HYDE PARK — Rather than let a Hyde Park institution wither away, the owners of Open Produce have struck a deal to purchase Cornell Florist.
“This store has been open for so long and people have been coming here for so long, we want to keep them happy,” said Amanda El-Khoury, who along with Steven Lucy, purchased the shop, at 1645 E. 55th St., from its retiring owners.
When Lana and Mike Rothermel decided to retire, El-Khoury and Lucy said they approached their neighbor about purchasing the flower shop. The new owners said the florist is an institution and they plan to keep most of the store the same — for now.
“My goal is to tap Chicago for some flowers,” El-Khoury said, adding that the store will keep the same selection and services when it reopens on Jan. 4. “I’d love to have some younger people in here.”
El-Khoury and Lucy bought the entire store, including the turn-of-the-century cash register and a cooler full of flowers. They closed the store on Dec. 26 to clean out 30 years of floral detritus, and on Dec. 28 were pulling down the drywall that covered the early 20th century display coolers.
When asked what the most valuable thing in the store was, Lucy pointed to the store’s Rolodex of customers.
“Basically, we bought the phone number and the Rolodex,” Lucy said, adding that the store’s history and reputation were difficult to value.