Floral arrangements from the 117-year-old Olympia Flower Store in Boston’s South End are brightening days for customers during the spread of COVID-19.
“There’s been a lot of coronavirus-related deliveries to keep people’s spirits up,” said Joe Bornstein, who has owned the shop since 1981. “Before we closed Tuesday, a lot of people were coming in just to pick up a plant or a few flowers, and they were saying they were trying to brighten up their day since they were stuck home.”
Like every other Massachusetts business that has been dubbed nonessential by Governor Charlie Baker, Olympia closed its storefront on Washington Street to customers Tuesday to help stop the rapid spread of COVID-19.
Parties that were going to be decorated with flowers from the shop have been cancelled, hospitals have stopped accepting flowers for patients, and practically no wakes or public funeral services are being held.
But that doesn’t mean Bornstein and his team have stopped selling flowers.
Customers can still order flowers over the phone or online during the store’s slightly reduced hours of operation. Employees will deliver the orders to customer’s homes or bring them outside the store to be picked up.
“Business has cut down quite a bit, but it's a skeleton crew here so we’re keeping busy,” Bornstein said, adding that most orders right now are for spring arrangements of Irish tulips, daisies, lilies, and roses.
“People are still sending some flowers to funerals, but mostly just to people’s homes,” Bornstein said. “A lot of customers have come in to support us — they’re loyal customers.”
The only other time the store closed for an extended period was during the Blizzard of ‘78, when a massive storm dumped just over 27 inches of snow in Boston on Feb. 6 and 7, 1978.
“That was during Valentine’s week,” Bornstein said. “We were supposed to close, but we worked anyway because of the holiday.”
Olympia is open seven days a week, with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s Day. Bornstein said seeing his storefront empty of any customers has been a big change. He said a lot has changed for Olympia since Louis Bornstein, his grandfather, opened the business in 1903.
Supermarkets and the Internet have become Olympia’s main competition, and a second store location in Cleveland Circle shut its doors about five years ago. The family-owned business, once filled with uncles, aunts, grandparents, nieces, and nephews, only has two Bornsteins left on its staff: Joe and his brother.
But Bornstein said he is confident the business will adapt to the changes it faces, just as it has done for more than a century.
“We own the building so we don’t have to worry about the rent. We’ll make it through fine," he said. “And the customers have been great."