Neighborhood Delights: Cultivating memories for life

The store is not unaffected by current affairs – political and otherwise.

Dagesh Yarok flower store (photo credit: AVITAL HIRSCH)
Dagesh Yarok flower store
(photo credit: AVITAL HIRSCH)
In the garden neighborhood of Rehavia, it is not uncommon for an ice cream store, a dental office, university students and families to base themselves out of one building. Dagesh Yarok, a flower store opened 28 years ago by Jerusalem native Ayala Miller, is an important part of neighborhood life on Metudela Street, bordered on either side by neighbors who have become regular customers.
“A relative of mine bought us a vase for our wedding and told me that my job was to make sure it was filled every Friday,” explains one such neighbor last Friday, picking out some red and white gladioli for his wife of 15 years.
Another weekly visitor, Shay Herman, chooses purple and pink roses for the apartment nearby that she shares with her roommates. Arik Zizi, a cab driver who is addicted to food, music and art, has been frequenting the store since it opened, bringing with him his passengers, including a philanthropist from New Jersey seeking gifts for his hosts on Friday.
The convivial and intimate atmosphere of this neighborhood shop is perhaps its trademark.
Miller’s six children spent much of their childhood playing in the store’s second room and interacting with customers.
“Three of my children would come with me to work from as young as two days old. I would place them in a crib while I served customers,” she explains. “The store has been an integral part of their upbringing.”
A few decades have passed and Miller, now a grandmother, continues to multitask – doing the obligatory Friday sponja, pausing to take orders over the phone and attend to customers. A graduate of economics, her main passion is spirituality.
She reads widely on the subject and practices Silva Method meditation, which involves using guided imagery techniques to enhance optimism.
“I try as much as possible to find purpose in life. In work, this means giving people the best service I can and helping my customers, many of whom I have known for years,” she says.
Miller has accompanied many individuals through the seasons of theirs lives, from birth celebrations to bar mitzva parties, throughout dating periods and on proposals, wedding bouquets and marriage, and even during their final years.
“It is beautiful to see that love knows no age. One couple in their mid-80s used to come in regularly for years to buy each other flowers, until the wife passed away a couple of years ago,” she recounts.
In some cases, attempts to make people happy have come into conflict with her better artistic judgment.
“One bride requested a bouquet made entirely of wheat. It was the strangest thing I have ever created, but I couldn’t say no to a bride,” she says.
Born in Rehavia in 1956, Miller has witnessed the neighborhood’s gradual transformation.
The generation of German immigrants who settled there in the 1930s and brought with them a vibrant café culture have all but gone. Today, the area’s iconic Bauhaus buildings are occupied by students of local universities and colleges, with a large proportion owned by Americans.
The store is not unaffected by current affairs – political and otherwise.
The recent summer heat that led to a nationwide vegetable shortage impacted the flower industry as well.
“There was a flower shortage leading up to the Rosh Hashana period in August, which only now has dissipated,” Miller explains.
And, as to be expected, the erratic security situation is always present. Miller recalls a Mother’s Day in 2004 when the store was uncharacteristically empty.
“There had just been a terror attack on a bus next to Liberty Bell Park, and people simply weren’t in the mood to buy flowers,” she says.
But for now, the store continues to flourish at its regular pace.