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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Beacon Bits -- A Few Good Women

While you might have missed the recent art show (Some) Girls of Beacon at the Howland Cultural Center, there's still plenty of time to catch a few of the notable "Women of Beacon" as you traverse Main Street. During the last year, I've met many of the women who own successful business operations and who have brought vitality to the storefronts by offering good conversation while sharing their expertise and proffering a variety of products and/or services such as art restoration (Kathleen of Studio Antiques), bread and comestibles (Simone of All You Knead) pilates (Juliet Harvey of Beacon Pilates) or dance classes (Angela of Yanerella's) and guesthouse accomodations (Shirley of Botsford Briar Bed & Breakfast) among many others (Homespun, Beacon Natural Market, Echo, Lauren & Riley, Korean Deli Seoul Food, Dance Bag, Gianetta's, RiverWinds, Beacon Barkery, Cup and Saucer Tea Room, Ella's Bellas). I have a few favorites that are worth pursuing for their diversity and staying power, sophistication and groundedness; let me introduce you to Jaqueline, Seed to Fruit, and Clay, Wood, & Cotton.


Jaqueline Weissner, proprietor of Jaqueline, opened her retail store in Beacon in 1999. You could call her a pioneer settling on the East End of town after closing her successful international wholesale hat business that ran for 16 years. Her women's haberdashery harkened back to the history of Beacon as the 'hatmaking capital of the U.S.'. She dedicated herself to educating the public about Beacon's history by instituting Beacon's 1st Hat Parade in 2006, an annual event over 5 years time. The last parade was May 2010; the recent moratorium is a result of the lack of community support for organizing and doing the 'grunt work' that such fun events require, so hats off to Jaqueline for producing the past events! Perhaps some new Beaconites will find time and energy to resurrect this worthwhile project and make it an annual institution again -- otherwise, you'd be tempted to say that Beacon's parades have gone to the dogs.
In the meantime, don't worry, you can still find the most stylish hats and beautiful women's accessories north of Manhattan at #478 Main Street, Beacon. One of the most endearing things about shopping at Jaqueline's, other than fantasizing about the power and allure of a well-chosen hat, is the romantic, warm, and welcoming atmostphere....and a chance to be greeted by Zack! 

When you can finally pull yourself away from all the accessories at Jaqueline's, turn the corner and walk over to Seed to Fruit , #528 Main, where you will meet proprietor Nicole Mora, a former Glynwood resident, who will enchant you with her unique flower selection that seems to be freshly picked from an English country cottage garden that you just might not have at your own disposal, but that you can find in Beacon's very own backyard.

Nicole has been in business in Beacon since 2008 and from the start made an impression with artistic holiday window decorations, floral designs for weddings and other events, garden design and installations, holiday wreathmaking workshops, fresh cut flowers, and home delivery service with a personal touch. The nicest thing about shopping at Seed to Fruit is that special requests can be accomodated when Nicole heads to market for weekly purchases, hence, the arrival of flowering quince I had my heart set on, straight to my doorstep.

As a local resident, you'll notice Nicole's presence at community events, recognize her one-of-a-kind special order arrangements in town (e.g., while shopping at Artisan Wine Shop) and hope to win her gift certificate donations at the various charitable auctions (like Fovea's in December 2011.) Nicole has truly bloomed where she is planted and with her talent and artistic eye for detail, she'll be blooming in Beacon for years to come!


Now that you're visually stimulated with nature's beauty, head west on Main to the other end of town to feast on handmade crafts that satisfy the soul at Clay, Wood & Cotton in its new location at 133 Main Street, with co-owners, Kristen and Kristy, who will be happy to greet you.

Kristy (above), a Beacon resident, turns scraps from her husband's woodshop into 'Beacon Bookmarks' and Kristen (below), who dwells in Brooklyn and studied

textile design, turns secondhand fabrics into home accessories for her Cakehouse line. This crafty duo met, connected, and have fulfilled the vision of their partnership by starting their internet business, opening their 1st shop in September 2009 and jumping on the chance to expand into their new 'prestigious' location next to Bank Square this past winter.

The shop is home to a multitude of handmade items, many made by local Hudson Valley artists such as ModCraft, Virginia Piazza, Wicked Mint and Erica Hauser of Beacon, who create practical but pretty household items (bowls, mugs, wooden cutting boards made by Krista's husband, linens, hats and notecards.) The most exciting expansion of items since moving to their larger location has been quality yarns from Cascade, Noro, Malbrigo, Ella Rae, Jill Draper, and Blue Sky Alpacas, all of which will be appreciated by the knitters, crocheters and weavers who have been craving a local yarn supplier since the closing of Knittingsmith in Cold Spring!

The variety of colors, textures, prints, kits (remember potholder looms), pottery and stationery will keep you in their loop for personal and gift purchases on a frequent basis. If there was a category for 'Most Charming Craft Store' in the Hudson Valley magazine annual vote, Clay, Wood & Cotton would be a hands-down winner for sure!


Some food for thought:  As I considered the "Women of Beacon", I couldn't help thinking of the role of women in developing countries (see Nicholas Kristof and WuDunns Half the Sky). It's been said that women are the best bet for investing in the future: they are hardworking, creative, give wholeheartedly to their communities, and as a result, their efforts are beneficial to all. While I'm not implying that the plight of Beacon after the demise of manufacturing spurred 'suburban' flight from the factories of the river towns along the Hudson could ever match the global challenges of developing nations, I would say that the predominant presence of women business owners in Beacon just might not be coincidental. Just take note of Beacon's re-development and fourishing storefronts -- you may just want to thank a 'few good women'!

Check out the National Women's History Museum website for further inspiration about women.

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