'None of us could have gotten through this without each other': Darien florist connects community

DARIEN — A local business recently launched a creative “communication” project to help spread a feeling of community during the pandemic.

Nielsen’s Florist & Garden Center implemented a short-term creative initiative called an “Inspiration Board” display to help spread a neighborly feel for visitors to the long-standing store at 1405 Post Road.

The idea is to allow people share their own messages, ideas and inspirations with others through artwork, poetry, and words aimed at reaching out to others.

“The inspiration for this piece originally began with idea of building a community and doing so by recreating an actual house with wooden shingles inside the store,” said Raya Ward, general manager.

“As the idea was discussed between staff members, it began to take on a different interpretation,” she said.

Viviane Gershberg-Herde, visual merchandising manager and an expert in community engagement, came up with the idea.

“It makes people want to visit,” she said.

Some customers, she said, have been so smitten with the work that they’ve completed pieces and then asked to take them home.

Gershberg-Herde, who speaks lovingly about the store and its staff, said she appreciates the opportunity to do such creative projects to work in tandem with the business.

“I’m the type of person who is always trying to think of ways to get a community together,” she said, proud that her “Inspiration Board” is accomplishing just that.

Gershberg-Herde said the pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, but at the same time has motivated people to seek solace in one another.

“We think most people can agree, none of us could have gotten through this without each other, without support of local businesses, or without creative ways to break the isolation,” she said. “There have been moments of celebration, moments of sorrow, and many moments of fear and we just wanted to create something with all of the people that have been along on this journey with us.”

Founded in 1944 by Hilda and Christian Nielsen, the store is still operated today by their granddaughter, Sandra Nielsen-Baumann.

Gershberg-Herde said that she and others in the store missing the opportunities to engage with the community during the shutdown, and are now happy to be interacting again.

“We’re just one part of the bigger picture,” she said.

The display will likely be up through to the first of October, she said.