Spotlight: Langdon Florist

Because this site focuses on news, businesses that have been around awhile—and that go a long way toward making this neighborhood special—don’t always get the coverage they should. The photographs are by Claudine Williams, who specializes in head shots for actors, business professionals, or anyone looking to be photographed. She also dabbles in street photography for fun. Originally from Philadelphia, she has made NYC her home for the past seven years with her husband and son.

The last 13 years have not been easy,” says Joe Rizzo of Langdon Florist, which has been on Reade Street—with different owners and at two addresses—for 68 years. There was 9/11, of course, but also the building nearby that collapsed, the constant construction, the recurring “Law & Order” invasions…. But Rizzo does his best to roll with it. “Business is like the weather,” he says. “Some days it’s bad, and some days it’s good. But it’s always a new adventure.”

How did you get started in this business?
When I was nine years old, I started working at cousin’s flower shop in Brooklyn. I made deliveries, filled water tubes—I was a gofer. Over the years, at holidays, because it was a family-run business, I was recruited to help. He offered me a job after high school, so I took it. I worked for him till I was about 25 years old. My friends Howie and Billy had had this shop, Langdon Florist—which was established in 1947—for a good 15 years, and they sold it to me for a nice amount of money. We used to be at 57 Reade, where the lobby of the new building is now. We moved across the street about 20 years ago.

How has your business changed over the years?
Years ago, before this was Tribeca, it was City Hall. I used to run the shop five days a week—I was off weekends. Here I was, 25 years old, running my own business. It was fantastic! The shoebox was full of cash. The workforce was strong—and then Bloomberg shipped 8,000 workers to Long Island City. That was my walk-in trade. The shoebox isn’t full anymore! It used to be that customer volume was high and costs were low. Now it’s the opposite. Everything is through the roof. And everybody uses credit cards.

What are you known for?
Quality. I still pride myself on doing things the old-fashioned way. I tell people all the time to come in and see what we have. It’s better than any website. And I like to be known for being fair—like we say in Italian, abbondanza! Abundance.

What’s the most satisfying part of what you do?
Oh, when people say how beautiful things are. We’re a luxury. No one has to come in and buy flowers. So it’s important to make people happy.

Most popular item?
We sell a lot of roses. But it changes every day. You don’t know day by day. I didn’t know Duane Street Hotel would come in today wanting orchids and plantings for the outside.

Most expensive?
Weddings can be expensive. We work with every budget. Women come in with eyes wide open. I put something together, and they say that’s out of my budget. I always say, what creates the budget is the flowers you choose.

Least expensive?
We sell plants for $5. Geraniums, green plants. Succulents for $7.95. And we sell cut flowers—you could come in and choose one peony or ten.

Where do you source stuff?
Holland, California, locally…. Wildflowers from New Jersey, Delaware, North Carolina. Cherry blossoms from the south. Once it gets hot here, local flowers disappear. Then we move into dahlias, zinnias, Jersey sunflowers….

Tribeca has obviously changed a lot. Any changes that have surprised you?
I’ve seen the change coming. It’s finally getting better for me—the residents are crossing over Church. It used to be there was no reason to walk on Reade. Every Saturday, there are more and more people out strolling. They’ll come in and ask how long we’ve been here—they say they had no idea. And they’ll have lived on W. Broadway for five years.

What percentage of your business is local?
I’d say a good 75%. We take care of 4 World Trade, 7 World Trade. I’m a partner in a company that does that.

Tell me a crazy customer story.
This one lady…. This was insane! She called up and said she had mold on her potted plants. I said bring ‘em by. There were a few fruit flies! But she was wearing a surgical mask and big rubber gloves. I mean, it was this gas mask thing. We let her have a sink and she scrubbed the plants. That was a weird one. Hey, we made her happy.

Where do you eat/drink/shop around here?
People are always asking—I’m like a personal concierge. Ecco is great. Hop Lee on Mott—been going for 35 years. Da Nico for Italian—it’s at 164 Mulberry. Maxwell’s, Tre Sorelle.

What does the future hold for Langdon Florist?
I’ve been doing this for 30 years. After that long, you get known—a lot of the businesses comes from repeat clients and referrals. I could take it anywhere—not that I’m going anywhere. But you never know.

Previously in this series:
••• Tribeca Upholstery & Draperies
••• Double Knot
••• Philip Williams Posters

13 Comments

  1. I love Langdon! Everyone on staff there is very friendly and helpful…my favorite place to get flowers for dinner parties and entertaining.

  2. They do beautiful work. Always a pleasant experience when I go there. Keep them in mind next time you need flowers for your home or an event.

  3. Erik: I’m so glad you are continuing this series on the shops that help make this neighborhood special. For all the complaints about changes afoot around here, we can all do our small part by supporting these businesses that have an authentic place in our neighborhood.

  4. Quite the glamour shot of Joe! What a great guy. It’s with a skeptical eye that I subconsciously ask myself how much longer almost any local business I see around here can hold on, but Langdon has what it takes. It can be tempting to save money on flowers at Whole Foods (full disclosure – sometimes we do) but every single time I’ve ever walked back home with a dozen lavender roses or whatever else from Langdon I feel it’s the best money I could have spent. Great piece!

  5. Love the pics and after knowing Joe for 15 years, trust me that is the genuine face of Joe! I have so many wonderful things I can say about him and his shop, but to sum it up, he is my go to for all my flower and plant needs! I am in the crazy world of Catering & Events in this forever busy city, and I can always fall back on Joe to save the day!

    Congrats on the great write up Joe and Team Langdon, and Cheers to many more wonderful years of working with you!

  6. Joey Rizzo has been my event and personal florist since I met him in 1995.
    All of my clients enjoy working with him and are delighted with Langdon’s gorgeous floral decor.
    You need not look any further once you have experienced the wonderful quality of product and service at Langdon Florist. Thank you Joey and staff!

  7. One thing I notice when at Langdon Florist is the plants look vibrant and fresh and cared-for. Nice article.

  8. Excellent, courteous, and awesome group of employees. I am from British Columbia Canada and have ordered many bouquets for my GrandDaughter living in New York for her big dance performances with Dance Theatre of Harlem. Langdon Florist have made extra special efforts to make sure the bouquets are beautiful and have even looked up the theatres for me and delivered promptly. I would recommend Langdon Florists to all. They are amazing and I am glad they are being recognized in the community for their business. Thank you Langdon Florist. You are THE BEST.

  9. Years ago I stopped in to pick up flowers as a last minute gift on my way to the subway and a dinner party. I gave them a modest budget and they made a big, beautiful bouquet with little guidance from me! Now Langdon’s is the place I always consider first. I hope this article helps boost their business.

  10. Joe has been my friend and florist for more years than I can count. Every April my foundation gives a gala at Carnegie Hall, and Langdon does all the flowers. As soon as the guests walk into the dining room there is a collective gasp because Joe’s flowers are so spectacular. His shop is wonderful, and there couldn’t be a better person anywhere with whom to do business. Thanks for writing such a great article.

  11. Thank you all for the kind words and most importantly for the support throughout the years.

  12. For us, every special occasion- births, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and holiday dinner parties are made even more so with flowers from Langdon’s.
    Thank you Joe and staff

  13. Joe has done right by me forever, but for the one snafoo that had him sending an arrangement overloaded with flowers known as “Billy Balls” to a woman I’d been dating for a couple of weeks.

    It’s been about a year since then, I was just in today to send an arrangement without Billy Balls to the same girlfriend.

    I’ll give those to her later.

    Billy

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