Rega. We utter this four-letter word more times than we can count. Yet, how often in our hectic, fast-paced lives do we actually adhere to its implications, taking a moment–to breath, to contemplate, to dream?
Between running Dreame (a global project that transforms dreams into realities using art as its platform), and piecing together the future of Israel in an impressive yoga mat mosaic, Sharonna comprehends the importance of "taking a moment." The phrase forms the basis for Rega, her latest popup salon bringing bohemians, books, and beautiful minds together under one art-laden roof on Shenkin. I pedal over to the long faded, but never forgotten street for coffee talk with the girl who dreams big and follows through.
A mustached musician out front taps his index finger on the offbeats of Bohemia. I slip inside the quaint café, tiptoeing past patrons, as to not disturb their conversations; to my left, an Israeli Kerouac recounts the next great travel memoir, to my right, a young couple shares a slice of vegan cake, their forks intertwined in a Gordon Beach folk dance.
"The other day, an older couple stopped by who had fallen in love thirty years ago on a first date at Café Tamar," Sharonna singles me out from the crowd, although we have never met before. I imagine the older couple at that very same table, clanking forks over a slightly less vegan dessert, perhaps a babka or apple tart. Today, they folk dance on the cracked boardwalk pavement–every Saturday, without exception.
Many Café Tamar regulars have waded cautiously into the Rega waters, Sharonna explains. "Locals beg me not to make Rega too 'cute' or 'fancy'." The ghost of Rega's past was once the most famous left-wing café in the city. Sharonna's goal is to maintain its essence: "When [Café Tamar] closed, the left became more cynical and stayed at home instead of going out to talk."
Conversation is an evident focal point of the freshly opened hipster haven, which was originally packaged as a "laptop-free zone" where customers could writeON PAPER, experience Dreame (housed inside), and be inspired. Sharonna gestures towards an academic-looking fellow just shy of a tweed jacket and matching elbow patches. "I remember the first week we banned laptops, he'd come in everyday, read a book, drink a glass of wine, maybe write something on a napkin...that was the vibe I wanted."
"How about Wifi-free Wednesdays?" I suggest. She jots the idea down. "For January," Sharonna grins.
Laptops or not, the new kid on the abandoned block fits right into Tel Aviv's daytime café culture, while it moonlights as a salon, hosting game nights, poetry readings, and live jazz evenings made possible by David Sheetrit and an antique piano leaning nonchalantly against the back wall.
Captivated by the protagonists living out their daily lives against a backdrop of literature, film, poetry, and the likes, I begin to wonder whether Rega is one giant casting call for Rent or the contagious creativity merely rubs off on th–
Clank! My Americano plops down on the table, bringing my wandering mind back to reality. Sharonna thanks the waiter, talks shop with a copartner, and simultaneously takes in the scene as if for the very first time. I seize the opportunity to embody the spirit of Rega between sips and take a moment to...
Stare up at the ceiling, where a deconstructed piano decorates the wooden slats. I later discover that the artist responsible also painted the ceiling that rich, espresso color.
I take a moment to breath in the books, beckoning to me from behind the regal sofa–a Karni Cohen artifact. These aren't just any books, these are "Sefi-approved" books, save for "Where's Waldo?" as out of place on the shelf as the red-and-white striped character.
I take a moment to browse the menu. "A dream: NIS 90. Your dream: NIS 250," an invitation to hand your dreams over to one of Dreame's artists, a valuable addition to the vegan desserts, feel-good soups, and journalist-approved caffeine section.
Sharonna leads me on an abridged tour of the Dreame library and back out to the patio. I take a moment to question the red herring: a red chair standing apart from the rest in a snide, Florentinian fashion. "We ran out of spray paint," Sharonna reads my curious mind. In the words of Luther Vandross, sometimes "a chair is still a chair."
We linger outside the bustling venue and say our goodbyes. I fiddle for my bike keys, taking a moment to ask one last question: "Why a popup?"
"Besides the fact that they are demolishing the building? Most of my Dreame-related projects are temporary. Nothing is completely permanent, like dreams–you achieve one, then move onto the next."
Rega is located at 57 Shenkin St, Tel Aviv, on the corner of Ahad Ha'am.The Rega team includes: David Sheetrit (the "Piano Man"), Elad David (the "Guy In Charge"), Sefi Atun (the "Space Finder/Designated Bureaucrat"), Itay Golan ("Mr. Fix-it"), and Sharonna Karni Cohen (the "Creative Web Spinner & Marketing Mastermind").