Across from Jaye Tarantino's office inside Flowerama, the Belleville floral institution on the corner of Washington Avenue and Rutgers Street, a poster board overflows with thank you cards praising her shop's work through the years.
In a day and age where supermarkets have established a grab-it-and-go niche in the flower market, this board is testimony to just how much Flowerama's fabulous spreads and customer service Tarantino's store remain the store of choice for weddings, funerals and other special occasions in the greater Belleville area.
“They wouldn't understand that at a Pathmark or a ShopRite,” Tarantino said. “We customize everything to the person.
“When somebody calls, I make myself available.”
On Christmas, Tarantino came into the shop to help a family planning a funeral in New York's Greenwich Village. Through the years, she and her staff have sacrificed several holidays to both build and maintain their loyal customer base.
A former restaurant owner and president and board of directors for the now-defunct Belleville Chamber of Commerce, Tarantino became Flowerama's third owner since the shop opened in 1967 when she purchased it from the estate of friend Sal Melillo when he passed away 14 years ago.
Bear in mind that, upon purchase, Tarantino called her introduction to being a florist “baptism by fire.”
As she did in her previous endeavors, she learned quick.
“I hired very good designers,” she said. “I went to school. And my business acumen really carried me through.”
Although designers such as Genya Berenfeld create the colorfully vibrant centerpieces and sprays that have earned repeat business from the likes of Police Chief Joseph Rotonda, St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church and Cozzarelli Funeral Home – Flowerama made several large pieces for “The Sopranos” when they filmed a scene just up the street years ago – it is Tarantino's ability to soothe families frazzled while making funeral arrangements that earns her high praise.
“It's a comfort to know I can trust someone with our families,” said Anthony Biondi, Jr., funeral director at Nutley's Biondi Funeral Home. “She's a great person.”
Tarantino said “80 percent” of Flowerama's work comes from funerals primarily in Belleville and Nutley, but also in Bloomfield, Newark, and beyond. She has several old-school photo albums showing displays incorporating personal touches including photos and newspaper headlines. For one funeral held at Crystal's Ballroom in Lyndhurst, Flowerama's creations were all white and made from fresh calla lillies, orchids and roses.
This explains the overflow of the thank you cards.
And why customers keep coming back to Flowerama.
“She's always willing to help our families out by making herself available seven days a week,” Biondi Jr. said. “As far as her quality of work, it's outstanding. And she's a really, really good person.”
Flowerama is located at 180 Washington Ave. Call them at (973) 759-0012 or check them out at www.floweramanj.com.