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La Reine Boutique Jewelry Store In Piermont Uses Art To Diversify, Draw Foot Traffic

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Art Reception For Fine Art of Engagement Gallery At Piermont Jewelers To Be Held Feb. 11 Between 4 and 6 pm

By Tina Traster

Sometimes the art of retailing is the art itself.

That’s the notion Peter Helou latched onto for La Reine Boutique, a fine jeweler on Piermont’s main street that has diversified with an in-house art gallery.

Helou, who opened the high-end luxe store in 2019 just before the pandemic, says the store has a dearth of foot traffic – a problem that continues to worsen. Art, he believes, is a way to drive people from Rockland County and beyond to his store and to Piermont. The village, which had once been a robust hub for arts and antiques, is resurrecting its art offerings to become so once again.

“Walking traffic is very low,” said Helou, who is also the former president of the Piermont Chamber of Commerce. “Online traffic takes away more and more market share from niche shops like ours. This is an existential moment. We need to think about ways to bring people back to the streets.”

Helou has found a champion in Kate Buggeln, Piermont’s Chamber of Commerce president who believes strongly in art as a driver for a healthy community. A photographer, and director of a highly visible Piermont institution, the Flywheel Gallery, Buggeln worked with Helou to create a gallery within his jewelry store, which is known as the Fine Art of Engagement Gallery.

The store will hold a reception on the art exhibit “In The Name of Love” on Feb. 11 between 4 and 6 pm at La Reine at 510 Piermont Avenue. The show features about two dozen works by artists Ron Wohlgemuth, who creates digital hybrid art, and Harry Martin, whose surreal compositions examine the intersection of art and AI. The show runs through Feb.26.

Both artists also show their work at Flywheel Gallery.

“Art creates an emotional vitality that is resonant in the air, for both residents and visitors,” said Buggeln. “Art creates a sticky visit. It makes a place a destination. It gives people who come for lunch or dinner an incentive to take a break, stay longer, an added reason to come to the village and linger.”

La Reine sits at the heart of Piermont, which is blessed with mid-19th century and early 20th century architecture, the historic Flywheel Park, and Hudson River access that gives the village a maritime feel. The village has a strong core of restaurants. But on many days, and particularly in colder weather, the community is sleepy.

Buggeln is hoping to rev up foot traffic and turn Piermont into an even more notable daytrip destination by making art widely available to be seen and/or purchased. The Flywheel Gallery opened 30 years ago when Piermont was transforming from a blue-collar community into a gentrified hub. Many art and antique spots have come and gone.

“Art is part of Piermont’s pedigree,” said the Chamber President, who intends to use part of a $10,000 Rockland County Tourism Grant to plan a mid-June “Piermont Celebrates Hudson Valley Arts” day that will include the restaurants and galleries.

Piermont’s Flywheel Gallery, along with Piermont Fine Arts Gallery and Happy Dog Gallery, are clustered around Flywheel Park. Home goods seller and florist Ned Kelly often sells work at his eponymous Piermont Avenue store. The Outside In gallery sits slightly outside of the downtown cluster of galleries, and the Union Arts Center is nearby in Sparkill.

“When there’s a history of art and galleries in a community, it typically increases the value of real estate and foot traffic. Look at SoHo and Chelsea,” Buggeln added.

Helou is betting on these odds.

With Buggeln’s help and curation, Helou reorganized his store, devoting nearly half of his “real estate” to art.

“It makes sense,” said Buggeln. “The customer who’s inspired to buy jewelry is also interested in art. It’s good synergy.”

The works on offer at the gallery range from $250 to $1,600.

Featured Image is art by Ron Wohlgemuth