Florist reopens after tax seizure

John Ruch

Minding Our Own Business

SOUTH ST.—Reopening after a two-week state seizure for unpaid taxes was not how Petal & Leaf Florist wanted to mark its tenth anniversary on Jan. 28.

But being back in business is better than the alternative—an auctioning off of the business that could have happened in as little as a week, according to the state Department of Revenue (DOR).

The florist at 48 South St. now hopes to “stay a part of the community that has shown us so much love,” owner Cat Thomson told the Gazette in an e-mail.

Petal & Leaf was seized by the state—meaning it was completely locked up to anyone, including Thomson—on Jan. 13 for owing almost $82,000, mostly in unpaid sales tax, according to DOR spokesperson Bob Bliss. The florist previously was seized in November 2008 for the same reasons, Bliss said, adding that some of the unpaid taxes go back to 2003.

“When [we] seize a business, it’s the end of the line, collection-wise,” said Bliss, describing seizure as a last resort. He said DOR seizes about 80 businesses a year for unpaid taxes.

DOR placed a fluorescent orange sign in the shop’s window to explain that it had been seized. Shortly afterward a group of “anonymous friends & neighbors” placed a note on the window offering moral and political support to the florist.

“You’re an asset to the community, and the block is missing your BEAUTY and your scattered rose petals!” read the note, referring to the petals regularly scattered on the sidewalk in front of the shop. “We don’t want another gift store or mini-mart to ever take your place!”

Thomson told the Gazette that Petal & Leaf got in “hot water” with unpaid taxes a few years into operation and has been on a payment plan. But in the current tough economy, she said, “I bounced a couple of payments, and so they came down on me like a ton of bricks.”

“It’s really hard to get out of trouble once you owe back taxes, because the interest and penalties are astronomical, so it’s been a difficult thing to keep up with, much less overcome,” Thomson said. “Thanks to a few kind friends, I have gathered enough together to appease the Department of Revenue temporarily, and will be back on a payment plan again.”

Thomson called the closure “harrowing,” noting that her employees were out of work for two weeks and that the plants locked inside the store began to die.

“On the positive side, the support and love that the community has shown has been truly inspiring, and has helped keep me going,” Thomson said.

The reopening came on the tenth anniversary, to the day, of the Petal & Leaf’s opening at its original Hyde Square location. Bliss called the store’s reopening “good news.”

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