Flower shop’s fall marks end of era

Flower shop’s fall marks end of era

Mike Persichelli had flowers from New Hyde Park’s B&W Mockawetch Florist at his wedding in 1994, and went to the flower shop “all the time,” he said.

On Tuesday, he stood over a pit on South First Street where Mockawetch was in business for 95 years, overseeing the construction of four houses that are replacing it. 

The shop closed in March and was demolished two weeks ago, said Persichelli, owner of New Hyde Park-based Persi Contracting.

To Persichelli and other former Mockawetch customers, the shop’s demolition is a sign of changing times and marks the end of a New Hyde Park institution.

“People don’t realize the writing on the wall,” Persichelli said. “You’re getting rid of all these small mom-and-pop places, for what?”

A number of factors drove Mockawetch owner Bruce Turner’s decision to sell the shop at 16 S. First St. and retire with his wife, Barbara, who worked there for more than 35 years.

Business had slowed over the past decade, thanks to big-box stores, Bruce Turner said.

With two greenhouses and a showroom, Turner said, Mockawetch was also getting too expensive and too labor-intensive for the New Hyde Park native, who turns 84 on Saturday.

“It was a little bit depressing, but like everything else, things change and you got to just adjust to it and that’s it,” said  Turner, who worked at Mockawetch for more than 65 years. “Now I have so much time on our hands we don’t know what to do.”

Persichelli is overseeing construction of the four single-family homes on the 16,000-square-foot lot, which will each be about 1,800 square feet, he said. They should take about a year to build, he said.

Bruce Turner said he worked with Persichelli for about two years to finalize the sale, but would not disclose the price. The property was most recently valued at $292,800, Nassau County land records show.

Persichelli is named as the owner on permit applications in the Village of New Hyde Park, village Building Superintendent Tom Gannon said. 

But Persichelli said he is building the project for a separate developer.

“I’m just doing the work,” said Persichelli, a New Hyde Park native.

New Hyde Park residents and former Mockawetch customers on Facebook lamented the loss of a flower shop they said was the best around.

For many, Mockawetch flowers marked birthdays, weddings, deaths and other important milestones. Others said they remembered working in the shop or playing near it as kids.

“I passed there today and when I saw the bulldozers leveling it, I must say it made me cry,” Diane Bentivegna wrote on Aug. 10. “Every important event in my life was marked with flowers from this wonderful shop.”

Bruce Turner gave Mockawetch’s phone number and customer base to New Hyde Park Florist at 1213 Jericho Turnpike, said Bill Prulos, the owner of that shop. The arrangement means the Turners won’t have to “see something totally disappear,” he said.

Bruce Turner said he bought Mockawetch so he could eventually sell it and retire. It seemed age was catching up with him after decades in the business, Prulos said.

“Pretty much you work until you can pay your bills, and at that age the last thing you want to do is sit around paying the real estate tax and paying the oil to keep your greenhouses warm and stuff like that,” Prulos said.

Bruce Turner grew up across the street from Mockawetch and started working there at age 15 under Bill Mockawetch, the original owner, he said.

He graduated from Sewanhaka High School, served in the U.S. Navy and returned in the 1950s. He met Barbara, his wife of 23 years, when they both worked there, he said.

Turner became Mockawetch’s business partner in the late 1980s and bought the shop from him outright in the early 1990s, he said. Mockawetch died in 1999.

The shop and its greenhouses stretched from South First Street to Lewis Avenue until half the lot was sold at least 50 years ago, Bruce Turner said. 

Nine houses went up around the remaining property, which was still one of the largest flower shops in the area, Turner said.

“We tried to keep it going,” Bruce Turner said. “I would have liked to see it go for 100 years, but it just didn’t work out that way.”

Retirement has been an adjustment for Barbara Turner, 64, she said.

She enjoys having the time to travel and relax, she said, but she still misses going to work. She also misses the flowers themselves, she said.

“I see my customers and some of them they ask — they drove by and they don’t see the flowers,” Barbara Turner said. “It would be nice to have a little of everything, but it doesn’t work that way.”

By Noah Manskar

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