru smiled.
“This year, it’s all about faith, comfort and joy — lots of traditional reds and greens. Something that feels reassuring.”
How about Christmas lights, we wondered, pointing out what seems to be a growing public fascination with large colored lights a la 1950s America.
Surprisingly, he says, most of his customers still prefer little white lights. “They are elegant and calming. And here’s a trick we always use if a customer does want colored lights on a tree. We put white on first followed by the colored lights, because the white lights make the colors really pop. Christmas is all about bringing light against the dark.”
We couldn’t have said it better.
Bring on the comfort and joy.
Herron House Flowers is located at 18 West Main Street, Thomasville. Information: herronhouse.com
Photographs courtesy of John Herron