By Maria Rocha-Buschel
After 65 years in business, the colorful floral stand tucked in a corner at the Brooklyn-bound exit of the First Avenue L is selling its last bouquet on Friday. Current owner Pete Tsoumas has been operating the stand for almost 50 years, having taken it over from his grandfather and uncle after running three other stores in the city, and now he finally gets to retire.
“If you told me I’d be here for 48 years, I’d say you’re crazy,” Tsoumas said.
Tsoumas said that the construction on the station was a challenge but the main reason he’s closing up shop is his health and he’s looking forward to spending time with his family.
“I need a rest. ‘If you don’t close on Friday, you won’t make it (to your appointment) in September,’” he said his doctor told him at a previous appointment, indicating that his stem-cutting arm gives him trouble.
After working for seven days a week for the last five decades, he said that he’ll be relieved to have the time off, but he still felt the ending will be bittersweet.
“The worst day will be when I have to give them the key,” he told a long-time customer while reminiscing earlier this week. “Maybe then there will be some tears.”
Other customers expressed their gratitude for his presence in the neighborhood throughout the years on social media posts.
“(His) smiling face greeted me as a kid coming home from special trips with my family, then later from college, then when I’d visit and deeply miss NYC and finally this past week as my daughter and husband and I arrived home from a fun day together,” shared Maria Basso-Lipani of Tsoumas on an Instagram post about his retirement. “Thank you for always being there: a fixture not only of my beloved community but also a fixture of my childhood and good times. That consistency meant a lot.”
Lifelong Stuy Town resident Richard Sussman told Town & Village that Tsoumas has been a constant in the neighborhood for as long as he can remember, noting that the florist did the flowers for his sister’s wedding.
“I’ve been buying flowers for my mom from him every time I go through there,” Sussman said. “He’s always been there. He’s always been a fixture and that’s an amazing fixture to have in the neighborhood. I felt a sense of wanting to patronize him because he’s been putting in so much effort all these years. There was one time when his refrigerator just got smashed because someone vandalized it and it didn’t faze him.”
A current resident of Riverdale in the Bronx, Tsoumas said that he’ll be moving to Bayside to be closer to his grandkids. He moved to the US from Greece more than 50 years ago and said that even though he’s retiring, he has no plans to leave the city.
Tsoumas is a significant figure for residents in the neighborhood but those residents are important to him as well, he said.
“I’ll miss my people,” he said. “There are so many nice people living around here. I want to say thanks to all the people around here for supporting me for so many years. Every day I have bread on the table for my family because of all the nice people who come around here.”