University Floral Design at 51 University Place has been selling flowers to the people of New York since 1928. Looking in from the outside, it’s hard to miss their beautiful and intricate display of in-season floral arrangements. Within the store, you will find both wanderers and loyal customers finding solace with the shrubbery.
Upon walking into the store, you will be immediately struck by the potent aroma of the flowers. They’re picked up every day, Monday to Saturday at 7 a.m. by the owner, Peter Karounos. The shop has been in the Karounos family for the past 45 years.
“I give myself two hours to shop so that I can make it back here by the time the shop opens at nine,” Karounos said. “The idea behind that is, fresh things come into the market daily and I’m buying what I anticipate to sell for the day. Instead of something sitting around and getting older in the store, I like to give my customers the best product that I can.”
Karounos, a husband and father of two, has been working in the store since he was a kid.
“I grew up in the shop,” he said. “I was always excited to come to work with dad. Always picking up things.”
Elias (Louie) Karounos, Peter’s father, came from Greece and picked up the shop from the previous owners with his brother George 45 years ago. Coincidentally, the owners before them were also named George and Louie.
“It was like George and Louie had it again,” Karounos said.
Upon arriving in the U.S., Elias needed a job. Having grown up on a farm selling oranges, the retail market seemed like the right place to go. At first, Elias’s father and three brothers tried to sell food. But when that failed, they began to sell pre-made bouquets. This eventually became the beautifully decorated store that stands proudly today at 51 University Pl.
The family roots of University Floral Design extend to its employees, a family-like environment defines the shop. Maria, one of the employees at University Floral Design, has worked at the store along with some of her fellow coworkers for 20 years aiding in the customer service sector.
“My favorite part about working at the store is dealing with the public,” she said. “It’s a nice environment. It’s beautiful to be working with flowers.”
When choosing flowers, Peter looks for an appealing aesthetic within the flower.
“There’s a little inspiration that you get from seeing everything, the vibe you get from products,” he said.
When describing the selection process, Peter smiled as he recalled his Dad’s advice to “always add a touch of yellow — it was always a happy thing for him.” Sure enough, when you enter the store, you’ll see droplets of yellow scattered throughout.
Every day, Peter works at the store and sets out to make sure that his customers are pleased with the flowers of their choosing. Although Elias has retired, his values and work ethic remain present.
“We bring pleasure to everyone; everyone comes here for a lift of some sort. Dad has taught me a lot of different ways to maximize our ability to do that,” Peter said. “I think every store owner of every kind wants to feel like when they’re done, they make all the customers happy.”
This is evident throughout the whole environment of the store and through the work ethic both of Peter and the employees who work vigorously (holidays included).
The University Floral Design history combined with the scent and hardworking efforts of everyone in the shop, make both a visit and purchase of flowers a worthwhile experience. So next time you need flowers or are leisurely walking on University Place be sure to stop in, you won’t be disappointed.
Email Fatimah Zeni at [email protected]