Kayte Ellsworth repots African violets last week in the Harmon’s Floral Co. shop at 584 Congress St. in downtown Portland. Ellsworth was hired as seasonal help for Valentine’s Day. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Since 1887, Harmon’s Floral Co. has seen seasons come, seasons go.

Maybe that explains why its current owner, Dan Kennedy, is taking his decision to close the florist’s flagship location in stride.

Come April 1, the store at 584 Congress St. in downtown Portland will shutter for good. Kennedy will continue business in the two other Harmon’s locations – at 737 Congress St., near Maine Medical Center, and at 117 Brown St. in Westbrook.

Kennedy owns the building near Maine Med, so he felt it no longer made sense to stay in the Congress Square location, which is rented and less than a half-mile away. But Harmon’s has been downtown for over 40 years, and he said he’s sad to be leaving.

Natalie Brown works the register at Harmon’s Floral Company on Congress Street in downtown Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The store is a short walk from many office buildings, so it’s been a convenient spot for workers to pick up flowers on their way home. But since the pandemic hit, Kennedy said, there have been fewer workers, walk-in traffic has dwindled and most people are now ordering flowers by phone or online.

“It’s a high rent-district and it didn’t warrant staying there,” he said. The building, which includes an adjacent storefront, sold in November for $2.8 million.


Other challenges have also been thorny.

Customers were deterred when Free Street closed for street and sidewalk repairs last summer and fall, according to Kennedy. Harmon’s has entrances off both Congress and Free streets, but the Free Street doorway attracted walk-ins as well as people who had driven to the store. The construction also complicated deliveries, because the company’s vans would load and unload there.

A planned six-story expansion of the Portland Museum of Art to space at 142 Free St., directly across from the Harmon’s entrance, could also cause havoc. That construction likely won’t be completed until 2026.

In addition, Kennedy said, he’s been dealing with staffing shortages, and knew that operating two shops instead of three would make it easier to accommodate employee schedules.

“I feel like you know when it’s time to move on and rip off the Band-Aid,” Kennedy said.



Despite closing the one store, Kennedy said it remains a good time for the florist business.

COVID forced some changes, he said, but his stores and other florists have adapted. For instance, people weren’t holding funerals – to avoid large gatherings in small spaces – so customers would arrange to have flowers delivered to homes. Florists were already used to home deliveries, Kennedy said, so it was easy to beef up that part of the business.

The Harmon’s Floral store near Congress Square is closing after more than 40 years in that location. The company’s two other stores will remain open. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

But, as in many industries, the pandemic disrupted the supply chain. When Kennedy visited Boston wholesalers to buy flowers for his stores, he said, “you never knew what you were going to get.” Harmon’s now works with customers to come up with floral arrangements based on color palettes, rather than specific flowers, because the shops can’t be sure what inventory they’ll have.

“All of a sudden you couldn’t plan” because you couldn’t count on being able to get specific flowers, he said. “It was a whole new way of selling a product.”

Among those who will be sad to see the Congress Square store close is Zach Shireland, who loves shopping downtown and has been going to Harmon’s and other iconic stores nearby since he was a child.

Shireland, 32, grew up on Cumberland Avenue, and even though he now lives in Bangor, downtown Portland – and Harmon’s – are still a draw. He stopped in recently to pick up a birthday bouquet for his wife.

“I’ve been doing downtown my whole life,” he said. “I’m sad to learn they will be closing.”

Kennedy said he hopes people looking for flowers won’t mind heading a few blocks farther, and knows more customers are shopping virtually anyway. Still, spring is coming, and he said he plans to spiff up the façade of his remaining Portland location.

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