Amir and Jasmin Kulauzovic, JAGODA, Trnovo, Ljubljana
Owned by two brothers, Amir and Jasmin, Jagoda opened for business in the Trnovo suburb in 2004. A few minutes walk from the Old Town centre, their bright yellow shop is posted on a pathway between the north bank of the Ljublianica river and a modern 70s housing estate.
From here they sell high quality fruit and vegetables, bringing colour to the neighbourhood in more ways than one. Their main aim is, of course, to run an economically successful business and support their young families. Before they arrived, others had tried but failed to make the shop’s location work. However, through their innate creativity, kindness and lots of hard work they have succeeded in an extraordinary way, with the shop becoming a kind of ‘social hub’ for the neighbourhood.
Jasmin ensures they have good quality produce, visiting the wholesale market at 4.30am every morning to re-stock, from which he creates stunning displays in the shop.
From what we saw, the brothers greet almost every passer-by – customers and non-customers alike – with a variant of ‘Dan-Dan’ (hi-hi). Both men, queues allowing, will spend their time chatting with people, young and old, perhaps being elderly people’s only daily social contact, keeping them in the loop with the neighbourhood. But the brothers offer much more than a good gossip spot, they exude a positivity and trust.
Amir, who looks after the afternoon stint, plays his favourite music, singing along and bringing a smile to the faces of passers-by. They’ll look after a customers shopping, whilst they take their dogs for a walk, returning later to collect it, safe and sound. The elderly, in a habit left over from the currency change (from Tolars to Euros), will hand over their purses for the brothers to pick out what they are owed.
This measure of trust works both ways. If a customer is short of cash one day, their name and sum owed is written in the ‘little blue book’ . We’re told this is an increasingly uncommon practice in Ljubljana.
One way they have used to establish a relationship with people in this dog-mad neighbourhood was to give a customer’s dog a treat. Almost every dog would get one, till some owners complained about the inconvenience of their dog dragging them out of their way to snaffle up a treat, or that their dog proved allergic to the gift. There’s still around six dogs who, each time they pass by, wait by the open door and hoover up their biscuit.
The treats are not just for the dogs. Children are given sweets too! And in autumn, Amir and Jasmin might barbeque corn-on-the-cob to give to their customers. In winter it would be chestnuts, which is also a time when Jasmin would also shovel up all the snow along the pathway to build big beautiful snowmen [thanks for the photos Amir].
Born in Ljubljana in the 1970s, of Bosnian parents, the brothers followed their father into the fruit and veg trade. He’d started supplying restaurants, the first business of its kind in post-independence Slovenia. They worked for him for a short while and have even named their shop after his business, Jagoda. Which translates as ‘strawberry’, the first spring fruit and is a metaphor for a new (political) beginning. Amir says there’s not as much money in selling fruit & veg these days compared to the 90s, stating he earns in one month what his father would earn in 3 days. He adds most people don’t know the shop is called Jagoda, the sign hanging on the door is often out of sight when the store is open.
Jagoda is open 12 hours a day from 7-7, and closed Saturday afternoon and Sunday. The brothers take the whole of August off. When asked what it was like when the brothers took their August vacation, a customer jokingly said it’s like having his legs chopped off.