Friday, August 11, 2006

Local Flora

The Flower business in New York is very competitive as is everything else here. On the Upper East Side, particularly Madison Avenue, there seems to be a flower shop on every corner. (and I'm not even referring to the multitude of Korean grocers who also sell fresh cut flowers at a quarter of the price of the legit flower shops.) Many of these businesses have been family owned and operated for generations started by an immigrant relative (usually Greek) decades ago in search of the American Dream.

I had the opportunity to work at one of these shops in midtown for a few years. I worked at Denis Flowers at 48th and Lexington under the tutelage of "old lady Denis" as she called herself. She was the kind of woman who would have been referred to as a "dame" during another era. She was all class, no nonsense and always ready with a hilarious one-liner to punctuate any situation. She passed on much of her knowledge and her love of the craft to me. Mrs. Denis was 86 or 87 when I worked with her years ago and still sharp as a tack. Sadly she sold the business she and her husband built over 60 years to a man who mismanaged it and ultimately it closed to make way for a swanky new bar for the adjoining Inter-Continental Hotel. Also worth mentioning, this year the New York City Flower Market which called W. 28th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues home for decades was evicted so that more boxy, brick "luxury" high-rises can be built. Progress.

Having worked in the flower industry I'm always interested to see how it operates in other towns and even other countries. I like to take pictures of flower shops, too, because I believe they are quickly becoming a thing of the past.* The specialized, individual customer service of these small shops is being replaced by the one-click convenience of 1 800 Flowers (God help us!) and the like. It is doubtful however that the person on the other end of that click understands the art of boxed roses, knows how to wire an orchid corsage or will take the time to wrap up a carefully arranged bouquet in a frothy cellophane extravaganza complete with florist bows in colors that match the flowers exactly.

Below are some photos of flower shops and stalls I snapped while I was in Europe. From top to bottom they are Venice, Venice, Naples, Tallin (Estonia) and Barcelona.

* I made a half-hearted attempt to do this with barber shops, too, while I traveled throughout the Midwest. For they are surely becoming a relic of the 20th century as well. It's always a nice surprise to pop in to one of these places and have them groom your sideburns with hot foam and a straight razor without your even having to ask. Don't try that at Supercuts.

Labels: ,


At 12:27 AM, Blogger judy said...

I'm also a fan of photographing flower stalls and shops around the world. Some of my favorites were in The Netherlands where it is considered obligatory to arrive with a bouquet of flowers in hand when invited for dinner. The bouquets made up for sale are magnificent, many times monochormatic and make use of unusual berries and foliage. You could clearly see that the art of arranging beautiful floral compositions was well developed and appreciated. Thanks for reminding me of how much pleasure I've gotten from taking time to appreciate the roses.


Post a Comment

<< Home