Christopher Saban: Florist at Merchant and Green

I moved to Surry Hills in the mid-90s, I think I always wanted to come to Sydney. Even as a young child, growing up in the country, I was always fascinated by the idea of big cities. I moved to Surry Hills because it was inexpensive and close to Oxford Street. I lived with friends in a large old terrace house and studied fine art at the National Art School and we could afford living here in a share house. It was really affordable back then.

I’ve watched Surry Hills visually change a lot over the years, in terms of the streetscape,. There are a lot more apartments, more high-rises and a constant stream of new cafes, restaurants and shops. There is a lot of renovation going on at the moment, so many of the old grand terrace houses and workers cottages are being rejuvenated. I live on Bourke Street near Taylor Square, so if I’m not going to the early morning flower market, I walk to work to work along Bourke Street and I see all of these changes happening everyday. I hope we never lose too much of the beautiful architectural details that make this area so unique.

The way that the light rail is being built right through the centre of Surry Hills concerns me. I wonder what the light rail will be like afterwards? Will it be of any benefit to the local community? Or will it just be about getting people to the sporting ground from Central and back? A lot of small business along Devonshire Street have closed due to the impact of the light rail construction.

It’s interesting having a new shop on Bourke Street. We have been open for one year. My life had been more on the other side of Surry Hills near Darlinghurst, in the last year all of a sudden I have connected to this side of Surry Hills, more towards the Redfern end. So when I walked to work this morning, people waved at me and called out good morning. There are all these new people I have met at this end. And also I am someone to them. I’m the florist. It’s really nice. Where I live near the Darlinghurst end of Bourke Street it’s a bit more street level, busier, faster and people have more of a guard up. But it’s more village style here.

Over the last 15 years I have worked in so many creative areas, like floral decorating, event styling, graphic design and visual merchandising. I was working in an event company in a senior role. I ended up being in a senior position and I ran teams designing and producing large private and corporate events. Even though I had that, I found that I wasn’t happy with myself. I got to this point in my early 40s where I started to change, doing yoga and being more mindful, I gave up smoking. In this new part of my life I’m much happier. I’m not working for a famous company with celebrities but I’m more content. Connecting with a local community, working with flowers and plants, teaching workshops, grounding yourself in a neighbourhood is a great feeling.

My business is important, I want to help build and be part of the community here in the local area. My partner and husband Peter is important. He’s my family. We both love to travel and explore the world.

With hindsight I realise that I could have opened the store much earlier and stopped working for others. But I can also see how all my personal and work experience combined to give me the know-how I needed to make this happen. We are the sum of all of our experiences.

20 th April 2018

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