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The List: Gracie Safford

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Gracie

While Rock Creek Gardens in Puyallup was established as a wedding and event venue in 2008, its history goes further back. The property has been in founder and venue director Gracie Safford’s family for about 40 years.

“I grew up spending much of my time outside and always felt that the property was a special place,” she said.

Once she and her siblings had all moved out, it was a question of what to do with the property.

“We had offers to sell, but something told me to preserve. After a lot of discussions with my dad, he allowed me to run with this idea that I could create a company that would financially allow the preservation of the property, and in doing so, be able to share it with others,” she said. In 2008, Rock Creek Gardens hosted its first official wedding and now hosts thousands of guests from all over the world each year. Rock Creek Gardens has been named one of the top garden venues in Washington. Here are some of Stafford’s other favorite things.

FAVORITE PLACES

TO RELAX: My backyard. When we bought our home, it was the yard that sold us. It is a serene space, private, and it has a really pretty willow tree. This summer, we plan to plant our first garden.

TO GRAB A COFFEE: Espresso Yourself.

FOR BREAKFAST: Brewers Row for breakfast burritos and the jalapeño cheddar biscuit.

FOR DINNER: Cactus Proctor, Rhein Haus, or Boathouse 19.

TO BE INSPIRED: Walking outside around town or along the Tacoma waterfront is like a meditation for me.

INSPIRATION BOARD

CURRENTLY READING: Quiet by Susan Cain.

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: Podcast: The Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher. Current song on repeat: “Birds” by Kama.

MANTRA YOU LIVE BY: “The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear,” by Rumi. It speaks to the importance of listening and the power of trusting yourself.

HOBBIES: As a family, we love to spend time at Point Ruston, walking along the waterfront and checking out the local farmers market.

Q&A

HOW HAS ROCK CREEK GARDENS EVOLVED/ CHANGED OVER TIME?

Over the last 14 years, the property has transformed from a family home to a plant nursery to what is now Rock Creek Gardens Wedding and Event Venue. Inviting change is a core value in how the company operates. Each year, we evaluate the season on what worked and what didn’t and listen to feedback from our clients to lead the path on how to make the Gardens even better. Just in the last few years, we’ve completely redesigned the reception area to have a more grand staircase and courtyard, major house improvements, and curated the flowers and topiaries for optimal photography backdrops — just to name a few. Internally, we have worked hard to streamline our operations and policies to ensure that each client has a welcoming, professional, and consistent experience, with open communication being our central focus. As a whole, we have become more confident in who we are as a company and in our brand.

HOW HAS COVID-19 AFFECTED ROCK CREEK GARDENS?

The challenges that COVID presented also provided opportunity. The past few years, and while I had my son in 2019, I took a step back, and my office team handled most communications with clients. Because COVID directly impacted the business and our couples, I had to be fully present and talk with each couple directly about options and work with my team to ensure we figured out how to meet our clients’ needs and ensure the company could sustain financially. Those conversations were challenging, and at times emotional, but connecting with clients again and leaning on my team has been a good thing. COVID allowed us to have a period of time to slow down, rethink how we operated, and become a better company all around.

WHAT HAS BROUGHT YOU JOY RECENTLY?

My family! My spouse and I have truly enjoyed watching the world through our son’s, Ethan (2), eyes. He is kind and fun and he keeps us laughing.


 

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