The skies outside were gloomy, but inside Jay Berger's shop there was plenty of cheer Tuesday.
The Chatsworth florist spent the day doling out a dozen free roses to anyone who promised to be a "good neighbor" and give 11 of the flowers to strangers. The idea, he explained, was to lift people's spirits in a city rocked in recent years by riots, fires, floods and earthquake.
"What's unique about Los Angeles is our multiracial makeup," he said. "When you get a chance to make friends from different cultures you get to see how similar we really are."
Berger estimated that his store would give away as many as 1,200 roses by day's end, more than twice what he initially predicted. Despite the clouds, Berger said it was a fabulous day for flowers.
"This is perfect weather," he said. "The roses will last a little longer."
Although most visitors to the shop were pleasantly surprised at the offer of free flowers, Berger said a few were put off at having to raise their hand and pledge to give them away to their neighbors.
"Women seem to be real OK about it," he said. "The men seem a little bit more intimidated by it."
One woman left to spread the flowers around a Chatsworth convalescent home while another said she planned to surprise parents at nearby Lawrence Middle School. Neither said they'd be giving them to strangers exactly, but Berger said he didn't mind.
"The enthusiasm of the people has been really nice," he said.
A self-described "gung-ho L.A. guy," Berger explained that in a small way he was trying to rekindle the sense of community created throughout Valley neighborhoods when residents came together after the 1994 earthquake.
"People are already forgetting who they met," Berger said. "If we do things like this once in a while, maybe we can revitalize it."