From the Michaels & Smolak Newsletter!
We’re Auburn’s homegrown personal injury law firm. And although we are from a small town,
we get big city results. Our clients come from all over, including Syracuse and Rochester,
because of our reputation. But we are not the only bigtime business in this small town.
In the next few issues, we are going to spotlight some of Auburn’s other homegrown business
treasures. Cosentino’s Florist was an easy choice for this issue. Everyone in Auburn knows and loves that flower shop! So we chased owner Carmen Cosentino down and got an interview:
US: So Carmen, let’s start at the beginning. How did Cosentino’s Florist begin?
Carmen: Well, like many others of their generation, my parents were victims of the great depression, depression, which took their business and even their home. They had little choice but to move
into my grandparents’ home in Geneva. Mom’s parents were florists and my parents wanted a fresh start in the business. In November of 1934, the property now housing Cosentino’s Florist on 141 Dunning Avenue in Auburn was up for rent. My parents snagged it. Rent was only $200 a year. Under the lease (which I
still have), the renter was allowed to keep one cow, two pigs and some chickens there! Cosentino’s Florist is still there, but the cow, pigs and chickens are long gone.
US: Those are pretty humble beginnings for the thriving business Cosentino’s has become. How has the business changed over the years?
Carmen: Well, the flower growing side of the business eventually went the way of the farm animals! In the old days, we had nearly an acre of greenhouses and grew our own products. Today, most cut flowers come from Colombia, Ecuador and even the Niagara Peninsula of Canada. They can grow them much more cheaply than we can up here. That’s where the global economy was going, and we evolved with it. We now specialize in the retail florist business. We provide floral arrangements, plants and gifts, and even fudge, for every occasion throughout the area and worldwide through our Teleflora connections.
US: We’ve been told you travel a lot for business. You don’t go down to South America to cut flowers, do you!?
Carmen: No, no, no, though that sounds like fun. I have made 4 trips to Colombia. Actually, in the 70’s and early 80’s I did some flower business seminars for FTD and then in the mid-80’s Teleflora asked me to join their Education Team as a seminar presenter. In the next 15 or so years I did nearly 250 seminars across the US and Canada and out of the country. Anne Marie covered the business while I was away. We were a good team. I cannot remember any seminar I gave where I did not learn ideas that would help our business grow.
Carmen: I grew up in the business and loved it. So I decided to get a degree at Cornell in horticulture. While still a student, my father was killed by a drunk driver. Instead of quitting school
to run the business, I plowed right through, got my degree, all while working at the shop weekends. I graduated in 1954 and purchased the business from my mother in 1962. The rest is history. My incredible wife, Anne Marie, and I grew the business to what it is today.
US: Was it just you and Anne Marie?
Carmen: No. Currently our staff is 7 full and part time regular employees. We grow to as many as 11 or 12 during holiday seasons. US: You’ve got a terrific flower shop and a great reputation. What
is the secret to your success? Carmen: We really do live our mission statement: “Our aim
is to exceed the expectations of every person who calls on us to express his or her sentiments with flowers”. We do this by providing exceptional customer service, fresh, long lasting flowers, tastefully arranged, delivered in a timely fashion. It’s really that simple. And if your heart’s into it, it’s easy. I can’t think of a more enjoyable business than the one I have been in my whole life. US: I hope you don’t mind me noticing that you are getting on in years. What will happen when you are gone? Carmen: Not a problem! We will soon pass the baton onto
the third generation: Our daughter Jessica has become a fantastic florist. She follows the same ideals and work ethics as her forbearers. This Spring she received the Chamber’s Terry Bridenbecker Award. Cosentino’s Florist won’t miss a beat!
US: Carmen, last question: What are you most proud of ?
Carmen: I am most proud of the top-notch service I have provided to my Auburn community. That being said, we have had the privilege of decorating the White House for two Christmases, decorating for the inaugurals of Presidents Reagan, George and Barbara Bush, the Clinton’s and George and Laura Bush. And I have received numerous important national awards for our efforts, including “Best Friend of the American Rose Grower”, the very prestigious “Professional Floral Communicators International Tommy Bright Award”, to name just a few. And I have been inducted into the Society of American Florists Hall of Fame. In sum, we are viewed as top providers in our field, and that’s very humbling but rewarding Still, serving my community makes me proudest.