The Village Flower Mart went out of business Saturday afternoon, after 45 years at 3601 Chestnut Ave., just off The Avenue in Hampden.
"It's time," said owner Cheryl Zetlmeisl,cq 64, of Parkton, who retired and has sold the building. She would not identify the buyer and said she did not know what the 2,200-square-foot space would be used for.
"Forty five years on the same corner — you don't see that much anymore," said her son, Paul Zetlmeisl, who used to be a "flower jumper" in his youth, jumping out of the store van to deliver flowers. He now does marketing and advertising for a car dealership.
On Saturday morning, the florist and gift shop opened its doors to the public one last time, for a close-out sale of items ranging from silk flower arrangements to Christmas baskets, nutcrackers and reindeer-themed trays.
"What am I going to do now?" asked tearful longtime customer Lisa 'Tigger' McKissick, of Guilford, giving Zetlmeisl a hug. She said her parents and grandparents were regulars at the Village Flower Mart, making her a third-generation customer. "You spoiled me," she said.
Lifetime Hampden resident Thelma Heck, 53, came in, not knowing it was the store's last day.
"It's very sad," Heck said.
Irma and John Sorkin, of Pikesville, didn't know it was the store's last day, either, as they browsed after breakfast at Cafe Hon.
"This just caught our eye," she said, 'because it's so colorful and it's not easy to find reindeer accessories at the end of June."
Opened in 1968, Village Flower Mart actually began as a mom and pop florist in the mid-60s, when Zetlmeisl's mother and stepfather, Hazel and Edward Boylan, began selling flowers in the plaza at the Village of Cross Keys Shopping Center — hence the name Village Flower Mart, Zetlmeisl said.
She said her stepfather was in the military when he became interested in flower design while stationed in Japan, and was inspired to start a wholesale and retail floral business, with the support of his wife.
"She was also his inspiration. They were almost self-taught florists," said Zetlmeisl, who bought the business in 1995 and incorporated it.
She told the story of a man who years ago used to bring his daughter, then a toddler, to the store and sit her on the counter, where the staff kept her entertained.
"We just did her wedding," Zetlmeisl said. "She grew up."
But business is not what it once was, as some longtime customers have died and others have moved away.
"I'm sure some of it is the economy," she said.
Village Flower Mart, whose accounts are being taken over by The Flower Cart, in Hamilton, is the latest florist to close in north Baltimore. Mille Fleurs in Roland Park has also closed and transferred its accounts to Flowers and Fancies, in Owings Mills.
"We were an old-fashioned, full-service florist, and there's getting to be less and less of it," Zetlmeisl said, citing competition online and from supermarkets and big box stores that she said are "jumping" into the industry.
"It's harder and harder to get a good wholesale flower price," Zetlmeisl said.
And with high overhead costs, "It was getting harder and harder to justify staying in this building. It's starting to be a burden," she said.
Two of her six employees also retired. Joey Waldron, 70, of Hampden, worked there for 33 years. Delivery driver Stuart Hartz, 62, of Hampden, was there 25 years, she said.
"A lot of people know him and don't know anybody else," she said.
A floral designer retired late last year but has since come back to help out on holidays, Zetlmeisl said.
Now, it's her turn.
"There's no glory in working until you drop," said Zetlmeisl, who plans to play more golf and spend more time with her mother, 82.
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"We had a wonderful run in Hampden," she said.