By Carl Nolte
SAN FRANCISCO (Chronicle) — It is not the big and famous things that give San Francisco its special flavor. It’s not the thousand-foot-tall buildings, or even the glorious Golden Gate Bridge. It’s the people, the San Franciscans, the man at the corner store, the lady who watches out for the neighborhood community garden, the barista who remembers what kind of coffee you like, the security guard who gives you a surprise smile on a blue Monday. They make the city what it is. And what it was.
One of them left us last week. He was Al Nalbandian, who ran the sidewalk flower stand at Stockton and Geary streets. He died Tuesday, May 9, at the age of 95. He was one of those old-time San Franciscans, born and raised in the city, a living landmark. He was on that corner for more than 70 years, working every day, even into his old age.
In his last years, Al was bit slow and stooped, but he still knew his way around flowers, knew how to make a bouquet, how to get a customer to smile. His last day at work was April 21. He became ill that day, was admitted to a hospital, rallied a bit, and then faded away quietly.
Al Nalbandian, who ran a sidewalk flower stand for more than 70 years, also had bit parts in movies and on TV shows.
“He was a San Francisco institution,” said Elise Kazanjian, who was a lifelong friend. “He knew everybody, and everybody knew him.”