Wednesday Jan 9 2019
You never know what a day of shopping at Gardner Village will get you. For Careen Densley, it got her a 22-year career that she’s loved beyond measure.
“I was shopping at Metal Merchant, a former store here at The Village,” Careen recalled. “Another customer asked my opinion on something, so I spoke with her for a few minutes before leaving the store. The manager of that store followed me out and chased me down to offer me a job,” Careen laughed. “That was the beginning of an amazing 22-year career here.”
For 10 years of that career, Careen worked in retail for Metal Merchant and then for Country Furniture (now CF Home). Her positions included a buyer, an assistant manager, and a display coordinator. After mastering many retail trades, Joe Long (Gardner Village co-owner) took Careen to lunch and suggested the idea of a new challenge—property maintenance and Village-wide displays.
“I was so humbled to be entrusted, first with buying, and then with the gardening and displays,” Careen said, fondly reflecting. “I’ve learned so much in my time here.”
Careen spent another 12 years with The Village, this time bringing the exterior magic it’s known for to life season after season. From the hugely popular witches and elves to the newer fairy installments, she and her talented team have brought tradition and joy to so many visitors over the years.
“How neat is that?!,” Careen mused. “Knowing you’re part of family traditions! I just love walking around the property and overhearing guests who are excited about the work we do.”
Now, after a total of 22 years helping families make magical memories, Careen is ready to pass her talented torch. Of course, retirement doesn’t come easy when one is as passionate about her work as Careen.
“My work has gifted me with a tremendous sense of purpose. A fairy mama and a witch mama and an elf mama… that’s who I am” Careen laughed. “Now I’m left asking who I am. How will I identify?”
An honest question that many can surely relate to as they make transitions in life. We so often define ourselves by our work, especially when our work is also our passion. Of course, this is where Careen will be just fine. Her remarkable work at Gardner Village, as special as it is, is not her. It is simply something she does. Who she IS is a talented, imaginative, creative soul. Where she spends her days does not change that core fact. In fact, Careen and her husband are in the process of building a new home, and she already has plans for a fairy garden in the yard. Can you imagine? That’s going to be one wonderful yard!
“We put our front door on the other day,” Careen said. “It’s extra wide and has a fun shape. I can’t help but think of the many fairy doors we’ve handcrafted here at The Village when I see it. It’s nice to have such a reminder to greet me each time I come home.”
What’s next for Careen? Beyond using her mad skills to bring her own home and garden to life, Careen and her husband can’t wait to travel and, eventually, serve a mission for their church.
“We can’t wait to take to the trail and just go,” Careen said with a big smile.
What’s next for The Village? That’s a big question. Careen leaves impressive shoes to fill. Fortunately, her professional partner in crime, Keri Taylor, is still in place to keep things running smoothly and beautifully, as are the rest of the hard-working grounds crew. On the creative side, Tyler Banks is excited to follow in Careen’s footsteps and help create the upcoming season of woodland fairy, witch and elf displays along with other seasonal decor.
above: Keri Taylor, Careen Densley, and Tyler Banks
“I’m just excited to create and build,” Tyler said. “Careen leaves an incredible legacy that I can’t wait to work with and build on.”
Like Careen, Tyler has already worked for The Village for years on the retail side. This move allows him to tap into his degree in costume design more as he uses his creativity in ways he never imagined while studying in school.
“My Village career started when I was just 15 and my aunt hired me to take out trash during Witches Night Out,” Tyler recalled. “Since then, I’ve worked at Down to Earth and, currently, at CF Home. I’m excited to now work throughout The Village. Of course, driving the golf cart won’t be bad either,” Tyler laughed.
We can’t wait to see what Tyler and Keri and the team have in store for The Village. In the meantime, we can’t let Careen go without thanking her completely and sincerely for all she’s done to bring The Village to life over the years. When asked about her highlights, Careen had this to say:
“One of my contributions to The Village that I feel will be remembered for a while is the water tower decor. It was my idea to add the hats for Christmas and Halloween. I planned the idea out and orchestrated how to build the larger-than-life accents with our builder. From scratch, we made the idea a reality. It’s fun to see!”
We, too, love the tower toppers. But we also know it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of things Careen will be remembered for. Thank you, Careen. Your heart will always be felt throughout The Village. Now, go. Travel. Live. Love. Enjoy this next exciting season in your life.
Megan Hoeppner and all of your friends at Gardner Village. We love you!