A mainstay of Harvard Square is shutting its doors, another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic and its wide-ranging disruptions.
Randy Ricker, owner of Brattle Square Florist, e-mailed customers Monday to notify them that the 104-year-old flower shop will close at the end of January. Rising costs and limited availability of flowers and materials, as well as a widespread labor shortage and deteriorating real estate, contributed to the decision, Ricker said, as did the personal toll of running a small business on a daily basis over the last nine years, especially the last two.
“Challenges continue to mount,” Ricker wrote in the lengthy note to customers. “The prospect of continuing operations during an ongoing and unpredictable pandemic is daunting.”
The Gomatos family began selling flowers in Harvard Square in 1917, and in the early 1970s the business moved into a long, narrow store with a green awning on Brattle Street. Ricker purchased Brattle Square Florist nine years ago and has run it with a small staff ever since.
It’s the latest in a long string of smaller and family-owned businesses that were closing in Harvard Square even before the COVID-19 pandemic kept students and tourists away. The flower shop was able to weather the first 20 months of the pandemic but the economic uncertainty of the last few months was the final straw, Ricker wrote.
“Prices for plants, flowers and hard goods have risen dramatically and we are struggling to maintain our margins,” he wrote. “Availability of product has never been more challenging. We are not able to attract and retain staff who are critical to our operation.”
And so he made the decision to wind down operations before Valentine’s Day, typically the busiest time for florists. Ricker wrote that while “it’s possible” the store could reopen in different hands, “there are no plans for that at present.”
Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, lamented the decision.
“This is such sad news for Harvard Square, for their customers and for everyone who had the pleasure of passing by 31 Brattle Street,” Jillson said in a statement. “For the past 104 years, from quiet moments to life’s most joyous celebrations, flowers from Brattle Florist have laid witness. We bid our friends a sad farewell and thank them for a century of service. We hope they get the rest they so richly deserve.”