Hope blooms at a beloved Harvard Square florist that nearly closed

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As Lady Bird Johnson once said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” That feeling recently filled Brattle Square Florist one winter morning as loyal customers flocked to the warm, fragrant space.

The century-old Harvard Square shop that sells fresh-cut irises, roses and daffodils was due to close its doors permanently at the end of January. But from February 1, the flower mecca will remain open, back in the hands of its original owners.

Brattle Square Florist will remain open, returning to original family ownership. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

This is the best news Boxford’s Bill Lucas has said he’s heard in a very long time. He stopped by after returning from a trip to Colorado and said he had been buying flowers here for 15 years.

“Every week I would stop by to buy my wife flowers,” he recalled, “and my wife would say to me, ‘Your flower shop is closing.’ We had just gotten back to town, and I was going to come over and say goodbye to them, and I heard the good news, and I’m just thrilled to death that they’re staying open.

Lucas called Brattle Square Florist an institution.

“It’s the vibe, people,” he explained, “and they’re great flowers — they last forever.”

As for the bouquets he buys, Lucas generally leaves the picking up to the pros.

“Anything Stephen tells me to get,” he said with a laugh, “I’m not a flower expert, he is.”

Stephen Zedros, the longtime manager of Brattle Square Florist, creates a flower arrangement.  (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Stephen Zedros, the longtime manager of Brattle Square Florist, creates a flower arrangement. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Stephen Zedros grew up in the shop and it has been part of his daily life for five decades. As a child, he learned to fill buckets with water and take care of fragile flowers from his uncle and mother.

“I’m 59 and started when I was nine – it was a family business,” Zedros explained, “We owned it for 98 years and sold it to Randy Ricker nine years ago. “

Zedros’ family stayed on to work for the company. Then, in December, Ricker announced his retirement and the store’s closure.

“He wants out. He worked hard and he deserves it,” Zedros said. “Nine years is a long time to be up every day working 60 hours a week.”

Stephen Zedros prepares the store for the day.  (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Stephen Zedros prepares the store for the day. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

But Zedros, the florist’s longtime manager, wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the business his grandparents founded as Gomatas Brothers Fresh Produce. So he worked to broker a deal and said he was particularly inspired by the heartfelt outpouring of support from the community.

“People came crying and really upset that we were leaving, then they came crying because they were happy because we are reopening,” Zedros recalls, “I got so many letters and cards that we could wallpaper a room with .”

Local resident Lisbeth Applebaum even offered to volunteer if the shop that helped her celebrate many milestones remained open.

“It’s a wonderful place, these people are great, they work really hard,” she said, “this store has a long history – and little by little there won’t be anything left of the places people love really.”

The Brattle Square Florist will soon be moving to the street.  (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
The Brattle Square Florist will soon be moving to the street. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Independent bookstores, record stores and mom and pop shops have been forced out of Harvard Square as rents have soared over the past decade.

“We’ve lost so many really iconic places in Cambridge, and it’s very heartbreaking,” Applebaum said.

Denise Patnod, licensed acupuncturist and client of Brattle Square Florist for 30 years, also lamented how the pandemic has devastated so many of her fellow small business owners.

“When someone’s gone, it’s like a grieving process, and it also makes you realize that you might be next,” she said. “But Stephen is hanging on – and he’s always got a smile on his face – so it’s always worth coming here and smiling and saying hello.”

Flowers on display at Brattle Square Florist.  (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Flowers on display at Brattle Square Florist. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Like many businesses, Stephen Zedros said Brattle Square Florist struggled with supply chain issues and high inventory prices throughout the pandemic, but they managed to survive. He recognized that flowers bring color, life and joy to people, especially in dark times.

Zedros’ uncle and 86-year-old mother ran Brattle Square Florist for decades and he said they were delighted he was continuing the family business.

“To reach the third generation – which I am – is incredible,” he added.

Zedros takes over the shop just in time for Valentine’s Day, one of the craziest holidays in the flower world. He will move the Brattle Square Florist to a new location – just down the street – in a few months.

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