Located at the heart of Park Extension on St. Roch Street, the Park-Ex Flower Shop has been serving the community for quite some time, but perhaps they aren’t just in the flower business as it may seem on the outside. Perhaps on the inside, they sell feelings just as much as they do one of nature’s greatest and most beautiful of gifts.
“Our business is in ‘emotional sales,’ so it’s either a very happy occasion or a very sad occasion,” current owner Aris Mitropoulos says of his shop. Aris states that the only time a purchase for flowers isn’t emotional is when one purchases flowers for themselves because they feel they deserve them.
Neighborhood flower shops do cater to the neighborhoods emotions, as Aris stated … his words very poignant and lasting. It was in fact his words that I thought about as I ventured back to my computer to write up this piece … emotional sales.
When I walked in there to conduct my interview with Aris, I was taken back to a time when the corner flower shop was where you went to buy that single rose you could so rarely afford for that girl you wanted to take out to the movies. You know who I’m talking about … she lived right down the street. This place in particular, though, smells like a typical flower shop, yes, but there’s so much more to it than meets the eye; the aromas of the gorgeous flowers way back in the fridge seemingly reaching out to potential clients and they obviously did to me, calling images of my own personal history with flower shops to my mind as I so mentioned.
An unfortunate pandemic
Unfortunately, we can’t simply do a profile on a local business without mentioning Covid-19. The subject came up and for good reason. They are doing their part—if not more than some—to protect the community and themselves.
In dealing with Covid-19, the shop is actually alone in what we’ve seen thus far: They hold the consumer at the door. The space is a comfortable square meter, blocked by a rail and an appropriately placed table where a bottle of disinfectant is present—a familiar sight by now for one and all.
Graduations, proms and weddings all went out the window when Covid-19 reared its face into our lives and into the lives of businesswomen and businessmen everywhere. So was obviously the case for a flower shop no less; such events would have definitely kept them busier all this summer season, no doubt. Their hours were reduced considerably.
From the start of the pandemic, they didn’t stop working, though, and in one way or another. Their doors were locked and the store wasn’t open per se, but they were there during lockdown, working and serving only essential services and funerals, and once they were given the green light to go ahead and open, they did so with a vigor and dedication to serving the community as they always had. During lockdown, they had to refuse hundreds of orders to go to people’s homes. “We didn’t want to put our customers in jeopardy and we didn’t want to put our staff in jeopardy,” says Aris.
Their community is specifically Park Ex, but they also have clients that span as far as Montréal West, further East and even Laval—all over really.
A brief history
They’ve been at the 705 St. Roch location for six years. They were at the corner of Querbes and St. Roch for ten years prior to that. During the eighties and nineties, they were across the street from JPA which was where the store was purchased from previous owners by his parents, Greek immigrants who had a passion for flowers to begin with, seeing no other option for a career choice at the time. Aris’s father was in the needle trade—a dwindling profession to say the least—and his mother was always good with flowers and plants. They were personal friends of the previous owner and the rest, as they say is history.
Perhaps, but these days, we could all do with that old romantic story of immigrants coming here and not only setting themselves and their families up, but also in turn giving back to the community that embraced them. “It was a small shop, a small investment and they wanted to roll the dice and do it,” Aris explains when speaking of his parents. A look of pride comes into his eyes as he speaks of his parents and that long-ago decision they made to originally purchase the shop. If I could see his mouth beneath the mask, I’m sure a smile would be spread there as he looks back.
He took the business over in 2008, subsequently moving here in 2014 from the States in order to operate the business full-time.
The inner workings as they stand today
A team of two workers were present when I walked in to interview Aris: Kim, who has been there for a decade and Mira who has been there for 5 years. A few of their other employees have not yet returned, partly because it isn’t as busy as it usually would be at this time, and partly because some part-time workers that are collecting CERB allowances for the time being have not yet returned. Like so many other businesses in the area they too have certain employees that failed to return to work because of the blanket that the CERB represented, but Aris holds firm that most of his employees are dedicated and will return when the time is right; both part-time workers and his other full-time workers included.
Their opening hours, some of their arrangement options and so much more info are posted on their website: www.parkex.ca.
What serving Park Extension means to them
They haven’t charged for delivery to any Park Extension address, nor have they ever. “Park Ex is diverse.” He states that the community itself and all its nationalities garner them all sorts of different requests for business and this diversification provides them with a lot of business, and yes, even during such difficult times. He further states that they also have a more affluent portion of the community that comes in and makes orders or purchases that balance out the more mundane orders they receive, balancing out their income overall; even students who have an even lower disposable income than most clients come in and purchase items (perhaps very reminiscent of the images the flower shop conjured up for me upon walking in).
Aris says of his business and dedication: “I’m dealing with people and I love doing what I’m doing.” Perhaps that’s the simplest way to put it, but sometimes simple is the best way to get a point across and I read him loud and clear.
Leading by example
In Aris Mitropoulos we saw a business owner that not only cares about the business he runs, but more how he serves the community and the end result his product garners. He cares about how that bouquet or that beautiful plant will be received by whom it is meant for, and that is clear in the way he speaks about the business, the history of the business and the future of his business. His staff seems to share that dedication; that came off of them as I watched them make a few arrangements at the back of the shop from my square meter vantage point. Overall, I was awash with feelings of nostalgia, admiration and yes, even respect as I spoke to this man, this member of a community that has really banded together during a terribly unfortunate time for the world.
Dare I say it … this isn’t seen in other boroughs in the city … this brotherly and sisterly accord I see in most of the faces I pass on those streets of Park Ex, going from one story to another, and I saw it in the flower shop the day I spoke to Aris. It was an honor to be given a glimpse into his operation and we thank him for his time.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”– Audrey Hepburn