A Conversation with Kim Wallace

(Photo courtesy of Kim Poole Wallace)

Back in late October, our Lisa Nellis sat down (virtually) with Kim Wallace, wife of Kenny Wallace and professional wreath maker, to talk about wreaths, cruises, how Kim and Kenny met, and more. The conversation has been edited for clarity, but here’s how it went:

Lisa: Thanks for talking with me today, Kim. I have a few questions, not all related to NASCAR, because I really just want to talk to you about you.

The first question is really kind of goofy, but I know that the Kenny Wallace Fan Club used to do an annual raffle for cruises, and I know this because I actually won one year, but didn't get to go! So, I was wondering, who likes cruises? Is it you? Is it him? Or both?

Kim: We both do. Probably me, more so, but we both do. We both go on there and enjoy it and we still have our yearly cruise we go on.

We've had some people that have gone every single year with us. Then there are just new people we add every year. We have a smaller group this year, but normally, it would be anywhere between 70 and 160 people.

Lisa: Where do you normally cruise to?

Kim: Generally the Bahamas. We've been on just about every ship and every island out there, but we really go for the people. We could be on the ship all weekend and have a good time, you know? It's really about the people that we go with. You meet new people in your group and it's fun. Kenny is totally out there for everybody. I mean, yes, it's his vacation and stuff, but people are not afraid to approach us when we're there.

Lisa: Maybe I'll actually make it one year. It looked like a lot of fun.

I know you guys went to school together, but how did you meet? Did you just always know each other? What was your first date like?

Kim: No, we didn't go all through school together. He was a senior and I was in 11th grade and we were in photography class. Kenny was not into school, whatsoever, but a B was barely acceptable in my family, so I was kind of studious. I walked in there the first day and the class was pretty full. There was a table sitting in the back of the room that had chairs around it. Unfortunately, that's where I had to sit. And that's where Kenny was. So, he just kept bugging me and bugging me and just kept wanting to touch me and stuff. I was like, "Don't touch me." "Don't make me go into the darkroom with that guy!" I said, "I'll fail your class." (Laughs)

Long story short, the semester ended and he went to take jewelry making. He made guitar picks out of ivory and just different things like that, you know, metal and stuff. And I went back to that same class for journalism, but journalism isn't as fun as photography. The class was so boring and Kenny wasn't in there. At that point I kind of realized maybe I did like this guy. I told my friend, "You know who I think I like?" She said, "Kenny Wallace." I said, “Well, how would you know that?" She said, "Kim, it's all over the place. Your face says it all."

This friend told Kenny, and he said, "Okay, I'll go out with her." He didn't believe me, so I ended up making the first phone call and asking for our first date, because he never had any money whatsoever. I mean, he just helped his family, so he never had any money. His brother Rusty (Wallace) was good to him. He paid his car insurance, and stuff like that.

One time, somehow, he had a $20 bill. We went to Ponderosa to eat, but back then, and I don't know if that still stands today, girls just didn't eat in front of the guys. So we went, and I watched him eat because I was too nervous to eat. It was just really crazy. I had a soda, and we just sat and talked.

He never ever thought that he would meet his future wife in school, because he wasn't a school person. He just did not. He kept telling himself every time we would see each other that he didn't love me, he didn't love me. He was trying to talk himself out of it, because he just didn't think that this was supposed to be the connection. He thought he would meet somebody at a racetrack or something like that. Three years later, we were married.

Lisa: How long have you two been married?

Kim: Since 1984, 37 years.

Lisa: That's impressive. Good for you.

Kim: We're really still best friends. It's a great marriage.

Lisa: Well, you guys always look like you're very happy together when I see pictures of you.

It's interesting that you talked about photography and jewelry-making and things like that. I know you make your wreaths. They're really pretty, and I'm sure you're probably busy making them for Christmas. How did you start doing that?

Kim: Somebody that I knew asked me for one, because I was very crafty. Growing up, I did cake decorating. I did everything you can imagine. But things got stuck for a while - I had kids that I was raising and stuff like that. But once my kids were sort of grown, somebody asked me to make her something because she wanted to give it to her mother-in-law. I said, "I believe I've never done that." So we went to a class at a Ben Franklin, which are no longer there, and I miss terribly, and they showed us how to do it. That was just seven years ago. I have already completed and sold over 10,000 wreaths!

Lisa: Are you kidding? That's crazy!

Kim: I look back at the numbers, and it's hard to even say how far over the 10,000 because I just get so swamped. In August, when it was seven years, it was 10,000 something then. And since then, I've probably made another 500 or 600 through this Christmas, fall, and Halloween season.

Lisa: I saw that you had a big show last month. Where do people buy them?

