WHAT WE LOVE: A secret botanic oasis far from the urban chaos of Istanbul where gorgeous blooms of every kind and plants bring life to the mundane. A flower queen with a heart of gold and a crown made, befittingly, from seasonal flowers.
WHERE: In Istanbul’s Yeniköy neighborhood.
WHO: The very delightful Çağla Yılmaz.
What year was Mitza established? I began my career in horticulture in 2016 with the name Mitza and worked from my atelier at home. It was in May, 2018 that I opened the shop and began to work from there.
What type of shop is Mitza? Mitza is a flower shop and atelier. However, the services encapsulate everything having to do with cut flowers, dried flowers and potted plants. Apart from that, I also do a lot of floral designs for weddings and events, and sell several works from local designers. These include vases, art and plates with botanic motifs, woolen weaves and many more items that share a relationship with the botanic world. I also organize workshops, not just about horticulture but also other areas such as water coloring or botanic weaving. Mitza has its own garden, where we sometimes have events, and which can also be rented for private events or photo shoots.
Why did you choose the name “Mitza”? Mitza means, ‘earth,’ in Georgian. I decided on this name because it is the earth that bestows me with the plants I love. I also grew up in a home where Georgian was spoken, since my parents are both from Georgia. After having left home to study in university and reaching this point in my independent life, I wanted to return to that feeling, and thus chose the name Mitza.
Who designed the shop? Architecturally, I didn’t apply any special design to the shop. The furniture was designed by my sister, who works as an interior architect, and was designed specially for Mitza. Apart from that I acquired every other large or small, old or new object from my trips to different flea markets and design shops. The shop is decorated with shelving made from the old wooden walls of a dilapidated Anatolian home, old photos, objects from brass and similar materials and the work of my designer friends. Since the shop is also my atelier and because I spend a lot of time here, the shop’s decoration also includes my own objects, apart from the items that are on sale.
What is Mitza best known for? Mitza generally focuses on floral designs for individuals and corporate clients. My ‘crown bouquets,’ have also become favorites and the concept designs we create for weddings are also becoming more popular every year. Besides that, we also have a lot of demand for the handmade vases made especially for Mitza, which I couple with a befitting plant.
Where do you source your products? I use imported and locally harvested seasonal flowers. Imported flowers come from Holland and the roses come from Kenya and Ecuador. The design objects are all handmade and from Turkish craftsmen/women and made in Turkey.
What makes Mitza unique? Mitza has become a lifestyle for me and, without noticing, I’ve turned my lifestyle and taste into my work. In other words, I live my life intertwined with Mitza and my shop. That’s why I’ve never really thought about its unique qualities. But if Miza is unique, I can say it’s because it belongs to me.
Who are Mitza’s customers? Generally, everyone who loves flowers and plants. Apart from that, corporate clients on a project basis, those who are planning a wedding and PR/event agencies.
How has the internet impacted your business? Since horticulture is a very visual undertaking, I like to use online outlets frequently to exhibit my work. New clients that get in touch with me about weddings, events or orders, do so predominantly because of the social media posts I share. Apart from that, I also receive a lot of lovely reactions to my daily updates. Whether it’s the daily life in the shop or posts of my floral designs, I get a lot of positive feedback from my followers.
Çağla Yılmaz, Shopkeeper at Mitza
Who inspires you? Myself I guess, because everything that affects me is my source of inspiration.
What inspires you? Everything! A new vase I bought, new flowers that arrived that week, customers, the plants I choose when I wander through the greenhouses and the flowerpots I plant them in, the places I travel, the books I read, an utterance I heard while walking…
Before I was a shopkeeper, I…. was working in pharmaceuticals. I’m a geneticist and when I quit around four years ago it wasn’t my intention to become a florist.
