LAKEVIEW — The bride wanted the florist to perform a little magic: The calla lilies needed to be longer — like really, really long.
Florist Rose Mary Ferrantelli, 66, of Lakeshore Flower Shop, at 3140 N. Broadway St., laughed as she recalled the memory, putting her hands about 4 feet apart to show how long the bride wanted them.
"Boy, she was a pistol," Ferrantelli said. "The husband goes, 'She just wants something special.' And I said, 'I understand, but I can't do miracles here.'"
Ferrantelli and her husband Biagio, 73, soon will retire their nearly 40-year-old business, which started in Edgewater and moved to the current Lakeview location in 1979.
In May, stomach cancer struck Biagio Ferrantelli. Though he's now recovered, the couple decided it's time to rest on their half-acre in north suburban Gurnee.
"It's time to go," Rose Mary Ferrantelli said.
As they sold off the shop's plants and pots at a discount, Rose Mary Ferrantelli reflected on memories, from the devoted customers to the pickier ones — the latter category filled with "Princess Di or Kate Middleton" — wannabe brides like the calla lily-seeker.
Most of the years have been filled with lovely people and strong relationships, Rose Mary Ferrantelli said.
They've enjoyed seeing kids from Mount Carmel Academy, 720 W. Belmont Ave., and The Nettelhorst School, 3252 N. Broadway Ave., who have stopped by the window and begged to see the Ferrantellis' pet dogs and cats.
Currently, a sleepy-eyed cat named Pumpkin and a black one named Shadow catch the attention of youngsters.
"I've had a menagerie in here," she said.
But even the less enjoyable experiences now prompt laughs.
Boat weddings, for example, were a struggle. The wind gets so strong, every flower and pot must be tied down. And it doesn't help that Biagio Ferrantelli discovered a propensity for sea sickness at a wedding on a boat that wasn't even moving.
"It's anchored," Rose Mary Ferrantelli said she told him. "What the hell you talking about?"
The Ferrantellis, who maintain ownership of the building, will close the flower shop after finding a new tenant for the store. Then, Biagio Ferrantelli will play "little farmer" on the land in Gurnee, and Rose Mary Ferrantelli will try to find volunteer work and take care of Mr. Ferrantelli's special post-cancer diet needs, she said.
Rose Mary Ferrantelli said she's feeling a bit nervous about whether or not retirement will be good. She likes the activity of running a store, and she likes being around the young people in the community.
"I don't know if I'll enjoy [retirement]," she said. "I like to work."