Kim: They can go to Wreaths by Kim Wallace on Facebook. They just buy directly through me. I don't have a specific website that says, "Hey, these are the ones I'm selling this month.” Each one is custom-made. Some people see something that they'd like and they're like, “I like this and I like this,” so it's up to me to try and grab what they are really feeling or they're really seeing or wanting. I get a whole bunch of compliments when people get their wreaths. They are really impressed; people say, “They're bigger than we thought. They're fuller. They have a lot on them.” But I like to bring a story together, right? I don't want to just stick things on a wreath, I wanted to sort of gel together.

Lisa: I may have to actually call you up and get you to make one for my husband. He's been a NASCAR fan since he was, I want to say, six years old. He just turned around to me last night and said, "I'm going to be 61 next month." (Laughs.)

Kim: I have made everything that you can imagine, not just the seasons, but I have learned so much through it all. I have all the football teams, all the baseball teams, other teams. Sad to say, but there are a lot of cancer wreaths that I've done. I have to do my research because I don't understand or know all about all of them. But again, you know, I want it to be where I didn't just stick something on. I want to tell a story.

Lisa: That's cool. I may actually have to get him a birthday wreath, he'd be pretty surprised about that.

I just have a couple more questions, I think. I know that your family moved to St. Louis again, right? .And do you miss North Carolina at all?

Kim: I don't. I think women can live anywhere and make home, home. I have a daughter still there that is defiant and not ready to move back here yet. We do miss her, but almost everything we do is here, right? When my kids were growing up, I was friends with their friends’ parents. But Kenny was always so busy racing that the people that he was friends with, they were competitors, and they were acquaintances he might have had. He might have had a handful of people that he could have called friends. You know what I mean? After racing was over... that can be really ugly sometimes. When it was all said and done, he was ready to move back here with our real friends and family.

Lisa: He seems like he's really happy there.

Kim: He is really happy. And his friends...you get new friends. There's just so much pressure and stuff that goes with NASCAR. He is really, really happy here. We all are, I think. This is home.

Lisa: I'm going to have to go there someday. I've always wanted to go to St. Louis, but I've never been.

Kim: There is so much to do here. You know, maybe we were just so involved in racing down in North Carolina. I'm sure every city has stuff to do. But St. Louis seems like there is some kind of public activity every single weekend, whether it's summer or winter, right? There's just something always going on. We're huge St. Louis Cardinals fans, so it's nice with the games. It's just a fun, fun city.

Lisa: I'm glad you're enjoying it there. People probably ask you this all the time, but if Kenny had not been a driver, had never been a driver, what do you envision that he would have ended up doing instead?

Kim: I do get that question a lot. His answer always is, “If my dad had been a fisherman and that's what we'd have grown up with, I would have been that.” But his dad ran races locally here in the St. Louis area, so that's kind of all he knew. However, Kenny is very smart in a lot of different ways. I could see him being a singer. He's singing all the time. I don't think he's a bad singer. I could see him being a psychologist. I'm not kidding you! He has been really instrumental in helping people mentally, like when they're having issues. He can be your best friend. I mean, literally.

Lisa: I can picture that with him because I actually work in a behavioral health office, so I can definitely see where he would be good at that.

Kim: Yeah, I mean, there have been some young racers who have just had some struggles and Kenny sits down and talks to them. Even one of our sons-in-law was wanting to be a dirt racer, Kenny had some words of wisdom for him. I can see him doing something along those lines.

Lisa: If you had to pick, what do you like better: sweater weather or flip-flop weather? And other than your cruises, what's your favorite place you've ever been on vacation?

Kim: Flip-flop weather, for sure. You know, we do our cruise. We've also taken some trips over to the Bahamas, just to stay at a resort or something like that. We did go to Alaska recently. Alaska is beautiful, but I am deathly afraid of bears. I just felt like I was watching over my shoulder the whole time that I couldn't really enjoy it. You know?

Lisa: Did you actually see any bears?

Kim: We did! Kenny got out of the car and walked over. There were two baby bears. I thought to myself, “Are you crazy? Mama bear's not that far!” So we did see them. We saw moose and sled dogs. We did see a lot, but we actually didn't go there on vacation. Kenny was asked to come race up there, so we went there for that, but we made it to where we would have at least a few days to go and see different things. Everything that we do, it's usually because he's racing.

Kenny always used to say, "Oh, I don't like the hot really, don't like the hot weather." But you know what? Last year was so cold for us here. We had snow in May. It was just a weird year. So he said, "You know, what Kim, I think you're right. I'll never complain about the hot weather. Because you can't do much in the cold weather. Maybe if you want to go skiing. I'm not into skiing."

Lisa: I'm not a cold weather person, either. Thank you so much for talking to me! It was fun.

(Note: As of December 1, Kim's wreath-making shop is on hiatus for the rest of the year, but please feel free to contact her via Wreaths by Kim Wallace after the holidays if you'd like to buy one of her awesome creations!)

A Conversation with Kim Wallace A Conversation with Kim Wallace Reviewed by laweez on Monday, December 06, 2021 Rating: 5