Tag Archives: NYU Hyperlocal Newsroom

Plant sales honor beloved local florist

10 Jun

Note: This story was published in “The Village Beat” in June 2011. I’m recording it here, however, because the site will no longer be live once this internship ends. Here’s Bill Curry and Cornell Edwards’ story:

In a bittersweet tribute to a local florist’s life, his partner has raised close to $4500 through the sale of his plants to locals who revered him as an active, kindhearted member of the community.

Cornell Edwards died suddenly on March 29 due to a stroke, and for the last seven weeks, Bill Curry has opened the doors of the Flower Stall on 143 East 13 St. to accept donations for the plants to go towards one of the pair’s favorite causes: the Seneca Village Restoration Project.

Started in the 1820’s, the Seneca Village was Manhattan’s first community of African American landowners. Short-lived due to the construction of Central Park, there have been efforts ever since to rehabilitate the community. Edwards was very passionate about this project.

“Cornell was an advisor on the board for the Seneca Village,” Curry said. “He was very involved. Anything he was part of, he was not passive.”

Also involved the community board in the seventies as well as heading up the housing committee, Edwards’ role in the community was admired.

“Cornell was a lovely, gentle person with a good sense of humor who truly enjoyed being around people, and that was evident due to his community involvement,” customer Diana Wall said.

As Curry slowly lets Edwards’ plants go, he finds comfort in the fact that “the plants are being converted into something substantial.”

The shop, an eclectic mix of things the pair had purchased together over their 50 years of partnership, was a staple in their neighborhood and brought locals together.

“Cornell’s flower shop was one of the few places that anchored the neighborhood as a place of neighbors,” long-time customer Claire Moed said.

As locals make generous donations in honor of a beloved community member, the future of the shop has come into question.

“As I sell plants, I’m really throwing [Cornell] away piece by piece,- again- but I can’t take care of all this,” a tearful Curry said.

Curry, who still evokes deep emotion when discussing the passing of his partner, is currently looking for a tenant who will bring something unique to the Village and do some good for the community.

“[Whatever business goes here] has to be something that can contribute to the community,” he said. “I want to find something that would carry on Cornell’s vision.”

As Curry works tirelessly to sort papers, sell plants and keep the shop running, locals have been contributing in the form of donations as well as spending time in the shop and helping Curry out.

“I come in here all the time,” Moed said. “He was a neighbor. I don’t think people understand that word today. I mean neighbors, like, who know your kids and care about your family and have your extra set of keys. That’s what we are.”

While Curry opens the shop each Saturday to continue his sales, locals realize the end of the Flower Stall era may be near.

“This is a rare New York store,” Moed said. “And once it’s closed, there’s not another New York store like it.”