WICKER PARK — When asked the secret of the longevity of her businesses, the 37-year old owner of a floral shop inside Wicker Park's historic Flat Iron Arts Building didn't mince words.
"Working my a-- off," said Elizabeth Cronin at Asrai Garden's anniversary party Sunday night.
Cronin added that "being able to work and love what you do" has also aided in her success since opening Asrai Garden in 1999 at age 23.
"When you are here 14 years, everybody is like family," Cronin said, as she welcomed the shoppers and friends who flocked to her small store at 1935 W. North Ave., just east of the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection.
Among the shoppers was architect Sam Marts. A Bucktown resident, he's been buying flowers from Cronin since "before she even had a store," Marts said.
Marts met Cronin when she worked for another florist on the ground floor of the Northwest Tower at 1600 N. Milwaukee Ave, in a storefront that's now home to a Sprint store.
Marts claims he has spent "more money [at Asrai Garden] than anywhere else in North America."
Marts, who buys flowers at Asrai Garden weekly as well as boutonnieres for special occasions, said he likes Cronin's shop because it has "atypical flowers" such as "unusually long-stemmed black calla lilies," among other favorites.
In addition to selling flowers, the shop also sells handmade soaps, incense, perfumes and new and vintage jewelry.
Among the more eccentric items are real and fake felted animals that adorn the walls.
Stacy Swett, owner of Paper Doll at 2027 W. Division St, was trying on a vintage fox stole just before purchasing it Sunday.
"It's just like one my aunt used to have," Swett said of the new fur piece, which was $125 but marked down by 25 percent during the one-night sale that had been advertised on Asrai Garden's Facebook page.
Logan Square resident Viktor Van Bramer, owner of Hidden Folk, a maker of patchouli black pepper soaps and bath salts, attended the party with his father-in-law, John Dodson, who was visiting from El Paso, Texas.
A local artisan whose Hidden Folk products are sold at Asrai Garden as well as large chain stores like Urban Outfitters, Van Bramer said he's "always loved natural perfumes."
"It's the best boutique in Chicago. I've been coming here for years," Van Bramer said of Asrai Garden.
Asrai Garden, 1935 W. North Ave. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday; Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 773-782-0680.