By Oona Milliken | [email protected]
Fonda Sara, owner of the flower shop Zuzu’s Petals on 374 5th Ave. in Park Slope, feels flowers in her body.
“I have a physical reaction to flowers and growing-things, when I see a beautiful flower or an interesting flower in an incredible color, I literally have a visceral reaction,” Sara said. “I physically feel a jolt. I feel it in my body, it’s a thrill, an excitement.”
After 50 years of delivering flowers to the people in Park Slope, Zuzu’s Petals was recently added to the New York State National Historic Business Registry. Sara said she applied because it felt like a tremendous accomplishment to have survived being a small-business owner for five decades. However, according to Sara, the designation is mostly just a social media buzzword to use for marketing purposes: she said the real satisfaction comes from fostering her team of workers and seeing the impact her business has had on the community.
“I feel that the designation as a historic business is important as a handle for social media. For me, the richness of my life experience is enough to make me feel that I’ve lived a good life. But in terms of external tools to promote my business, it’s just another handle,” Sara said.
Sara said she also loves mentoring young creative people who might need a restorative break from a rigid career path, such as her manager Rebecca Brinkley, who she said will hopefully take the reins of Zuzu’s eventually. Brinkley, a former actress, said she started working at the flower shop during the pandemic when all her acting gigs dried up. According to Brinkley, she took a position as a salesperson with her friend and ended up staying long term even after her friend moved on to other things because she enjoyed work so much.
“I stayed here. And, I just liked it so much better,” Brinkley said. “As a creative person, it’s really nice to do something that’s physical. Also, the people that flowers attract are so much more pleasant to be around than anything else. Coming from the theater industry, it’s a relatively abusive place. What’s so nice about this is you go to the market, and all the florists are trying to help each other out.”
“[Park Slope] was a nurturing environment for people to do things that weren’t the norm,” Sara said.
After a fire broke out in their original location on 9th Ave. in 2004, Zuzu’s went through a round of fundraising to move to their current location on 5th Ave.. Sara said the hardship she experienced from fire, as well as the time spent in the neighborhood, pushed her to feel that Zuzu’s deserved to be added to the historic registry.
“The definition of someone who qualifies to be on the registry is that you have to be in business in a neighborhood and that you’ve had to contribute to the neighborhood,” Sara said. “ I’ve lived in Park Slope for most of my adult life, and I feel it’s my heart and soul. It’s where my people are.”