AUBURN – One of the city’s oldest businesses will move to Main Street in Lewiston next month after the owners decided that burgeoning Center Street “has outgrown us.”
“It’s time to go,” Mike Small, owner of Roak the Florist in the Roak Mall, said last week. “Center Street has outgrown us. There’s too much traffic and it’s moving too fast” to easily allow patrons to stop. The elderly, in particular, avoid the five-lane highway whenever possible, he said.
“Coffee, real estate and fast food. That’s what Center Street is today,” said Small, who grew up on nearby Northern Avenue and remembers when the street was still driver-friendly and people could get in and out of the strip malls without much hassle.
Small and his wife, Liz Berry-Small, said they looked hard for a new home in Auburn because “it’s a great, great city with great people” – not to mention that Roak’s has been a flower and greenhouse shop in Auburn since 1874, purchased by the Roak family in 1946 and later by Small’s father.
But after looking unsuccessfully for two years, the Smalls found “a diamond in the rough” at 793 Main St., across from Marden’s, in Lewiston. The Smalls will own the building, which features a similar layout as the Auburn store, which they have leased.
Roak the Florist has been the anchor store in the Roak Mall for 20 years.
“Nothing changes except the location,” Small said. “We’ll offer the same service and the same people. The only thing that’s new is the location and a renewed energy by the staff.”
Berry-Small said the couple could not find the right space at the right price in Auburn, and Lewiston officials were happy to have them.
“It’s the perfect building for us,” she said.
The Smalls employ 10 people full-time, many of them veterans to the business. They hire temporary help for the big holidays when flowers are a must.
The couple is building four new greenhouses in Lewiston to match the 9,000 square feet of space they now have. They grow all of their own flowers and plants and are planning to stock new items in their gift shop, as well as invest in new technology and furnishings.
The Smalls will open their shop the first of May, while keeping the Auburn store open for several weeks after that to ensure a smooth transition and that customers don’t go without.
The Smalls have a “large core of dedicated customers,” Mike Small said, and all but 10 percent of them shop by phone or Internet.
Still, he said, the couple wants to maintain a full-fledged flower and gift shop for their many regular walk-in customers.
After all, they have a long tradition to protect, only in a new city.