McCormick Place

Meet Jackie Kling, the Woman Who Makes Chicago a Beautiful Travel Destination

Kling will compete in the eighth annual Iron Designer Competition at McCormick Place June 9

Chicagoan Jackie Kling knows how to beautify any vacation in the city.

Kling, the lead designer at Epoch Floral in River North, recently helped design the floral arrangements at the dinner for the James Beard Awards, one of the year’s big tourist draws in Chicago. Her client list also includes the Park Hyatt, Saks, the Pritzker family, Mellody Hobson and Elton John, who has twice ordered flowers to deliver to Lady Gaga while the pop star was in town.

Next month, Kling will take her talents to McCormick Place to compete in the eighth annual Iron Designer Competition, a contest for the nation’s leading floral designers based on the famous “Iron Chef” competition.

While Chicago is not necessarily known as a travel destination for its flora, like the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., a hint of nature and a chic design in a big city hotel can make all the difference in a vacation.

“Flowers are emotional, and I think anybody that receives flowers or sees flowers in a hotel or a condo lobby really tends to set an emotion and an atmosphere, a feel,” Kling said.

Kling herself is a witness to the emotional power of flowers. She first stepped foot into the flower industry when she met her husband, who works in the wholesale flower business. On their first date, he brought her 150 red roses. Although Kling says that gesture was “outrageous,” they continued to date. He would often bring uncut flowers home, and Kling, who is an artist, would arrange them and eventually learned the trade and started getting jobs on the design side of the business.

Epoch Floral, located at 1700 W. Hubbard St., is a small flower shop with some pretty big clients. Kling describes it as “boutiquey,” which allows the designers to customize almost everything they do to their clients’ needs and styles.

“When you look at some arrangements that are kind of cookie-cutter and it’s not really thought about who it’s going to, then you’ll feel different than if it was totally custom-made,” Kling said.

In addition to designing flower arrangements for individuals and companies, Epoch Floral also offers classes customized to the group’s taste. For example, Mike Hines, another designer at the shop who often leads the classes, recently offered one on designing the aesthetics of a champagne brunch.

For those who want to simply watch and learn, Kling and eight other expert designers from around the country will battle it out at the Iron Designer Competition June 9. The competition is part of the International Floriculture Expo, which takes at McCormick Place June 8 and 9.

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