CAMBRIDGE — Surrounded by thousands of roses and dozens of other bouquets, Randy Ricker doesn’t want to hear your love story.
The owner of Brattle Square Florist spent Tuesday preparing for Valentine’s Day, a florist’s version of New Year’s Eve, the Super Bowl, and a royal wedding tied together with a frilly ribbon. But Ricker declared his disdain for lengthy love notes and insisted that “flowers should do the heavy lifting” when declaring one’s devotion.
Step inside the Harvard Square shop, though, and you’ll find the work of romance in the making.
The sweet aromas of hydrangeas, alstroemerias, lilies, and orchids waft up from the basement, where the flowers are cut and arranged. Step over the scrapped leaves and cut stems scattered on the floor and behold tubs of pink, white, and red roses from Ecuador and Colombia.
Surrounded by such opulent beauty, Ricker prefers the cheaper option: carnations.
“I don’t really care if people turn their noses up at [carnations], or think it’s cheap,” said Ricker, taking a cigarette break from the chaotic morning inventory. “I like what I like.”
Five years since he bought the business, Ricker still stands as the new kid of a century-old shop known for its arrangements, pen-and-paper bookkeeping, and first-name-basis hospitality. He’s proud that he hasn’t changed much since it opened. His mantra: Why try to fix something that isn’t broken?
But these days uncertainty hovers over the enterprise, often regarded as a trademark of the square: In December, a cluster of Harvard Square properties — Brattle Square Flower Shop included — were sold to a real estate investment company for $108 million.
Jeff Murphy, who works at the shop on the big holidays, explained his fears in hushed tones, while loading deliveries in the trunk of his car.
“I don’t know what this community would do if this place closes,” Murphy said.
Ricker said he doesn’t waste time worrying. “I don’t think about the things that I can’t control,” he said.
Before taking over the shop, Ricker spent 20 years in the corporate world but became bored, so he decided to take on a business he knew nothing about.
With the help of a doting staff, Ricker learned the ins and outs of being a florist, as anxiety inducing as it was. “It’s never an easy transition into something new, but if you jump in the water, you never really have an option to sink — you have to swim,” he said.
On Valentine’s Day, Ricker will be in the shop setting up at 5 a.m. He said that in just the one week leading up to Wednesday, the shop will sell up to a month’s worth of inventory. That’s over 7,000 roses.
There’s a lot of room to sink. But Catie Zedros, a few steps away, has faith, and quite a large stake in the relatively new owner.
Zedros, 82, has worked at the shop since she was 12. Her father and his two brothers started it in 1917 when they emigrated from Greece.
“The store started because one person was thankful that they were in this country, and could change their lives simply by earning a living doing what they loved,” she said between scribbling customer orders.
“Randy really kept it the same,” she added. “He understood that when something is happy and low key, why change the flavor of it?”
Stephen, her son, 55, works right alongside her, taking orders, helping customers and making arrangements.
Sure, the shop could have stayed in the Zedros family completely, and Stephen tried to keep it that way: For 10 years, he owned the business.
“I gave it up because I would be up till 11 p.m every night, it was just too much,” he said.
As if on cue, Randy’s mother, Barbara Ricker, rolled in with homemade blueberry muffins and pastries. Barbara drives up from her home in South Carolina every Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day to help out.
Watching the Zedroses, then her own son at his desk, Barbara Ricker softly smiled.
“There’s a mother and son standing there, and there’s a mother and son standing here,” she said. “And I just feel, isn’t there something really, really special about that?”
After all the bouquets are delivered, Randy Ricker will take his mother home, probably with a bouquet of her favorites — blue hydrangeas.Natasha Mascarenhas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.