New owner at Florist in the Forest, new hours at Café Aroma

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Sam Kesler will officially own Florist in the Forest on April 1.
Photo by Susan Monroe

If you live in Idyllwild, you’ve likely met Sam Kesler while visiting Florist in the Forest. Kesler has been working at the florist and gift shop since last July. Now, he is buying the business. “It becomes official April 1st,” said Kesler, who is buying the business from Lori Wagner.

He plans a grand opening sometime before Mother’s Day. “To celebrate,” informed Kesler, “there will be food, music and giveaways, and it will be open to the public.”

A man of many talents already, Kesler will attend the Southern California School of Floral Design April 9 to 20 to get his floral design certification. While Kesler is away at school, Wagner will keep the shop open while she runs her 50 percent off sale.

Kesler is re-designating how the space will be used when he takes over the shop. He will divide the space into three parts. The florist section will remain where it is. He will continue to keep it stocked with “beautiful flowers, beautifully designed.”

He will add two new features to the shop: a large screen on the wall with prices and other information to be determined, and an update to the website from which orders can be easily made.

The next section will be art and products handmade in Idyllwild. He encourages local artists to hang or display their artwork in his gallery. He also encourages local crafters to bring in their candles, soaps and other handmade wares. Kesler said, “Please, come in and see me. I’m accepting applications from artists and product makers.”

The backroom space he will rent out to instructors for classes and/or lessons, such as yoga, tai chi, music and ballroom dancing. Kesler will teach two classes himself, ballroom dancing and ukulele.

Kesler is a professional ballroom dancing instructor and has competed in dancing events since he was 18. Kesler said he also is among the top 30 ukulele musicians in the country, and will teach those wanting to learn the instrument.

As well, Kessler plans to use the backroom space for in-house concerts and shows. In this area he will sell handmade instruments, so if you’re an instrument maker, he’d like to meet with you. He also will sell strings and other products necessary for instrument care.

Kesler plans to keep the Florist in the Forest name but intends to add the name “Idyllwild Creative Company, Studio & Gallery” to reflect his new additions.

Kesler’s vision for his business includes, “Giving the entire building a complete refresh.” He’ll “tear out the carpets and put in floating wood flooring.” He plans to keep the bear outside the building “because so many people like it,” but he will remove everything else outside and replace it with comfortable seating and tables so the public can relax and enjoy.

Have you noticed some new comings and goings at the lower center of The Fort? A new arcade called Mount Maniac Arcade opened for a trial run Sunday. The owners and property manager are trying to get a feel for what hours work best. The arcade will “officially” open in a few weeks. Future hours will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; noon to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, but those hours may change based on needs of Idyllwild.

The property manager’s name is Noelle Pugh. She said the owner is “54225 North Circle LLC.” The principals have a home in Idyllwild and come to Idyllwild on the weekends with their two young children. They also own homes and vacation rentals in Idyllwild. Pugh said, “The owners are very invested in adding to the town and community.” Pugh also said they are “two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet; they are wonderful and positive to work with.”

Pugh said, “They hit the goldmine” when they found Juls Phillips to manage Mount Maniac Arcade, and that “Juls is the perfect person for the job.” Phillips loves teenagers and lives in Idyllwild.

Together, she said, the owners, property manager and Phillips want “a place where kids and their parents can hang out and have fun together.” They also plan that the arcade sponsors special events such as “birthday parties, a reward system and giving away prizes,” as well a mixture of events such as “fundraisers and charity events, maybe even a special time for adults only, maybe with wine tasting.”

Pugh also mentioned Chris Carver of Cornerstone Home Services, saying she really appreciated him meeting an “unrealistic deadline.” They are thrilled with the new reclaimed wood colors and corrugated metal ceilings.

Café Aroma has cut back its hours from just being closed Tuesdays to being closed Tuesdays through Thursdays. New Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays.

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