Long before meeting Callie Craumer of Colony Florist there were hints of her approach to customer service and embrace of the Greenwich community.
There was the elegant silver bowl brimming with dog biscuits and a tandem waterbowl. Dogs strolling the Avenue learned to anticipate the treats, reminding their owners to stop and smell the flowers. And oh, the fragrant hyacinth, the lilies, and the roses that perfumed the sidewalk.
Originally from St. Louis, MO, Craumer arrived in Greenwich 30 years ago via Hamilton, NY where she attended Colgate University. Sending her three children to Glenville School, Western Middle, and Greenwich High School, Craumer was the perennial volunteer mom before she became a florist.
Craumer was the third owner of Colony, which, since 1946, has been family owned. Originally located at the top of Greenwich Avenue, the previous owners moved the shop to Railroad Avenue. In March 2003, Craumer moved the business to 315 Greenwich Ave.
While the store atmosphere was relaxed and customers never rushed, Craumer described the competition as fierce. "You're competing with the grocery store, the news stand, other flower shops, the Internet, 1-800 whatever. So I always went above and beyond with my customers," Craumer said.
Though Craumer did consider moving when she learned she'd lost her lease, she explained that "a florist can't just move into any space. You have coolers and sinks. You need a work space and a retail space. You need floors suitable for dirt, waste, and water. There's always a mess."
As part of the sale agreement, McArdle's is running Colony on the Avenue through December and Colony's two floral designers were offered jobs at McArdle's. John Gulias and Erin Mcinery-Smith made the move.
James McArdle described the deal with Colony as amicable. "It was very important to Callie that we treated her customers well. She gave us her customer records, with a history of each account including gift lists and address information."
"It's working out well with floral designers," said McArdle. "We have expanded our floral department. It's gaining in reputation and our level of creativity has expanded," he said, adding that last year George von Tobel, who formerly owned "Flowers by George" in Cos Cob, also joined the team at 48 Arch St.
With no regrets about the bargain she struck with McArdle's – a 100+ year-old, four-generation, family-owned business – Craumer did admit to having some mixed feelings about leaving and the future of Greenwich Avenue. "I understand rents are what the market will bear, but if we don't support the local merchants, they simply won't exist."
Craumer plans to spend time marketing "The Art of Giving Flowers," a book she wrote, and she is busy helping her daughter plan her wedding. Switching gears has also meant having time to read for pleasure, to cook, to reflect after 10 busy years on what will come next.