As President of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Peg Breen’s professional domain focuses heavily on bricks, mortar, stone, and policy related to conservation, history, and progress. Flowers provide a perfect balance, offering softness and color to temper weighty concerns that affect the well-being of city residents.
A very long time Upper West Sider, Peg expressed her thoughts quite simply: “I love flowers,” she said recently. Peg is a devoted customer of Blooming Couture Flowers, located at 2216 Broadway. “I buy flowers there all the time.” It’s not only the beauty and quality of the flowers Peg appreciates but the friendly waves of the shopkeepers that Peg enjoys as she enters or exits the subway or walks along Broadway.
Gina Kim has owned the shop for the past eight years. Before that, her brother-in-law owned the flower shop. Her husband works with wholesale flowers, and many relatives have jobs in the flower industry throughout the city. Her daughter and son have chosen non-flower-related careers.
Gina said she places great importance on “quality.” You don’t need to be an expert to appreciate the utter beauty of the huge red and white roses, each the size of a teacup. Purchasing even just one of these $7-$9 roses grown in Ecuador is a gift worth giving a friend or treating oneself. There are many irresistible temptations like the unusual persimmon-colored peonies flown in from Holland or their very pink sisters grown locally and an extensive collection of particularly lush white orchids. Gina’s favorites are tulips.
Peg said, “I love sunflowers. Right now, I’m into peonies. Flowers are everything,” she said. “The staff in the shop have introduced me to things I never knew about.”
Next door is Carlos Chuva, who opened his shoe store Carlos Shoes Corp. at 2214 Broadway about 20 years ago. A few years earlier, he had come to New York from Cuenca, Ecuador, finding work in a Drago shoe repair shop in Penn Station and several other Dragos located around the city.
In Ecuador, he had learned to make men’s and women’s shoes from scratch. “In a poor country, the boss supplies you with the leather and other materials, and you make the shoes at home,” Carlos explained.
Once in New York, he learned the money was in repairs, not in making shoes which mainly were done by large manufacturers. “I didn’t like repair work at first. I thought I’m a professional, a specialist in making new shoes; I’m not so interested in repairing them.” But he adapted and now is proud of the wide range of repairs he undertakes, including fixing zippers, leather jackets, and broken luggage. Surprisingly, though some people toss their shoes once the soles are worn, many do not. “Old shoes are comfortable,” Carlos said.
Carlos has shoes on his workbench ranging from well-worked faux snakeskin high heels to boat shoes that have seen better days.
His landlord was supportive. Carlos took over the lease of the former Drago shop in 1998. Since 2002, his son Carlos Jr. has worked at his side addressing all manners of repair requests. His daughter went into the construction business.
Carlos says they can fix any shoe problem, for example, stretching those shoes that are just too tight. They accommodate many other specialized adjustments to make shoes more comfortable. He also does useful repairs on belts, handbags, and even watches.
The walls are hung with shoe accessories ranging from shoelaces, cleaning lotions, polishes, and orthopedic insoles…they sell five brands of umbrellas and even fix them.
Early on, Carlos worked long hours to bring his family to the United States, and even today, his great grandfather comes in from Woodhaven, Queens, to work in the store every day.
Carlos takes his time with customers and greets them warmly when they come into the shop.
”People like coming here,” says Carlos. They know our reputation. I enjoy everything about my shop. I have the skills to repair. I enjoy it as part of my life.”