Kathy Frey doesn’t let fear stop her.
Growing her small business, Lancaster city’s Festoon, over the last 15 years has given her plenty of chances to make brave — but calculated — business decisions. The process has also offered her opportunities to effect community change and inspire others.
And that’s what Frey is really all about.
“To inspire and awaken with passion the creative spirit within those we serve,” she says. “That’s my mission statement.”
After Frey attended the Art Institute in Pittsburgh, she returned home to Lancaster and found work as a fashion illustrator for Hager Department Store on King Street. Her job was to translate fashion through art featuring clothing and accessories, which were used in the store’s newspaper ads each week.
Eventually, Frey decided to spread her wings. She opened a flower shop in Marietta called Kathy’s Flower Werks.
“That’s where I really learned about balance, texture, color and design,” she says. It’s a skill set that would prove valuable later in her career.
In 2004, the renaissance of Lancaster city was in its early stages. Frey wanted to be a part of it.
“I saw the emergence of the city,” she says. “I knew things were happening.”
Led by her fond memories of a bustling, thriving Lancaster city full of healthy businesses from time spent with her family downtown as a child, Frey knew the potential was there, but also understood that investing in the city’s transformation at such an early stage was risky.
“I was ready to lay my fear down and take a chance on being a part of it all,” she says. “So we went on a search for the best spot that I thought I could be successful in.”
Ironically, she found herself back at the Hager Building, by then called Hager Arcade, and purchased 630 square feet of retail space. With that, Festoon was born. The eclectic shop offered candles, cards, clothing, jewelry and home décor.
In 2014, Festoon relocated to 202 N. Duke St., the site of a former fire house in the heart of Lancaster city.
Guided by her lifelong passion, Frey designed and launched a clothing line, Selga, in the spring of 2017. Selga also presented her with an opportunity to give a boost to a struggling local business. With sewing factories declining in number because of outsourcing to factories overseas, Frey’s decision to work with an Ephrata-area factory inspired hope for the long-term stability of their business and promised security for its workers.
“We put many people to work and that factory really enjoyed the cachet that came with being connected to Festoon,” Frey says. “It was so much fun to watch the team of sewers and workers enjoy creating what we accomplished together.”
To draw even more attention to the brand, Frey produces local runway fashion shows to highlight each season’s collection. The shows have been popular, not only for the clothes, but also for the spirit and sense of community that surround them.
Excelsior, a premiere event venue, was the setting for the first launch of the spring 2017 line. The launch of the fall 2017 line was a collaboration with the City of Lancaster to close down Duke Street, which acted as the show’s runway, and a portion of the proceeds went to eight local animal rescues.
Giving back is a big part of Frey’s outlook on life.
“I want to be a part of the solution,” she says. “I’m a woman of faith, and I believe that God has given me this gift. I’m the vehicle. I’m just watching over it, making it happen, using the gifts He’s given me.”
A true embodiment of the mission statement she made for herself to inspire the world around her so many years ago, Frey hopes that her life can inspire others to lay down their fear.
“That would make me very happy at the end of my career,” she says, “if I’ve been a part of inspiring someone to break through.”
For more information about Festoon, visit their website at https://shopfestoon.com/.