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A fire destroyed Freeport's Duryea's Flower Shop, but not its business

The family-owned Duryea's Flower Shop in Freeport was destroyed in a November fire but manager Suzzanne Serino and other employees are operating inside the kitchen of Otto's Sea Grill, a village restaurant that is closed for the winter. Credit: Johnny Milano

Instead of Otto’s Sea Grill serving stuffed shrimp and surf and turf this winter in Freeport, a flower shop is using the space to make bouquets and poinsettias in time for the holidays.

Weeks after an overnight blaze in the village destroyed Duryea’s Flower Shop and a neighboring deli on Guy Lombardo Avenue, the family-owned business has relocated down the Nautical Mile to Otto’s Sea Grill until the spring.

The seafood restaurant of 91 years closed for the winter and offered to let Duryea's use the eatery to cut, prepare and deliver flowers.

"I didn’t think twice about it and thought they could use the help. I made the offer and now everyone has jumped in to help with Christmas being the season of good will," Otto’s owner Ilona Jagnow said. "You want to keep family businesses going. it’s been tough enough in the years we’ve faced lately to help others stay open."

Duryea’s reopened inside the restaurant last week, converting its refrigerator to hold flowers, the dish wells to store ribbons and Christmas decorations, and lining up the dining room tables with displays of poinsettias, stuffed animals and flower bouquets.

Flower shop manager Suzzanne Serino said Jagnow is a longtime friend who offered to let her use the space rent-free — except for sharing electricity costs — until the business can find a new location and before Otto’s hopes to reopen in March.

"It was complete devastation. My family’s whole life flashed before our eyes. Our hearts and lives were in there," Serino said. "All we could do was cry in complete devastation. We didn’t know anything at that point and [Jagnow] told us we’re more than welcome. It’s a roof over our head and a place to do our flowers. We just pray to God to hold on until we’ve got our new location."

The Nov. 13 fire destroyed thousands of valuables at the shop Serino and her family have operated for more than 30 years. Word of their reopening spread online and through family and friends.

Their new space inside Otto's allows for up to seven or eight customers at a time, socially distanced. Duryea’s is rerouting its phone lines through Otto’s and adding a glass refrigerated display unit. Serino said she had to cancel a wedding arrangement this weekend, but plans to continue doing wedding flowers moving forward.

"We were very blessed and Freeport is a very caring and loving community," Serino said.

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