The Brattle Square Florist has a long rich history and found a way to keep it going. The flower mecca will remain open, back in the hands of its original owners.

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Hope blooms at a beloved Harvard Square florist that almost shut down

February 01, 2022

Brattle Square Florist, which will soon be moving out of Brattle Square. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

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

The century-old shop in Harvard Square that sells fresh cut irises, roses and daffodils was set to shut its doors for good at the end of January. But starting Feb. 1, the flower mecca will remain open, back in the hands of its original owners.

It’s the best news Bill Lucas of Boxford said he’s heard in a very long time. He stopped in after returning from a trip to Colorado and said he’s been buying blooms here for 15 years.

“Every week I’d stop in and get my wife flowers,” he recalled, “and my wife told me,  ‘Your florist is shutting down.’ We just got back into town, and I was gonna come say goodbye to them, and I heard the good news. I’m just thrilled to death they’re going to stay open.”

Lucas called Brattle Square Florist an institution. “It’s the ambience, the people,” he explained, “and they’re great flowers — they last forever.”

As for which bouquets he buys, Lucas usually 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 grew up in the shop and it’s been a part of his of his daily life for five decades. As a kid he learned how to fill water buckets and take care of fragile flowers from his uncle and mother. “I’m 59 and started when I was nine years old — it was a family business,” Zedros explained, “We owned it for 98 years and sold to Randy Ricker nine years ago.” Zedros’s family stayed on working for the company. Then in December Ricker announced his retirement and the shop’s closure.

“He wants out. He’s worked hard and he deserves that,” Zedros said. “Nine years is a long time to be on your feet every day working 60 hours a week.”

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 negotiate a deal and said he was especially inspired by the heartfelt outpouring of support from the community.

“People came in crying and really upset that we were leaving, and then they came in crying because they were happy because we were opening again,” Zedros recalled, “I’ve gotten so many letters and cards we could wallpaper a room with it.”

Local resident Lisbeth Applebaum even offered to volunteer if the shop that’s helped her celebrate many a milestone would stay open.

“It’s a wonderful place, these people are great, they’re really hard working,” she said, “this store has a long history — and little by little there will be nothing left of places that people really value.”

Independent bookstores, record stores and mom and pop shops have been forced to leave Harvard Square as rents have skyrocketed over the past decade.

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

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

“When somebody is gone it’s like a grieving process, and it also makes you aware that you could be next,” she said. “But Stephen hangs in there — and he always has a smile — so it’s always worth it to come in here and smile and say hi.”

Like a lot of companies, Stephen Zedros said Brattle Square Florist has struggled with supply chain issues and high inventory prices throughout the pandemic, but they’ve managed to survive. He acknowledged that flowers bring color, life and joy to people – especially in dark times.

Zedros’s uncle and 86-year-old mother ran Brattle Square Florist for decades and he said they’re over-the-moon that he’ll be carrying on the family business.

“To get to the third generation — which I am — is amazing,” he added.

Zedros is taking over the shop just in time for Valentine’s Day, one of the craziest holidays in the flower biz. He’ll move the Brattle Square Florist to a new location — just down the street — in a couple of months.

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