Last year, Sweet Occasions made a custom homecoming mum for a huge “Harry Potter” fan.
The mum-makers created a custom cutout of the Ravenclaw House coat of arms, which they adhered to the front of the flower. They surrounded the flower with glittery and patterned decorative ribbon, and the entire mum, baubles and all, was black, white and silver. In the past, they have created mums with custom cutouts for an anime fan.
The team, including co-owners Kathy Walker and Patty Janca and their mum-maker Roxy Kowalski, asks their customers “what they really like to do” both in and away from school to help design their mums. Walker said she is glad the mums in Victoria have not reached the body-size and bigger trends prevalent in the Valley and larger towns like Houston.
“They are so big and ornate that they cannot see the person,” she said. “Why wear a fancy dress if it covers it up? Personally, I like the size Victoria does; it’s just what we’ve gotten used to.”
To put the other towns’ mums into perspective, the mums created by Sweet Occasions vary in size, but many of them are not what most people would describe as small.
The shop’s creative trio also made two elaborate red, white and black mums for Chick-fil-A last year. The designers tied in novelties such as french fry packets, cookie holders and a miniature stuffed cow in a custom-made outfit, and the restaurant gave them to the homecoming queens at East and West high schools. Three mums are on order from the restaurant this year, and the queen at St. Joseph High School is to receive one as well.
It’s Homecoming time. Patty Janca, co-owner of Sweet Occasions, talks to the Victoria Advocate as mum-making gears up. Look for the article Thursday.
“And that’s what we try to do – make every one of them unique,” Walker said. “We won’t make any two exactly alike unless it’s a date and they want them to match.”
The most ornate mums can take as long as a day or two to make because the designers try to take their time and not rush through them, Kowalski said.
The mum-makers work long hours leading up to high school homecoming to make every mum memorable. They made 375 last year, and they have stayed the night at the shop before, Janca said. They accept a limited number of orders from each school on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“That’s a lot of mums to make in less than 10 weeks – we’ve burned ourselves and glued ourselves,” Kowalski said.
Some customers have ordered mums for their oldest child and, 10 years later, have come back to order mums for their youngest child, Walker said.
“What I like about working here is that Miss Kathy and Miss Patty remember all of these kids,” Kowalski said. “They’ve watched these kids grow up the last four years, and by the time they are seniors, they’re crying, their parents are crying – it’s like an extended family.”
The custom mums for boys are garters worn around the arm that start at $49 each. The mums feature a faux white flower and specialty ribbons that hang down about 15 inches. The custom version for girls starts at $61 and includes a white flower with ribbons that hang down about 36 inches. Both custom mums include ribbons laser-printed with “Homecoming” and two names, several acetate and specialty ribbons, a braid, a beaded chain, jingle bells and a small cowbell.
To make their mums snazzier, some customers request that their flowers look like volleyballs, basketballs or footballs. They often add trinkets, ranging from 25 cents to $2 each, and additional braids and ribbons. Unlike the larger chain stores that often sell multiple versions of the same trinket in packages, Sweet Occasions sells them individually, Walker said. The doodads that hang off the mums indicate special interests, class rank and school spirit as well as affiliation with school teams and organizations.
Bins filled with trinkets and shelves stuffed with spools of ribbon line the walls of the mum-making area of the store. Miniature plastic signs in a variety of team colors for area schools feature expressions such as “Go Team,” “Go, Fight, Win!” and “Awesome.” Jingle bells and small cowbells come in numerous colors. Some baubles are shaped like megaphones, cheerleaders, football players and footballs. Others, such as the orange basketballs, yellow tennis balls, and black-and-white volleyballs and soccer balls, abandon school colors for realism. Still others, such as a treble clef alongside “Band” and a round medallion embossed with swimmers swimming laps, sport a metallic finish.
Glimmering star and circle garlands and round and four-ply flat braids hang from racks while strands of tinsel and feather boas pull from inside cardboard boxes where they are wound tight. Most of the braids are handmade in the store. Other offerings include stuffed satin hearts trimmed in lace; butterflies in different colors, sizes and textures; and glittery starbursts.
Kowalski called Walker the “little mad scientist” when it comes to adding lights to mums. She can weave them through the boa, add them to the flower or simply add one at a time in one particular place.
When budget is a concern, customers can purchase premade mums. The boys’ version sells for $38 and the girls’ for $48. These also serve as a base for those who just want to assemble their own mums, and they come with instructions.
“We encourage customers to start plain and build up to boas and lights, in either silver or gold and white, depending on the school, generally when they are seniors,” Walker said.
Sweet Occasions also sells gobs of all kinds of candy, and they set up candy buffets at events such as weddings, birthday and graduation parties, quinceañeras and baby showers. They offer the “Mom Squad” to help brides and their mothers relax and enjoy the special day. They coordinate the schedule and stay on track with all the activities, and they greet guests at the reception while the wedding party and families are photographed.
The team has been around long enough to take part in years of important events in the lives of their customers, whether they are providing homecoming or Sadie Hawkins Day mums, candy buffets for graduation parties and weddings or baby mums or wreaths for hospital doors.
Walker and Janca started making mums in 2006 for their children and their children’s friends after work and on weekends. Six or eight mums grew to 30 or so, and now they have a storefront at the Town and Country Shopping Center. In their 14th homecoming season, they now make hundreds of mums each year in addition to their candy buffet and other event services.
“I never thought of myself as talented when we first started doing this,” Walker said. “I was just a mom who didn’t want to spend $45 and not get something that I thought was worth it.”
The business is “needed in the area,” Walker said, and provides the owners with fun labor since they both retired from their full-time jobs in 2013.
“We try to get to know the kids, and we try to make everything custom to them,” Walker said. “In fact, we’ve been shopping before and found things really good for certain kids because we know what they want and like.”