Anna Held - A Welcome Return to Another Era
By: Karen Donnelly
For nearly five years, Beth Tarrant has been known to many people by a name not her own. “So many people would call thinking I was Anna,” Tarrant explained, “that now I just answer to Anna more often than not.”
The “Anna” so many people refer to is Anna Held, longtime proprietor of the Anna Held Flower Shop in the Edgewater Beach Apartments building at the corner of Bryn Mawr and Sheridan Road. Although Anna passed away some 20 years ago, Tarrant, the store’s current owner, felt that the shop’s name shouldn’t be changed. “It’s been called that for 50-some years.”
Having taken on the persona - in name only - of the longtime Edgewater merchant, it is not surprising that Tarrant has gathered a few stories about Anna Held. “She had quite a reputation in the floral industry,” Tarrant said, pointing out how Held at one time was head of FTD (Florists Transworld Delivery). “The flamboyant florist was also fond of dancing,” Tarrant added, “and she would always wear a bird-of-paradise. That was her trademark.”
Held had an assistant who still lives in the Edgewater Beach Apartments (who requests anonymity) and who is now friends with the shop’s current owner. “She gave me a statue of St. Dorothy, the patron saint of flowers. That was so touching,” Tarrant said.
Having resurrected, in a sense, one of Edgewater’s historic shops, Tarrant is now set on doing the same thing at another legendary location - the old soda fountain next door in the now-closed Edgewater Beach Apartments Pharmacy. When the pharmacist there retired after 44 years in business, Tarrant jumped at the chance to satisfy her dream of restoring the fountain and apply the ten-plus years of food-service experience she had gained working her way through college.
If all goes as planned, Tarrant will have the fountain renovated and operational on or about August 25 of this year, the building’s 60th anniversary. “People still talk about the days when the old soda fountain was open,” Tarrant mentioned. It hasn’t operated for about 15 years now.
Tarrant has been putting in 20-hour days since May in order to renovate the marble soda counter, the leaded glass and the brass fixtures, with the help of contractors and dedicated volunteers. Adamantly forsaking the big (soda) vendors who wanted to install a big plastic machine for her, she was finally able to find a Chicago company that works exclusively in renovating old soda fountains. One of the company’s foremen even did maintenance on the fountain when it was in previous operation.
Restoring the old counter has proven to be an emotional experience for Beth Tarrant and her helpers. One renovator, according to Tarrant, simply “put his head down on the soda fountain’s marble counter and cried… You just can’t find marble like that anymore. I thought it looked great as it was. He polished up a piece of it for me and said, ‘That’s how it’s supposed to look,’ and it was… IS beautiful.”
The fountain and connecting floral shop, with a tempting array of distinctive gifts, plants and fresh-cut flowers, will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. The fountain menu will feature old-fashioned Peterson ice cream, coffee, cappuccino and espresso, as well as light lunches and pastries. Counter service people will undergo formal training by Peterson’s in order to assure proper presentation of the ice cream treats you all remember and love.
While adults are savoring the familiar taste of a bygone era, youngsters can dig into their favorite flavors in the fountain’s “my own little corner” section with pint-sized tables, chairs and toys. “After all,” says Tarrant, “ice cream should be fun - especially for kids.”
And from one kid to another, Beth: “Thanks!”