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It blooms in the family: Little Neck’s Cress Florists still strong at 100

Cress Florists in Little Neck has come a long way from its beginnings more than 100 years ago when Thomas Cresomales, a Greek immigrant, sold flowers from a pushcart on Manhattan’s West Side.

Four generations later the Cress family operates flower shops in Queens and Long Island, is starting a Web site and may open a store in Manhattan to sell its imported flowers, gourmet gift baskets and table accessories.

“I’m just very proud of the family — 100 years working so close,” said Tom Cress, 56, co-owner with his wife Lori of Cress Florists on Northern Boulevard and 248th Street. Their son Douglas, 31, operates the flower shop in Long Island City’s Citicorp Tower.

Decades ago the family patriarch known as “Papou” was forced to move his store from 59th Street and Columbus Circle to Woodside when the Coliseum was built.

The Little Neck store has been in operation for the last decade after 65 years in Woodside, and the Citicorp location opened about 13 years ago, said Lori Cress, 47, who lives with her husband in Little Neck.

The former clothing designer helps customers and runs the business side of the flower shop. She buys gifts and accessories, everything from stuffed animals to appetizer dishes to tiny pewter place card holders, and displays them on antique furniture she has draped with silk and satin.

Tom Cress cuts flowers and designs arrangements under a framed picture of his grandfather and a certificate from a Greek church in Corona commending Papou for his work.

“It’s a seven-day-a-week job,” said Tom Cress, who designs flowers for everything from weddings and bar mitzvahs to corporate events and holiday altars at St. Anastasia Church down the street.

The store is also known for its gourmet baskets filled with goodies such as caviar, smoked salmon, cheeses and fresh fruit, to name a few choices.

For many florists the job is a family affair, and the Cresses are no different. Tom and Lori Cress’s son, Alex, 16, and daughter, Jennifer, 27, a television producer, pitch in when they can.

Tom’s father, Louis Cress, 81, can’t help but work on bleeding heart arrangements when he visits from Florida. And Tom Cress’s Uncle James and cousin Gary own two flower shops in Smithtown and Port Jefferson, L.I.

“We work hand-in-hand,” said Tom Cress of his relatives. “If one of us is stuck, the other will be glad to drop in.”

Although it operates much like an old family business, Cress Florists isn’t running in place. Lori Cress said she and her husband are looking to open a store in Manhattan, perhaps on the Upper East Side or Tribeca, and they are working on a Web site,

“Of course, it’s become more competitive,” she said of floristry, now that the recently opened Stop & Shop as well as small local markets that carry flowers.

But unlike those stores, Cress Florists has followed the life celebrations of its clients through the years, often designing floral arrangements for the communion and wedding of the same person.

“We’ve done a lot of three-generational weddings,” Tom Cress said. “We do so many of those, it’s amazing.”

Even local families that have moved out of state order their flowers from Cress.

“You have your loyal customers that know your quality,” Lori Cress said. “You develop a relationship with them.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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