As Wayne Lednum celebrates 45 years of successes as the founder of Creative Concepts, he recalls some of the early and challenging days of his company — and notes his loved ones and dedicated employees have always been the foundation of his business
Wayne Lednum sure has seen the landscape of the Eastern Shore change in his day. The spry octogenarian, who turned 85 on June 7, founded Creative Concepts in Bethany Beach with his wife, Bobbi, in 1973, within sight of Sea Colony’s first high-rise, which was still under construction. During a candid conversation, the patriarch of the third-generation business recalled some of the company’s earliest days and shared the importance of surrounding oneself with honest, hardworking individuals as keys to its success more than 45 years later.
“Bobbi and I were happy — me to be away from corporate life and her from the suburban life,” Wayne said of moving his family to the Delaware beaches. “Freedom and fresh air were ours. We had youthful enthusiasm and an indomitable attitude that didn’t know failure was an option. Our three sons, Craig, Steve and Scott, were in high school and tasting Ocean City freedom themselves.
“The Sea Colony building, and its opportunity, were in front of us every morning as we drove to work,” he continued. “I hasten to add that the building was empty of people except for weekends — and then only if it was warm. There was no local business for beach décor, not that anyone walked through the door all week anyhow. Back then, in order to call Salisbury, you had to have an operator to complete your telephone call… now that’s rural!”
Wayne left a managerial position at Montgomery Ward to relocate his family and pursue his entrepreneurial passion. Originally a window-fashion and home-accessories store, Creative Concepts rapidly expanded its offerings to include furniture and complimentary interior-design services to create a full-service shopping experience for customers.
“There were less than a handful of furniture stores from Ocean City to Rehoboth Beach at the time, along with an independent decorator who primarily did government work at Dover Air Base,” Wayne said. “Our first store was 1,200 square feet, including the bathroom and storage. Our first employee was our youngest son, Scott, who was too young for Mom to be comfortable leaving him alone at home. I think he is still mad at me for paying him $5 — I’m not sure if that was for a day or a week.”
The original store was located in South Bethany’s York Beach Mall, and the Lednums expanded their operation by moving to Creekside Plaza in Millville. Wayne and Bobbi opened a second location in Lewes in the early 1980s and later built their flagship showroom in Ocean View in 2005. Today, Creative Concepts has more than 30 employees and roughly 30,000 square feet for showroom and warehouse space between its two showrooms.
Family has always been a welcome and trusted component of the Creative Concepts business plan. Eldest son Craig is the furniture merchandiser and accessories manager. Steve is in charge of the warehouse and delivery operations, as well as the window-treatments division. Scott oversees construction and building management. Daughter-in-law Gail Lednum is Creative Concepts’ lead designer, while grandsons Justin, who works full-time in the showroom, and Corey, who works in the warehouse in-between semesters at college, collectively help further the Lednum family legacy.
Their successes were not without challenge and sacrifice, however, as long hours and a longing for more customers dominated those early years of the business.
“There wasn’t a middle class down here, just many working couples surrounding the necessary beach enterprises,” Wayne said. “That meant scraping by financially in the winter and working seven days and six nights in the short summer season.”
The family’s biggest challenge came in March of 2017, when Bobbi, whom Wayne married 61 years earlier, passed away at age 79. Heartbroken by the loss of his wife and best friend, Wayne carries on today with his trademark enthusiasm and spirit, guided by irreplaceable and inspirational memories of the love of his life.
Wayne also has the full support of his talented and dynamic team of employees, who feel a familial connection to him and continue to learn from him.
“I feel I have been very fortunate to work with Wayne on a daily basis,” said Patti Marro, who has been the company’s bookkeeper for seven-plus years. “His years of knowledge and experience have helped me, because I can apply what he has taught me at work in my personal life.”
“Mr. Wayne has been a mentor to me. I have improved my life tremendously just by knowing him,” said Shawn Stevens, who serves as warehouse manager and has been employed with Creative Concepts for 15 years. “This is a wonderful place to work, and the Lednums are like family to me. Mr. Wayne calls me his ‘other son.’ He’s an awesome guy and a father figure to me.”
“Wayne is an amazing and unique man,” said Lewes location designer Robin Wall. “I was able to meet Bobbi, Wayne and Craig on one of my very first days on the job. From that point, I knew this was a business that held high standards for honesty, integrity and great personal relations.”
“I’ve always been an idealist. I believe you gather together people who want to work, work together and want to function as a team,” Wayne said. “I don’t have to drive my enthusiasm; I believe it. Even at 85, I wake up eager to go to work every day, because I know that when I get there, my family, my incredible staff and the best customers anyone could ever ask for are all going to be there, too.”
302-539-6989 (Ocean View), 302-645-6200 (Lewes)
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