MAria Luisa

Maria Luisa Turns Accessory Shop Into Community Space


New Concept To Debut In Time For Nyack’s ARTWALK

By Sierra Petro

Maria Luisa Boutique, Nyack’s eclectic mix of fair trade and ethically-sourced fashion products, is converting its next-door accessory shop on South Broadway to an “experiential” location for workshops and conversations. The new space opens Friday, in time for Nyack’s annual ARTWALK, when artists present, sell, and discuss their artwork.

A fixture in Nyack, Luisa’s newest foray will include three sections in the new space: a hands-on area for makers, a conversation hub, and a rotating installation of themed products. Crafts people can rent workshop space or take classes like the beginner sewing on the shop’s machines.

The transformation of the space from retail to an integrated, multi-use space, aligns with a trend in conversions seen at mom and pops and large chains alike. Retailers understand consumers want a more holistic experience when they come to a store, whether it’s the ability to have a coffee, attend a lecture, or indulge in a hands-on activity.

The new space will be outfitted with a conversation area, designed with a circle of comfy chairs, to stimulate the art of conversation — a much needed salve in an era of cell phone obsession. Local artist and store collaborator Johanna Goodman is scheduled to lead the initial conversation. Goodman’s elongated “imagined beings,” featured in various publications including The New York Times, were transferred onto pillows, shower curtains, and tote bags and have sold at Maria Luisa for five years.

“We want Goodman to come in because she’s quieter and not the kind of person to go around tooting her own horn,” said Maria Luisa Whittingham. “This will be an intimate way to have a conversation with her.”

The third area, in the front of the location, will have a rotating installation of products and objects. This year’s emphasis is on India, where Whittingham traveled a few months ago with Matr Boomie, a family-run organization that works with artisans to improve their living and working conditions and connects them with retailers. The retailer also plans to exhibit photos of artisans making a bag she sells. She hopes community members will gather to talk about fair trade and will share their experiences.

The long-time Nyack retailer is looking to create personal and intimate experiences with the community, essentially being more than a store that sells products. She understands sharing is a valued experience in today’s retail scene.

“When I started, my focus was on beautiful things that were also affordable,” said the retailer. “I assumed everything was, of course, ethical. When I started asking questions, I realized some of my wholesale locations were eager, willing, and able to tell a story about their products, and those who were not, were the less than ethical ones.”

Community members are encouraged to come by and talk about their own good-will business initiatives. If there’s anyone who can offer insight into the importance of philanthropy, it’s Whittingham who recently awarded the ninth Maria Luisa Scholarship Fund, and who heads up ML Faves for Good, which creates teams and fundraisers to participate in walking and running events for non-profits. The retailer is building the team for is The Women’s Distance Festival on July 13.

On Saturday, the community space will hold a wrap bracelet workshop. Visit the website for the schedule of events or follow the retailer on Instagram (@marialuisanyack).

Sierra Petro is an editor of the Purchase College newspaper and a blogger