Historic Smithtown Flower Shop Moves to New Location
By Chris Mellides
Founded in Manhattan at the turn of the 20th century, James Cress Florist has flourished and become a main street staple in Smithtown since the 1960s.
With their fingers on the pulse of a busy suburban street in a major Long Island town, new owners George and Linda Karatzas have always admired the James Cress name and his legendary heritage. Their vow is to maintain the integrity of the popular flower shop that opened in 1903 without sacrificing quality or service.
The former James Cress business was housed in a 13,000 square foot building at the corner of Main Avenue and Bellemeade, and George Karatzas admits that moving its location a few doors down from 127 E. Main St. and into an 18,180 square foot – the establishment on foot was not an easy task. Despite this, the Karatzas family is totally optimistic. The date of the move was originally August 18.
“It’s happening,” said George Karatzas on moving day, “The flowers are there, I’m slowly bringing in the computers, and I’m ready to put the phone lines in this new location.”
“Once all the products are there and the computers are up and running, we will do business from the new location,” he added.
James Cress has grown since the Karatzas purchased the iconic Smithtown location in December 2021. With the expansion, James Cress now serves Long Islanders with two additional stores that are located at Port Jefferson Station as well as at Woodbury.
Overseeing the operations of three individual stores is a huge undertaking and one that has been further complicated by the pandemic and the lack of store employees, despite there being over 50 employees at the time.
“It’s quite a task with today’s COVID still going on,” Karatzas said. “If we don’t have employees with COVID issues, we have staff issues. We are having a hard time recruiting new helpers. It is a problem at all levels. »
When asked what steps he could take to thwart this impending issue, the florist replied, “There really isn’t much you can do other than reach out on media platforms. social.” The focus, he continued, is to “broaden the reach” of James Cress.
The award-winning florist offers same-day flower deliveries for almost any occasion. These occasions include weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, parties of all kinds, and themed events, where a wide array of flowers and bouquets are needed to spruce up a special day.
“The events industry is busy,” Karatzas said. “There are [times] where we have eight events over the weekend, that’s a lot. I have to say weddings in the summer months – when business is normally slower as there are no holidays and so on – we get busy doing weddings. There’s no two ways about it. Valentine’s Day is a big holiday for us.
While it’s unclear exactly when James Cress himself started the Smithtown storefront, designer and senior employee Kevin Henchey believes the old building was purchased by Cress in the early 1960s and quickly became a prominent location serving customers in and around the surrounding area. Henchey has been with James Cress for 40 years, according to the Karatzas family.
The entire top floor of the new James Cress Building was perfect for showcasing a dedicated bridal showroom, as the space is considerably larger than the previous one, according to George Karatzas.
“We took the first half of the upper level and rented it out. This will be the bridal showroom where brides can enter and do their consultations as we have been doing for about 30 years,” Karatzas said.
Whatever the occasion, the Karatzas understand the importance of the James Cress name and are equally committed to providing unparalleled service at all three venues. With George Karatzas stating that it would have been a shame to see the Smithtown location close and was happy to move the storefront instead of closing for good.
“So at the end of the day, Linda and I don’t want to lose James Cress’ legacy,” Karatzas said. “We will continue and my son Stefan is on board with me and my daughter Dawn is also helping us.”
He added that he wanted to “continue our relationship with the clientele that we currently serve. And give them a more modern facility for walk-in traffic that is on Main Street.