What motivated you to open a shop? Before I opened the shop I worked from a room in my home, which I had converted into my atelier. Over time, when that room and the entirety of my home no longer sufficed, I decided to open a shop. My motivation was the growth of my business and my readiness to become a shopkeeper. The hardest part was deciding where to do this. I began to spend time in different neighborhoods and apart from trying to find a suitable a shop, I was also exploring the neighborhood’s daily life. I always ended the day saying, ‘I’ll never be able to live here.’ When that was the case and when I asked myself why I didn’t open a shop in my own neighborhood where I love to live, I was able to find the right place.
Did you have prior retail experience? No. As soon as I finished school I began working in the corporate world.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Transitioning to an entirely unfamiliar working style. Before I quit, I worked the classic 9 – 5 job. I went to an office every day where my daily tasks were already set for me. All I had to do was to complete these tasks and fulfill my responsibilities during my working hours and to receive my monthly salary. On the road to setting up my own business, I realized that there were no set working hours, that there was no distinction between weekdays and the weekend and that I was responsible for determining the job definition. So the hardest part was to feel free whilst having such a large responsibility.
Your favorite thing about owning an independent shop? Being completely independent.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? A shop is something that makes you earn and spend simultaneously. Because of that, one has to possess sufficient monetary savings as well as business knowledge. A shop is also alive and its needs to change constantly. Instead of doing everything from A to Z and opening a shop, the goal can be reached much more efficiently by completing the foundational needs and deciding each detail over time.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be..? I would be a world traveler.
What is your perfect day off in Istanbul? Since I’ve opened the shop, I’ve only had one day where I didn’t work. I slept that entire day. But because of the effects of the physical conditions of my work and my shop, I’ve never had the need to take time off. Because I work alone, the shop is closed when I’m not there. And so, if I don’t have outside errands, it’s important to me to stay in the shop. Yeniköy (where Mitza is located) is a neighborhood by the Bosphorus on Istanbul’s European side. I don’t have a set routine, when I feel the need I visit my neighbor-shopkeepers. One of my neighbors is the Yeniköy Kitapçısı (Yeniköy Bookstore) and when I have the time, I go there to read or to drink a coffee and converse with the shopkeeper. Also, I can order all the books I want there.
I like having dinner with boutique Turkish wines at Araka or just a balık ekmek(fish sandwich) at a no-frills sea monger by the waterside. Usually I eat breakfast in my shop, but when I want to go out, I prefer going to the cafe Yeniköy Kahvesi. Sometimes we host events with our customers, neighbors and friends in the Mitza garden. When the weather is nice, I like taking a walk by the Bosphorus on my way home. When I need to leave Yeniköy, I prefer to visit neighborhoods that I can reach via the sea. Some of these neighborhoods include Anadolu Hisarı and Kandilli, where I have friends who own ceramic studios and art galleries. I also like to explore and pick up new materials in Eminönü and Balat, but only on the less crowded days (usually Mondays). Der-liebling is another shop, on Galata’s Serdar-ı Ekrem street, where I find inspiration and peace. While writing this answer, I realized that my own neighborhood is also a place that satiates my social life.
Can you share five favorite shops? Yeniköy Kitapçısı, Araka, der-liebling, the antique shops and flea markets of Istanbul , Orman Cunda (on the island of Cunda) , and Maya Restaurant, Bozcaada.
I wish I could… I’ve never thought about this, but I do wish I could travel more. I’ve definitely neglected this whilst setting up my own business.
ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
“Nowadays every product is made with sufficient functionality. What it really needs to be complete, however, is personalization in the production process. For example, flowers and plants exist in nature, which means that the areas where they are produced are already open to the public. As a boutique florist, I provide designs according to personal tastes, which brings functionality to a more personalized level. That is what retail does.”
Yeniköy Mahallesi, Yarış Sk. No:1, 34464 Sarıyer/İstanbul
Photos by Ümit Okan and Çağla Yılmaz
Words by Feride Yalav-Heckeroth.
Feride Yalav-Heckeroth is a Berlin-based freelance writer and the author of The 500 Hidden Secrets of Istanbul. Her favorite shops are Souq Dükkan in Istanbul for the best of local design, Ryoko in Berlin for artisan Japanese goods, and Homemade Aromaterapi in Istanbul for 100% natural beauty products.