SMALL BUSINESS FOCUS: AMARYLLIS FLORIST

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By Carol Tannenhauser

Don’t stop going to Amaryllis, the well-loved neighborhood florist on Amsterdam Avenue, between 72nd street and 73rd, just because the landlord – Laub Realty – has put a “For Lease” sign in the window. The store’s lease runs out in April. “If he rents it before then, we’ll discuss it,” said Amaryllis’ owner, Lou (he wouldn’t give his last name.) “What’s the difference? It isn’t working out for me. Nothing’s going to change. Rents and real estate taxes keep going up. It’s not just the landlords that are hurting us, it’s the city.”

Scott Weiss, principal at Laub Realty, said that they would be happy for Lou to stay but that Lou had come to them to say he wouldn’t be renewing his lease. Weiss declined to say how much Laub would have charged for the next lease. As for the sign, Weiss said, “Landlords have a right to market space.”

Lou doesn’t want publicity. “You want to make a story,” he said. “This is my life! I have a business to run. I’m a one-man person.” All the while, he was hand writing a greeting card to include in an arrangement for a regular customer. “I like to do things the old-fashioned way,” he said – the way he learned from his father and mother, who immigrated from Greece while Lou was still in college there, studying electrical engineering. In 1987, he decided to join his parents and the family business in America, taking it over in 2000, when his father died. Now 52, Lou lives in Queens with his mother.

An elegant older couple entered the shop. The man breathed in the scent of fresh flowers, and said, “Intoxicating.” The woman ordered carnations, three pink and three white. As Lou wrapped them, she said, “We used to buy flowers from his father. My husband was with the Metropolitan Opera’s orchestra for 36 years, and we used to always bring flowers to the artists. We got them from his father, and then, from him. He has the best flowers. Write something, please…”

April come she may, but, for now, Amaryllis is still open. Stop in and support Lou, as he prepares to close after 29 years. Say hello from WSR, and goodbye.

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West Side Rag is profiling small businesses, which are disappearing from the neighborhood at an alarming rate. Readers have sent in dozens of suggestions and we’ll be taking a look at several of them over the next few months.

If you have suggestions for other businesses we should profile, please email us.

Cash register photo by Franck Blais.

COLUMNS, NEWS | 15 comments | permalink
    1. lynn says:

      Thanks WSR for profiling Amaryllis Florists. I’ll really miss them and was hoping the landlord would want to work things out and keep them in the neighborhood.

      Beautifully written, this sounds like something from a novel.

      An elegant older couple entered the shop. The man breathed in the scent of fresh flowers, and said, “Intoxicating.” The woman ordered carnations, three pink and three white. As Lou wrapped them, she said, “We used to buy flowers from his father. My husband was with the Metropolitan Opera’s orchestra for 36 years, and we used to always bring flowers to the artists. We got them from his father, and then, from him. He has the best flowers. Write something, please…”

    2. Pedestrian says:

      Soon nothing will be left of the beautiful UWS. All of its charms will have been eaten up by greed and glass an steel behemoths.

      Lou you will be missed.

      • Elizabeth M. says:

        Dear Pedestrian, you are so right.
        Growing up on the UWS I remember how it was really a community. Now it’s expensive condos and chain stores. And of course shops that sell mustard for $50 a jar.

    3. Meinwhysee says:

      I’ve received flowers from this shop on several occasions and I have to say, they have been PERFECTION; gorgeous, top-quality and lasted forever. I had no idea this was a one-man operation…makes the work all the more impressive.

      I think tomorrow I will stop in myself before this special place becomes yet another bank or drugstore. So depressing.

    4. Judith Kass says:

      I shop regularly at Amaryllis. I like their plants and prices. If it goes, there will be one florist on Broadway between 72 and 96 Sts. Run by some surly, unwelcoming owners whom I would prefer not to deal with.

    5. Madeline says:

      Why do the rights of landlords to profit trump (forgive the pun) every other business’s right to a profit!? If landlords get their way, every useful amenity, independent restaurant, and artist will have been driven from our city, and we will no longer be the dynamic, innovative and interesting New York that has been a beacon for so many for so long.

    6. Lin says:

      This account makes me very sad. This floral shop is this
      man’s life and his mother’s too. I hope that they will be
      able to recover from this loss.

    7. BJK says:

      When I moved back to NYC three years ago from abroad, I had to repopulate my house plants. I went to Amarrylis. They gave me a nice impromptu discount because of the large purchase and all plants are still in thriving condition (and I do *not* have a green thumb). Sorry to see them go.

      • HelenD says:

        I still have the pants that I bought from them 3 years ago, and I also get all of my ‘special occasion,’ flowers there. I don’t believe that Laub would be ‘happy for Lou to stay,’ because obviously made it impossible for him to stay. He didn’t just wake up one morning and tell them to put a FOR RENT sign in the window!

    8. Angela says:

      Love Amaryllis. We have bought many arrangements and spring bulbs plus two beloved ficus trees. Lou is always calm, kind and helpful. I hope he finds continued happiness and appreciation what and where ever that may be.

    9. Sean says:

      Did they offer a senior discount? It is the end of an era.

    10. Roger says:

      I have lived on the UWS since 1994 and have run a small business since 1979. For 37 years, I have bemoaned the loss of small businesses in our city. I participate in programs like Made In NYC as well. But I am convinced we are all doomed. Small business in NYC cannot survive…unless they were able to buy their buildings 50 or more years ago.

    11. Laurence P. MItchell says:

      A bittersweet good-bye to another jewel of the Upper West Side. As easy and justified it is to point a finger at the landlord, it’s important to note that it’s also the way we now shop that has crippled so many small businesses. With competition from inexpensive roses at corner delis to the discount coupons constantly filling our inboxes from online retailers such as 1-800-FLOWERS, it is hard to qualify spending time and premium prices at a small retailer no matter how lovely the proprietors are. It’s sad but modern society doesn’t value the niceities of living in a true neighborhood. It’s so hard to see our treasured streetscapes melting away.

      • dannyboy says:

        “It’s sad but modern society doesn’t value the niceities of living in a true neighborhood.”

        100% of WSR Commenters DO VALUE THE NICEITIES OF LIVING IN A TRUE NEIGHBORHOOD. All it will take is a little organizing to effect our power. Be strong, it will take time, BUT 100% can’t be stopped.