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"Day job blossoms into lifetime achievement"

(article featured in Bronx newspaper - The Riverdale Press)

When Bill Zenda opened Flowers by Zenda in 1946, he sold “Poor Man’s Bouquets” to local loverboys with thin wallets and big hearts. He donated flowers to local organizations and community events and sold fresh flowers that would last.

Today, the shop on Broadway and West 225th Street could be called Flowers by Orlando, but it’s not.

It’s newest owner, Orlando Kross, 39, kept the name because Mr. Zenda was more than just a flower shop owner, he was part of the neighborhood.

“We try to give to the community. They’re the ones that come in and support the business,” said Mr. Kross, who regularly donates flowers to local churches, including St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, just a few blocks away. Flowers by Zenda also donates to Marble Hill community events like the annual summer barbecue and Marble Hill Weekend.

This year, when Mr. Kross showed up at the party at the American Legion Hall on Corlear Avenue on Aug. 21, the Marble Hill Reunion and Development Committee surprised him with a lifetime achievement award for his contributions.

“He’s the best in the neighborhood, that’s for sure,” said Joan Kaplan, a regular who recently travelled from Van Cortlandt Village to purchase boutonieres (decorative flowers worn on suit jackets) for a night out.

Mr. Kross’ career in Marble Hill began in 1992, two years after immigrating to New York from the Netherlands. He was born in Aruba, but moved to the Netherlands as a child. When he came to the United States he spoke Dutch, Papiamento and the little Spanish he learned in high school.

He learned English and as Marble Hill’s demographics changed over the years, he started to speak Spanish fluently. Sometimes, he said, he is even mistaken for being Latino. The previous owner was not bilingual; something Mr. Kross said hurt the business.

“Most people think I’m Spanish, which I’m happy about because they feel comfortable,” he said.

On a recent afternoon, the bell at his shop wouldn’t stop ringing. He helped two customers at once — the first ordering flowers in Spanish, the second, an English speaker, browsing giant refrigerators full of flowers. Mr. Kross is the only full-time employee of the shop.

His first job at Flowers by Zenda was driving a truck, but he was eager to learn the business and soon became a part-time designer. He learned the tricks of the trade from the shop’s second owner Carthel “Omar” Keathley, and sees flower arrangements as artwork.

“The way I see it, every order is a special order to me. It’s an emotional business. Every order, small or big, I try to make special,” he said as he pointed out his favorite flower, a Sorbonne lily.

Mr. Kross takes pictures of every flower arrangement he designs and catalogs his creations to show customers what he can do. It is one of the ways technology has helped keep Flowers by Zenda alive.

The other is the Internet. Mr. Kross peddles flowers through his website and makes almost 70 percent of sales online, he said.

FLOWERS BY ZENDA is a local Bronx, New York florist with a lovely variety of fresh flowers and creative gift ideas to suit any style or budget. We hope you enjoy your online shopping experience with secure 24-hour ordering right at your fingertips. If preferred, you may call us to place orders direct at 718-562-8979 or 1-800-356-7363. It is our pleasure to assist you with any local, as well as worldwide deliveries and remember that corporate accounts are always welcome. For your convenience, we offer daily floral delivery to local funeral homes and hospitals.

Sympathy and funeral flowers from the heart ~ We will design and deliver a funeral arrangement that beautifully conveys your expression of sympathy and serves as a lovely memorial to the deceased.

The beauty of flowers at weddings and events ~ Our talented design staff is ready to help you plan the bouquets, arrangements and on-site decorating for your dream wedding or a special occasion. Call in advance and set up an appointment for a consultation.

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