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Caruso’s to close its doors after more than a century

October 22, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Caruso’s has been a mainstay of Aurora’s historic downtown core for nearly 110 years.

It has seen life as a grocery store, a wholesale grocery business, a flower shop and, most recently under the banner of Caruso & Company and third-generation owner Mike Caruso, it has carried on its floral tradition with a new focus as a home décor destination.

But, it’s a tradition that will come to an end this January.

On Thursday, Mr. Caruso announced the family’s retirement effective January 15.

Their decision to retire was made a couple of years ago when the property was sold. Caruso’s leased back their property with the plan to officially retire when the lease expired.

“Even though we’ve known we would be wrapping things up for quite some time, it was still a tough call to make,” says Mr. Caruso. “We’ve been here for such a long time and it was not a decision we took lightly by any stretch, but you also kind of wonder – will anyone notice?”

Notice they did.

Following their announcement near the end of last week, Caruso & Company was inundated with calls, emails and drop-ins from well-wishers and long-time customers.

“Now, you suddenly think, okay, people did notice us,” says Mr. Caruso with a chuckle. “Some days you just kind of get up, go to work, put your head down and do your thing, but this feedback has been nice. People will miss us from the sound of it, which is good!”

Caruso & Company was founded by Anthony Caruso in 1913. As Caruso’s, he supplied wholesale produce to local stores and surrounding communities. They expanded operations in the 1930s to include Mary’s Fruit Store, which was run by his daughters Mary and Rose, while son Frank joined his dad in their wholesale enterprises.

Expansion was on the horizon once again by the end of the 1950s and the start of a new decade brought further expansion with the opening of Mary’s Flower Shop, which was operated by Frank’s wife, Phyllis.

Frank and Phyllis’ son, Mike, joined the family business in 1997 after a career as a contractor and carpenter. Focus then shifted towards the flower business and, with the help of manager Sue Wilbur, expanded towards home décor, giftware, greeting cards, and more.

“I was ready for a change at the time,” says Mike on joining the family business. “I always liked the business and thought the building could be more than it was. It was still a neat old place, but the building was getting pretty tired. The flower side was doing well, so I ran with that and tried to create more of a destination-type place. I think we succeeded in that based on some of the responses we have been getting [since we announced our retirement]. People have been describing the store as a therapeutic place to come, people bought all their flowers here for family milestones all the way through, so it is neat to hear that people used this place to come and meet friends, or come here after lunch. That is what we were after and I guess we have achieved that!”

One of their destination events was their popular pre-Christmas Holiday Open House, which saw their Yonge Street shop filled with shoppers and revellers for an afternoon of live music, refreshments and, of course, shopping. This was when Caruso & Company intended on announcing the end of an era, but COVID-19 had other ideas and the Open House was a casualty of the virus.

Now, they are sorting through their recently-arrived holiday stock and getting the store ready for their final weeks as a downtown destination.

“We want people to leave with good memories because for anyone who comes in here, it is going to be the last time they shop here, and you want them to go out the door with the best possible experience,” says Mr. Caruso. “That’s our mission, and it is has been our mission every day. We have a great staff that understands this, and they go out of their way to make it happen. Now, we’re in a two-and-a-half-month farewell party, which is what this now boils down to.

“We hope our legacy in Aurora will be as good supporters of the community over the years. The other side of it is the community supported us. Without the community, we wouldn’t have lasted this long and it is a two-way street. I like to think they will remember us as a flagship on the main street when we were here.”

By Brock Weir
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



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