Through a series of what felt like serendipitous turns, but can actually be attributed to perseverance and talent, Christopher Todd has come to where he is now: an interior designer, a retailer, an event planner and the designer who travels the country in the last quarter of each year to decorate his clients’ homes and hospitality venues for the holidays.
Todd began his winding business trajectory as a retailer. At 23, a local 7,000-sq.-ft. home decor and flower shop in his southern Arkansas hometown became available as the owners were retiring. “It was quite beautiful,” Todd notes, “and I added into that. There wasn’t any place to have good food so I put in an Italian bistro where we served lunch every day, and we had a coffee bar too. We became a real destination at that time.” Todd ran that retail establishment from 1999 to 2002, at which time, he knew it was time to move on to bigger and better things.
That first move was to Fayetteville in Northern Arkansas, but Todd took a roundabout way to get there. He took a detour through San Diego, CA, to find that he needed to make the move in his home state. Among his many talents, Todd also sings and was the musical talent at a friend’s wedding. “The flowers were horrible and I wanted to help,” he says. “At the spur of the moment, we created a centerpiece using a broomstick.” That centerpiece caught the eye of one of the wedding guests, who suggested the move to the larger Arkansas city. Todd was ready for a change and always wanted to be in that area, so he sold his store, picked up and moved.
In his new retail establishment in Fayetteville, Todd continued his focus on gift and floral, and also picked up events with some important people. “The first event I did when I moved was the 50th anniversary of JB and Jonelle Hunt,” of JB Hunt Trucking fame, he says. “Everyone [who was anyone] was at that event. And the rest was history.”
Party goers were so impressed with Todd’s decor at the event, they started asking him to come to their homes. “That was the start of the design business,” he says. “They wanted me to ‘Toddify’ their spaces.” One of his fortes, he adds, was bookcases. He would bring decor from the store and freshen up bookcases in people’s homes with a mix of their products and new. That morphed into clients who wanted furniture, at a time when he didn’t have many vendors to rely on. His first interior design client was patient, however, and since that time, Todd has worked on seven homes with her.
That was in 2004 and flowers were still a primary focus for Todd. A dream of his was to create the floral arrangements for the Academy Awards. He researched the company who supplied the Oscars — that was Charisma Floats, which also created Rosebowl Parade floats — drove to California and refused to leave until he met the man in charge. Todd’s connections to high-level Arkansans helped him get a foot in the door. “He made a deal with me. If I would come and work on the floats, we would talk about doing the [floral arrangements for] the Oscars,” Todd says. “We hit it off, and he invited me to create the floral arrangements for the Academy Awards as well.” Todd checked that milestone off his bucket list and made another connection that would take him to where he is now — Las Vegas.
The Road Well Traveled
In 2005, Todd sold his business in Fayetteville, packed up and moved again, this time to Vegas to meet Cheryl Fish, the woman behind event design for MGM/Mirage. The company wanted an in-house events team, so Todd moved to join Fish. “I didn’t know anyone and I was used to working for myself,” he says. “Then I have to come in and punch a clock? The other people I worked with made things difficult.” Todd says that Fish was promoted to another department and that was when he made his exit as well. He was off to design on a freelance basis. “I started doing whatever jobs I could get, and it didn’t take long to build up a clientele,” he says. Todd’s first big job was a hotel that needed holiday decor. “I enjoyed that for three years until the economy crashed,” he says.
He took a job as a hotel concierge when design work dried up, and in 2011, he got a call for event/design work once again, this time for Land Rover, which was launching its latest model. For this five-city launch tour, the company chose mansions around the country to introduce its latest car. “I had to furnish, stage and do the flowers in these spaces. It was a big deal,” Todd says. Then Land Rover did another event and called on him again. There was no more time for hotel work, and as word of mouth got out, he got a call from Rolls Royce. “These events built our name up, and our design clients got bigger,” Todd says. “We would have all of this stuff after the events as we were decorating these places as though they were lived in. That year in January, I went to Dallas Market and bought thousands of dollars worth of candles.” Todd didn’t have a retail store, but he knew it was time to get one.
“I got home and told the guy who worked with me that we were opening a store,” he says. And he signed a lease the next month and opened the store he owns now in April 2016. ”It was a great move, and it gave us a lot of exposure. People can come in and see everything we do. And we host parties and events to get our name out there,” Todd adds.
During the holidays, the store is a magical destination. “We do it up like we’re in New York,” he says. “Last year, we had six huge trees, the windows are done, and we host a huge event. It’s fun.”
Speaking of the holidays, that’s the time when Todd is at his busiest, although hearing his story, we wonder if he ever actually slows down. With a booming holiday decor business, Todd spends several months traveling the country with one other person to bring the festive decor his clients have come to expect each year. One of his rules for decking the halls is being able to put everything away at the end of the season too. He says he only dresses up home interiors though. He leaves the outdoor lights for someone else.
To do this and keep the store running, he says, he has great retail employees, who customers love to come in and visit. He’s even designed his own line of private label candles. On top of all this he has design projects too. They range from smaller projects to new kitchens and complete renovations.
So how does he get it all done? He doesn’t shy away from hard work, and he works with good people. “I don’t mind if I have to rise to the occasion,” Todd says. “I want it to be fun.”
And while it is fun, much of what he does is hard work and he knows that designers starting out need to realize that sometimes things go right and sometimes they don’t. His advice? “Don’t think you know it all, and don’t be afraid to take chances,” he says. That’s sound advice coming from someone who has seized the opportunities that have built his robust and festive business.