Historic Smithtown flower shop moves to new location

Historic Smithtown flower shop moves to new location

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George, Linda, Stefan and Dawn Karatzas gather in front of James Cress Florist on Main Street in Smithtown. Photo by Jan La Roche

By Chris Mellides

Founded in Manhattan at the turn of the 20th century, James Cress Florist has flourished and become a fixture on Smithtown’s Main Street since the 1960s. 

Photo by Jan LaRoche

With their fingers on the pulse of a bustling suburban street in a prominent Long Island town, new owners George and Linda Karatzas always admired the James Cress name and its storied legacy. Their vow is to keep the integrity of the popular flower shop that broke ground in 1903 without sacrificing on quality or service.

The old James Cress business was housed in a 13,000-square-foot building on the corner of Main and Bellemeade Avenue, and George Karatzas admits that moving his location a few doors down to 127 E. Main St. and into an 18,180-square-foot establishment was no easy task. Despite this, the Karatzas family is wholly optimistic. The move date initially occurred on Aug. 18.  

“It’s happening,” George Karatzas said on the day of the move, “Flowers are here, I’m slowly bringing the computers over, and I’m ready to put the phone lines into this new location.”

“Once all the product is here and computers are operational, we’re going to be doing business out of 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 other shops that can be found in Port Jefferson Station as well as Woodbury.

Overseeing the operations of three individual stores is a huge undertaking and one that was further complicated by the pandemic and the shops’ lack of employees, despite there being over 50 staff members at this time.    

“It’s quite a task with today’s COVID still happening,” Karatzas said. “If we don’t have employees with COVID issues, we have staffing problems. We’re having a very difficult time recruiting new help. That is a problem across the board.”

Asked what measures he can take to stymy this looming problem, the florist said, “There really isn’t much you can do other than reaching out more on social media platforms.” The focus, he continued, is on “expanding the reach” of James Cress. 

The award-winning flower shop provides same-day flower deliveries for just about any occasion. These occasions include weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, parties of any stripe and themed events, where a wide array of flowers and bouquets are needed to spruce up a special day.  

“The event business is busy,” Karatzas said. “There are [times] where we have eight events over the weekend, it’s a lot. I would have to say that the weddings during the summer months — where business is normally slower because there are no holidays and whatnot — we’re busy doing weddings. There are no two ways about it. Valentine’s Day is a big one for us.” 

While it’s not exactly known when James Cress himself launched the Smithtown storefront, designer and senior employee Kevin Henchey estimates that the old building was purchased by Cress sometime in the early 1960s and quickly became a prominent location serving patrons in and around the surrounding area. Henchey has been with James Cress for the last 40 years, according to the Karatzas family.  

Photo by Jan LaRoche

The entirety of the upstairs floor of the new James Cress building was perfect for showcasing a dedicated bridal showroom, since the space is considerably larger than the last, according to George Karatzas. 

“We took the first half of the top level, and we rented it. That is going to be the bridal showroom where brides can come in and do their consults like we’ve been doing for the past 30-some-odd years,” Karatzas said. 

No matter the occasion, the Karatzas understand the importance of the James Cress name and are equally determined to provide unmatched service across all three locations. With George Karatzas stating that it would have been a shame to see the Smithtown location close and was happy to relocate the storefront instead of shuttering its doors for good. 

“So, really at the end of the day, Linda and I don’t want to lose the legacy of James Cress,” Karatzas said. “We’re going to continue it and my son Stefan is on board with me and my daughter Dawn is also helping us out.” 

He added that he wants “to continue with our relationship with the customer base that we currently serve. And give them a more modern facility for the walk-in traffic that’s on Main Street.”