By Aimee Lewis Strain
Swing open the glass doors at 1682 El Camino Real in San Carlos, and an aromatic blend of fresh roses, lilacs and peonies seems to overwhelm the senses. The steady, tranquil sound of dripping water from a fountain complements the abstract art that adorns every wall.
The peaceful spot has been home to Granara’s Flowers since 1946. For the past 44 years, it has been owned and operated by the Maffei family of San Carlos—from 1978 to 1994 by patriarch Primo “ Jim” Maffei and then by his daughter and son, Robin and Tim. By mid-January, the younger Maffeis plan to lock the doors for the last time as they convert to an entirely online presence for customers.
We used to have a line out the door on holidays, but people don’t walk into flower shops anymore. They order things online and have it delivered.
“We have seen a huge shift in the way people shop for flowers,” Tim says. “We used to have a line out the door on holidays, but people don’t walk into flower shops anymore. They order things online and have it delivered. We can provide our clients with the same services we always have with our comprehensive website. For the last few years, we have seen a huge rise in this area and we are able to service multiple orders at once all across the country.”
For the Maffei family, flowers have long been a passion. As a young boy, Jim worked for Sheridan and Bell, a florist in San Francisco, and later for Ah Sam Floral Co. in San Mateo before starting at Granara’s in 1950. On New Year’s Eve of 1978, he purchased the business for $100,000 from his former boss, Romeo Granara.
“My dad had this incredible gift—a vision of beauty and could turn anything into a masterpiece,” Tim says.
That talent extended to Robin and Tim, who grew up in San Carlos and began working as kids at the flower shop, creating corsages, managing the counter and making deliveries.
Small-town San Carlos worked well for the Maffeis. Jim’s wife, Rosie, raised eight children, who remain close today. Robin says the family was a large supporter of the San Carlos Chamber of Commerce, St. Charles School, the San Carlos Rotary Club and the charities of St. Vincent de Paul, among other local organizations.
Jim and Rosie lived to 90 and 88, respectively. Jim died in 2018, and Rosie followed him nine months later. That started family discussions over what to do with the business. As with many older establishments on the Peninsula, the store’s real-estate value had risen significantly over the decades.
“After Dad passed, we had to make a decision about selling the building,” Robin says. “Our siblings were happy to give us five extra years here, but we were presented with an offer to sell the building and could not pass it up.”
No doubt, saying goodbye to the flower shop that Tim and Robin have called their second home will be their most emotional arrangement yet. But continuing to expand the business through the Internet should bring a rewarding challenge. And customers who call or use Granara’s website (granarasflowers.com) can pick up flowers at the as-yet unpublicized location of the store’s workshop.
“We already work with our clients with web and phone communication and deliveries,” Robin says. “So it won’t be a big change for us.”