When you enter Steve’s Valencia Florist, a small business off Lyons Avenue in Newhall, the door always chimes a cheery “Ding dong.”
In recent years, it has chimed a little longer. On repeat, on repeat, on repeat — mostly because Penny the pit bull, the resident pet, likes to sit in an exact spot a foot from the door that will cause the sensor to keep pulsing.
Penny will greet anyone on a quest to find the best flower with a droopy look in her eyes, and a slight, friendly pant of her tongue, enjoying the company each time a customer walks through to find the best pot, the best plant, the best bloom to suit their occasion.
“She gets mad if she doesn’t get to come here,” her owner, Jan Hanauer, said with a chuckle.
But Penny is the last to know that, on Saturday, she will lie there for the last time as Steve’s Valencia Florist closes its doors after 45 years of business.
“Penny doesn’t know we’re closing,” Hanauer said on Wednesday, three days before the last day of operations and three days before she’ll sell the last of the roses, last of the gerberas, the last of the starflowers that had made many a wife happy on anniversaries and Valentine’s Days for years.
Waiting for customers
Hanauer stood at the front register, waiting for the door to ding, ding, ding ding, as it had for many years throughout a space with glass displays and shelves full of fresh-cut flowers.
“Soon, she won’t get to play with everyone, and she’ll just be stuck in the house with little old me,” she said of her pit bull, who has become just as attached to this place as the owner.
Penny is Hanauer’s companion of the past 19 months, adopted after the death of Steve Hanauer, namesake of the flower shop and Jan’s husband.
Steve hit his head one day, she recalls, and the resulting blood clot in his brain meant he never awakened.
So Jan Hanauer took it upon herself to carry on his legacy. She wanted to keep open the business that had once brought flowers from a local grower up the coast in Carpinteria, to the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys.
“It just used to be much easier to be in the flower business,” she said.
“People would call you for all occasions, or no occasions. And nowadays, maybe they call you twice a year.”
Before Santa Clarita became a city, the florists were welcomed left and right. Hanauer remembers Steve, a Saugus resident for many years, making deliveries every weekend, to destinations including the Catholic church just down the street.
That church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Newhall, got its final delivery last weekend, with one of the many small cards Hanauer spent the last few weeks typing up.
Every other business that had had Steve’s flowers adorn their front desks for years got the same message: Steve’s Valencia Florist was giving out its swan songs this week.
It was time, as competition was edging them out. The economy was turning, telling Hanauer it was time to close shop. It wasn’t even just the farmer’s markets that sold day-old flowers people would rather pick up — now you could even order flowers online.
Hanauer didn’t want to stop selling for a while. She wanted to honor her husband’s memory, even when the bills started adding up and the variety started dwindling down.
“I can’t continue putting money into it on a weekly basis and not making money, you know,” she said. “And yeah, it’s the availability of flowers, it’s the economy. The quality isn’t the same elsewhere as you get in the florist, but it is what it is.”
She couldn’t help but think of how sad Steve would be if he were alive. That part is what hurts, more than the fact that she has to find a new job now to support herself and Penny.
It is time to go, but not just for Hanauer. What is Penny going to do?
“She’ll be sad,” Hanauer said. “She enjoys coming down to see everyone every day. She’ll miss the people.”