Not everyone is an expert in their field before they open a shop - Kostas Panagopoulos, the owner of Floralies, is the perfect example. He opened his flower shop with a partner in 1981 and came into the flower business by accident - looking to try something totally new, he decided that becoming a florist would be his next move. “I had no idea about flowers. I knew what carnations were, and that’s about it,” Kostas said.
Despite his relative lack of knowledge, over the years, Kostas has built a thriving business. Floralies is perhaps best known for its daily service, a feature they started in the New York flower industry many years ago. Kostas sells flowers to many corporations, and then replaces the flowers in the arrangement daily as they wither and die, ensuring that an arrangement looks beautiful for a longer period of time. Though this process was not profitable at first, Floralies made a name for itself, gaining various clients throughout Manhattan. As business grew, Kostas made sure to keep his values close to his heart. “Tell the truth always. It can be unpleasant at the time, but it creates trust with customers and employees,” he advised.
As evidence of their popularity, Kostas was proud to share with Manhattan Sideways that they do not advertise their products or services. “We have spent not one penny on marketing, yet continue to bring in 2,000 customers a month, simply by word of mouth.” Kostas then pointed out that this feat is especially amazing considering how long Floralies has been around - he has survived multiple stock market crashes and economic slowdowns, both of which heavily hit his corporate clients throughout the years.
When we visited in 2017, we learned that Floralies had recently begun expanding into the event business. While they continue to service their corporate clients and meet with people planning parties, Floralies does not sell retail flowers, preferring to design their beautiful arrangements for larger clients.
Kostas has been in the business for several decades but he is happy that is son is taking over in the near future. Looking back on his run, Kostas reminisced, “I’ve been successful because my customers have been satisfied, but more importantly, so have my employees. I look at them as human beings. When they are happy, I am happy, and the business is successful.”
It was Olivia, a Manhattan Sideways team member, who out of the corner of her eye, noticed a simple banner for the Nicolas Roerich Museum located inside a beautiful townhouse. It is nestled far west on 107th Street, on a block that overlooks Riverside Drive. This was an unexpected, yet, thrilling, find. The museum, which offers free admission to the public, honors Nicholas Roerich, a Russian-born painter who spent a lot of time in the Himalayas. He is known for his sweeping landscapes, depicting faraway mountains. By walking through the museum, visitors can see the full scope of his work - from sketches of film sets to colorful painted visions from Tibetan folklore - there are close to 200 paintings from his collection of several thousand spread throughout the world. Nicholas Roerich lived on the Upper West Side for a short time in the 1920's. He was not just a painter, but also an activist interested in cultural preservation. He worked with legal experts to create the Roerich Pact, which was meant to protect cultural monuments and institutions in time of war. This pact led to the creation of the Banner of Peace, a white background with three joined red circles, which could be hung at cultural centers, declaring them neutral to combatants in war.