RACHEL TOROK thought she’d spend her life in the health field, not running nationally prominent companies serving the events industry.
After earning a master’s degree in exercise physiology in 1998, Torok received an offer from her brother, Todd Lloyd, to work for his company, which had evolved from a retail flower shop to specializing in wedding flowers and décor.
Soon, though, Torok wanted to use her degree, so she took a job in a pain clinic. “But I was bored,” she says. “I struggled with that for a while because it was what I went to school for. But I enjoyed [Todd’s] business. It was nonstop—it was running to the laundry mat to do our linens, the phone ringing off the hook, watching the business grow. There was more opportunity to be creative. So I asked Todd if I could come back.”
Today Torok is president of Top That! Event and Chair Covers and Linens, the companies her brother founded and nurtured into national powerhouses. When Lloyd and his partner, Christopher Neumann, died in a plane crash this winter, Torok suddenly found herself at the helm. Taking over “wasn’t even a decision,” Torok says. “For me, what it comes down to is we have all of these mouths we feed and I know a lot of them on a really personal level and how long they’ve been here. They’ve given their whole life to us, so for me to walk away I wouldn’t feel good about that. [Taking over] is what I wanted to do and what Todd would want me to do, and I enjoy it.”
Like Lloyd, Torok grew up in tiny Clare, the youngest of three siblings. Born more than a decade apart, she and Lloyd weren’t close growing up. Working together, that changed.
As the business grew, Torok focused on sales, hitting the road with the company’s homemade swatch book in hand. She also helped run the shop and manage the company’s finances. Eventually, Lloyd took over sales and Torok focused on the books and daily operations.
Though she knew the company thoroughly at the time of Lloyd’s death, taking the top post has posed challenges.
“The transition from behind the scenes has been the biggest learning curve for me, stepping out and earning the trust,” she says. “I was very hands-on before, but a lot of people [outside the companies] don’t know that. So that’s the biggest learning curve, being the face of the company, especially since that’s not my natural personality. And Todd had big shoes to fill in that department.”
Torok, an avid runner and mother of one who lives in Royal Oak, is engaged to be married in September to a fellow runner with three children. The intimate ceremony, planned for Mission Point on Mackinac Island, will be a bright spot in what has been a difficult year. “The kids are really excited about it,” she says. “There’s been so much happiness.”