Elizabet Flores owns La Bomboniera Marylu party store on 30th Ave. What more festive way to end this year of interviews than a conversation with her. “We are like a party planner,” Elizabet says. “We can help you with first communions, christenings, birthdays, weddings. We help you with the invitations, favors, decoration of the hall…anything that you need for the party.”
The store is brimful with party products. Among them are its namesake and Elizabet’s own personal favorite item, the favors called bombonieras. They are small packets of five sugared almonds wrapped in tulle or organza and tied with a ribbon. On the ribbon are words appropriate for the party, like “happy birthday” or the names of the couple if they are for a wedding.
“It’s a French, Italian and Greek tradition, so I didn’t know about them before,” says Elizabet, who is from Mexico. “When you tell the customers, they say, ‘you didn’t know what that means?!’” The bombonieras are given for good luck.
Elizabet says that she is always learning from customers about their own party traditions. “For the Greek orthodox people, we do things that they have for Easter, the candles and things like that.” At Christmas time, local Ecuadorians hold month-long celebrations for the holy boy, divino niño Jesús. “They do it like a party for the holy boy. They make invitations, they have a mass, they have a reception and traditional dances. So we help them with that.”
La Bomboniera also helps customers hold small parties in their homes. “We can rent the chairs and the tables, and do a touch with a small cake. We just work with the Dominican cakes. We have a lady who makes them for us. People like the Dominican cakes a lot. Around the area on 30th Avenue they just sell like Italian cake, French. The difference is the paste. It should be like a pound cake, and the filling doesn’t have cream, it just has like a guava paste, or pineapple or strawberry or chocolate.”
The store has been on 30th Ave since 2004, and its previous owner ran it for some time before that on Roosevelt Avenue. Elizabet says that how she became involved “is a funny story. I was the cleaning lady of the previous owner. She got married and one day said ‘I want to sell my business’. I thought, ‘ok, I’ll have to look for another job’. But I was talking with a couple of friends and my family, then I talked to her and said ‘why don’t you give me the opportunity to buy your business?’
“She helped me a lot. Because I didn’t speak English at that time. She was helping for four months, showing me. I was trying to learn the most that I can. Because her husband bought another business in Florida and she had to go. I was like, ‘oh my God I have to learn!’”
“What I can tell you? I can’t believe I was just the person who helped her at her house and now I own her business. Once a year she still calls me. ‘Elizabet, how’s everything, you doing good?’”
Elizabet says that she tries to be involved with each customer as if she is planning her own party. “In that way I think they are going to be happy and they are going to come back. I try to keep all of my customers. It was a very hard time when I started, but now I can tell you thank God, everything is ok.” Her mother and her sister help her in the store. She says that being able to work with them and the face-to-face interaction with her customers are what she enjoys most about running the store. When her own two children have parties, she even invites a few of her customers along to join in.
If she doesn’t have an item a customer needs she does her best to find it. “If I don’t understand exactly what they want, I just say ‘can you explain again?’ And I’ll do it. Of course!”
Next door to La Bomboniera is Astoria Music (interview with George Phillips here), and two doors up is Astoria Billiards (interview with Carlos Sanclementi here).