The 12- to 15-hour day and seven-day-a-week schedule will be coming to an end for Marty and Kyle Arrivo, owners of Homewood Florist. They announced their retirement and will close the store Oct. 31.
The shop at 18064 Martin Ave. in downtown Homewood has been at that location for 62 years. It was founded by Paul Arrivo, Marty’s dad, in the 1960s. He learned the floral business in Roseland and was encouraged to come to Homewood by Joe Aurelio, who opened his original pizza restaurant on Ridge Road in 1959.
All seven children in the Arrivo family worked at the business. Marty has worked there since he was 15. When his dad was in his 50s, he unexpectedly lost his sight.
“I had been working here for a long time so I knew how to run the place and basically took the reins and ran with it,” he recalled. When he and Kyle married, she joined the family business team and continued part-time while raising the family’s three children. When they left for college, she transitioned back to full-time work.
Today flowers are readily available, but back in the shop’s early days, if you wanted flowers you went to a flower shop.
“I can remember as a kid Easter lily plants. My dad would buy a thousand of them. Now if I even sell maybe 50 that’s a lot. Corsages for Easter and Mother’s Day. We had two women who did nothing but make corsages days before Easter and Mother’s Day and we’d sell every one of them. Now, if you sell two or three. It just doesn’t happen anymore,” he said.
These days customers come because they know Homewood Florist can deliver outstanding floral pieces with wonderful customer service.
The business is primarily weddings and funerals. This week Arrivo has been preparing floral sprays and arrangements for 14 funerals. One of the three refrigerators in the store is packed with floral arrangements waiting for delivery.
“They come to a flower shop with high expectations, so you better be on top of your game and have flowers better than anyone else if you want to survive in this business,” he said. “We buy thousands of roses a week, thousands of Gerbera daisies. It’s challenging at times, like this week (with so many funerals). It’s very challenging.”
The late Annies Blum was a phenomenal flower designer who worked for Homewood Florist for 50 years. She was well into her 80s when she left because of COVID. Arrivo said he learned 90% of his tricks on flower arranging from her. There is no school for floral arranging, he said, you learn by working with someone who can pass on the trade.
Arrivo is ordering flowers from around the world. They can be in Homewood in 48 hours. He works through a wholesaler in Alsip. He’s usually there between 5 and 5:30 a.m. to receive his shipments and select what he needs.
He pointed to one funeral arrangement and said it had 10 different flowers – orchids from Thailand, Gerbera daisies from Canada, lilies from Oregon, roses from South America. He knows all the flower farms and the countries that have the best flowers. He said he’s seeing some colors that are amazing. But there’s one drawback. By breeding the rose for specialty colors, the lovely fragrance is gone.
The couple thought they would find someone who would take over the business. Several people got deep into the process before backing out. Others thought it would be an interesting profession. They didn’t give those offers much stock.
Arrivo admits that saying he’s retiring “sounds weird” but he’s 65 and knows it’s time. Closing the shop will mean a chance for a two-week vacation. The couple’s never had a chance for extended time away from the store. They will remain in the area, but will have more time to see their grandchild in Texas and he will have more time on the golf course.
“We’re going out like Michael Jordan, at the top of our game,” he said.