Time is Short for the Longtime Subway Florist of 14th Street
With the rebranded L train “slowdown” one day away, time is slim for the longtime subway florist on 14th Street. Our roving photographer – Lower East Side native Robert Carmona – caught up with the subterranean peddler last month to learn the latest.
Periklis Tsoumas, who has been at the 1st Avenue and 14th Street subway station since 1972, is not giving up until forced out. This small basement business is his lifeblood, and livelihood. Indeed, selling flowers to straphangers reportedly put two of his kids through college.
Now with construction conceivably in every direction, and on the occasion of his seventy-second birthday, the platform perch is compromised. It’s the feeling that a funeral could happen at any moment.
“I’m gonna be here until the MTA makes their L Train shutdown decision,” Tsoumas quipped.
He told us that he cries when he thinks about leaving, but is comforted by the steady stream of customers who continue to check in on his welfare.
“More people have been coming here taking pictures of me. I talked to my wife about closing but then I start crying,” he says.
Periklis Tsoumas is defiant, though. Nobody knows what’s going on with regard to the Shutdown, he alleges. So, shortly before his birthday this month, he increased hours to seven days a week (up from six). The decision is not financially motivated, but rather emotional.
Just flowers and a smile; that’s what easily endears him to locals. On a recent visit, he told a story that represents exactly what we lose as each of these community pillars fade. A young lady recently paid a visit and explained how her mother had purchased flowers from Tsoumas throughout her life, including her wedding and daughter’s communion. Other folks stopped by while this was happening, also wishing to pay respects.
These are the small-time folk that are overlooked in the new Lower East Side, and are not acknowledged until they’re gone.
The L-Train slowdown project begins tomorrow evening (April 26) and is slated to last at least a year.