Uptown Florist

Uptown Florist owner Roy Suiter stands by his shuttered front door with a rose and an “open” sign on Monday. The business remains open as a city-ordered emergency demolition of the brick facade at 117 N. Union St. is planned for Tuesday morning.

OLEAN — The front of the building might be falling off, but a city florist is still gearing up for one of the busiest weekends of the year.

Roy Suiter, owner of Uptown Florist, said his business, which weathered COVID-19 pandemic, will weather the city-ordered demolition of the front brick facade of his building at 117 N. Union St.

In late April, the city code enforcement office inspected the facade, noting it was in “immediate danger” of failing, bringing three stories of brick crashing to the sidewalk below at any moment. Demolition is set for Tuesday morning.

The southbound lane of North Union Street will be closed Tuesday morning, city officials reported Monday, with the demolition to begin around 7 a.m.

The section of street is expected to be closed through noon, with southbound vehicles being detoured along Laurens and North First streets. Delays are expected for local traffic and through traffic should consider alternate routes.

In the more than 50 years he has been a florist in Olean, “I’ve never had anything like this happen before,” said Suiter, who noted the building was constructed in 1890 and old age is catching up with the masonry. “You’d be falling apart too at 130.”

The business moved to the site in 1994.

Fortunately, the facade is not structurally linked to the rest of the building, allowing Suiter to continue operations even as crews get to work. The large sign on the facade cannot be saved, he said, but he had hopes that the awning and the large display windows will survive the demolition.

“We’ll see how good they are,” he said, placing a single rose in each bay of the windows.

Under city code, the city has the right to declare buildings as public dangers if, in this case, the facade could be a risk to pedestrians. The city can order demolitions if a notice to comply is not followed within three days, with the city covering the initial cost and then billing the property owner. If left unpaid, such bills then turn into a lien on the property.

The demolition is estimated to cost $16,000 alone, Suiter said, with the cost to replace the facade expected to be significantly higher — all of which will fall on him.

“We are trying to work with the Chamber … to see if there is any grant funding — right now, there’s not,” he said.

Despite the costs, Suiter said he is grateful for the city’s help getting engineers on site and the demolition moving.

“I wouldn’t even know where to start,” he added.

The timing could not be worse.

“This is one of the biggest holidays of the year,” he said, with Mother’s Day rivalling holidays like Easter and Valentine’s Day in terms of flower orders. “We’ll do what we have to do.”

He laments the inconvenience associated with the demolition.

“I feel terrible people on both sides (of the building) are affected,” he said, regretting that his neighbors are also being forced to use their rear service entrances and the limited — in some cases, nonexistent due to property lines — parking areas.

For now, the winding back rooms of the business filled with flowers, preparation areas and storage are what greet visitors to Uptown Florist.

“They say “ooh, this is where the magic happens,” Suiter said.

The business is open Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 373-4488.

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

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