19th Avenue Florist Still Thrives After All These Years


Driving south on 19th Avenue, usually to escape the fog, I am tempted to stop and sometimes do, at the Quintara flower stand where the Papadopoulos brothers maintain their family business, founded in 1979.

“My brothers and I took over in 2006,” said Taso Papdopoulos, who started working at the stand part-time at the age of 13. With his brothers Kosta and Toli, he keeps the florist open from dawn until nightfall, serving customers. , placing orders and shaping their chosen flowers into bouquets seven days a week.

“It’s the three of us, and sometimes a college kid,” said Taso, who was packing roses, interacting with clients and gently turning down at least one hopeful job seeker who was looking to gain floral experience on a Friday afterward. – otherwise slow midday.

“If you had come on a regular day, all we do all day is make bouquets,” he said. “At this time of year, everything is easy. I can order flowers for a whole week with two 20 minute phone calls.

Summer flowers are abundant, more so than in the spring when life in the flower business is most hectic.

“This is when you have all of your flowered vacations,” Taso explained. “It starts to get busy in January, before Valentine’s Day. Nobody wants to sell you flowers and you have to go and get them, ”he said. “Two weeks later it’s International Women’s Day and it’s a big day for Eastern Europeans, many of those who live in Sunset and Richmond are buying flowers for that day. After that, there is Qingming, a holiday at the cemetery, ”he said.

The rush continues until Easter and peaks with Mother’s Day. This year there was a shortage of flowers that forced Taso to work 80 to 100 hour work weeks.

“Imports are shipped directly to us,” he said. “The South American product arrives at night. We have to cut them and put them in the water so that they drink because they are thirsty.

Other flowers are of local origin, “mainly in Santa Cruz County and some in Colma. I go straight to the farm and collect them myself, ”he said, aware of trends and customer demand.

“Dahlias are one thing, I used to sell four or five bundles a day, now they go quickly,” he said.

“Sunflowers are popular. But last year I sold twice as many sunflowers as this year; I don’t know why, ”he said. “One flower that has been all the rage in recent years are peonies. For 50 weeks of the year they are really expensive, then at the end of the season the price drops, ”he said, which is why you won’t often find the early summer flower so much. desired on its stand.

“In the 90s carnations were big, we were selling more carnations than roses,” he said. “Then, in the 2000s, nobody bought carnations. All the carnations are imported, none are grown in California and the prices have gone up a lot, ”he explained. “In the last five or six years, they’re back in fashion and I’m selling three times more than 10 years ago,” he shrugged. There doesn’t seem to be much to explain for changing tastes, although he does his best to satisfy them, and his roses, often priced at $ 10 a dozen, are a perennial.

“Fifty percent of my clients get roses,” he said. “I don’t record any data, but a lot of men tend to buy roses, maybe because they don’t know flowers but they know roses.”

As if at the right time, a man curled up and chose three bouquets of red and white roses. As Taso wrapped them in green tissue paper and brown paper, the customer asked, “What is this flower? “

“It’s a dahlia,” Taso said, with surprising joy and patience, considering he’s probably answered the same question several hundred times.

Taso Papadopoulos dit qu'environ la moitié de ses clients, et en particulier les hommes, achètent des roses, même si le stand de fleurs de sa famille Sunset District offre une belle variété d'options.  (Kevin N. Hume/L'examinateur) <ins></ins>“srcset =” https://2zwmzkbocl625qdrf2qqqfok-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/26439670_web1_210910-SFE-SFLIVES-STAND_1.jpg 1200w, https: /b2zqwmfokcline 1200w, https: /b2zqwmfokssokengine .com / wp-content / uploads / 2021/09 / 26439670_web1_210910-SFE-SFLIVES-STAND_1-300×200.jpg 300w, https://2zwmzkbocl625qdrf2qqqfok-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-/2021/09/upload/upload 26439670_web1_210910-SFE-SFLIVES-STAND_1-768×512.jpg 768w, https://2zwmzkbocl625qdrf2qqqfok-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09-10/26439670_web1ESpg1/09/26439670_web1-pg1/09/26439670_web1ESpg_pg https://2zwmzkbocl625qdrf2qqqfok-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/26439670_web1_210910-SFE-SFLIVES-STAND_1-640×427.jpg 640w “sizes =” (max-widthw: 1200p, 1200px 1200x) “/></p>
<p class=Taso Papadopoulos says about half of his customers, and especially men, buy roses, even though his family’s Sunset District flower stand offers a nice variety of options. (Kevin N. Hume / The Examiner)

“At least half of our customers are locals, on weekdays it’s even higher,” he said. “Others come from Marin County and travel to the peninsula. They come several times a week or once a week. I remember some clients since I started working here, ”Taso said.

The Papadopoulos family established their first floral businesses in the city center and on the peninsula in the early 1970s.

“My grandfather came to this country in 1973 and like new immigrants he tried things… restaurants. The flowers ended up working for them.

Taso was born in Greece and arrived here at the age of 1.

“Both of my parents were very traditional,” he said: “I only spoke English when I was 7 or 8”, even though he didn’t grow up in the Greek-American community. in the broad sense here.

“I made more Greek friends in my 30s than I ever grew up with,” he said. “It seems their families arrived at the turn of the 20th century or in the 1960s and 1970s,” and these immigrant communities and generations have rarely met.

As Papadopoulos noted, florists, florists, and restaurants, as well as candy shops and shoe shines, were traditional businesses for Greek immigrants. But the Greeks who settled south of Market, then passed through Market to enter the net, eventually dispersed to the outer quarters and other parts of the Bay Area. Much of San Francisco’s once-vital Greek community exists in memory, commemorated by a plaque on Third and Folsom streets, though the city’s beloved convenience stores and cafes are part of the immigration legacy. Greek, just like two mayors: George Christopher, the first Greek-American mayor of an American city in the country, in office from 1956 to 1964, and Art Agnos, son of Greek immigrants and mayor from 1988 to 1992.

“Before, there were a lot more flower stands in Union Square,” Papadopoulos said of his relatives and their early days. “I think my dad bought a stall there, but he was young and let him go and they opened their own stores, traditional indoor florists on the peninsula.”

“As far back as I can remember, we weren’t working, but I was hanging out with my dad and my uncle, we would go to Santa Cruz or the Flower Mart, which is not what it used to be”, a- he declared. . “I learned the trade by watching and by trial and error. I think that was the third place the family started, ”he said, referring to the brothers’ lean-to, a bright spot on an otherwise dark 19th Avenue.

“We have been strangely lucky,” Taso said. “With the COVID closures, we were only closed for seven weeks until the outdoor businesses could open. Previously we were classified in retail, but all florists were classified in agriculture, so if there is another stop, we are free to be open.

In a long season of bad news, uncertainty and perpetual change, and despite shortages and changing tastes, it’s good to know that there are things here that haven’t changed much at all.

“My uncle came over to the owner and said, ‘Look, I want to open before Valentine’s Day,’ and the owner said, ‘Sure, but only for six months because I’m building apartments. “They still want to build housing, and in the last 10 years some plans have been approved and they have included us,” Papdopoulos said. “We will have the corner storefront with flowers outside. It’s a good relationship; 42 years later, we are still here.

Denise Sullivan, author, cultural worker and editor of “Your Golden Sun Still Shines: San Francisco Personal Histories & Small Fictions”, can be reached at denisesullivan.com and @ 4DeniseSullivan. SF Lives / Live Talks airs live at 10 a.m. on the second Sunday of the month from birdbeckett.com. On September 12, the guest is art historian and curator Kathy Zarur.

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