Amit Dressler, the new owner of the Michael Unique gift shop in Raanana, is trying to explain why he spends so much of his spare time volunteering to help disabled adults.
"I feel so fortunate – I have a great family and friends, I'm healthy and fit in mind and body, I've travelled all over the world – and I see people who were dealt a bad hand when they were born. It's not always easy, especially to nurse a retarded adult – but I push myself to do it," he says.
Amit started working with disabled adults in his early twenties with the Amichai organization. He has also volunteered at Beit Issie Shapiro and presently still manages to volunteer for a few hours a week although very wrapped up in his new business which he took over six months ago.
The store was originally opened in June 2005 by Michael Heymann and Amit went to work there. "Michael put so much time effort and money into the store," recounts Amit. "The design, the lighting, the storage and shelving were all of the best quality and he had probably the best stereo system in Israel. I managed the store for a year and a half and it grew and was very successful."
In 2007 he left to do other work including helping to organize the Tel Aviv centennial celebrations. Then in April 2009 Michael contacted him and said he wanted to give up the business. Amit was faced with the biggest decision of his life and in the end agreed to buy the store and continue to run Michael Unique himself.
The prestigious gift store in Raanana’s Pozin center has always prided itself on showcasing Israeli arts and crafts and this philosophy will continue under Amit's ownership. He also aims to lower prices so he can offer something for every budget and every need.
He shows me some of the gifts one can buy for under a hundred shekels. Many are designed by well-known Israeli craftsmen and women and are very attractive, presenting design ideas which appeal to all tastes. Judaica features strongly in the gifts available but not exclusively – there are also many small items with general appeal. He tries to support young artists who have just finished art school and has many attractive and original gifts in this category.
He also offers paintings and has an interesting criterion for choosing the art he will sell. "There are about 12,000 artists in Israel so finding paintings to sell is not a problem. If I put the work of an artist in my store, he has to be a nice person, first and foremost."
For Amit the paintings have to catch the eye and be slightly different. Also he feels the painting has to say something, with honesty and sincerity. "We're living in a strange age," he says. "If an artist has good marketing skills and understands public relations he can do well, even without talent."
He now feels the time has come to change the name of the store and is going to be asking the public to help choose a new name. Starting in the New Year the process of renaming the store will take place through the Internet and emails to clients. So if you can think of something which encapsulates all the many attractive attributes of this unusual shop, Amit will be very happy if you get involved.
In the future he plans to open more stores and anyone wanting to work in them will be asked to do some sort of volunteer work to qualify for a job with Amit.
"There are so many needy causes – I simply don't understand why everyone doesn't volunteer for something," he says.
One wonders if working with severely disabled adults isn't depressing occasionally.
"In the beginning I felt depressed," he admits, "but as time goes by I feel privileged to be able to do it."
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