By Alison Rooney
With empty shop fronts staring down on so many Main Streets USA, the entrepreneurial gumption required to open a new store may daunt the timid. Between necessary cash reserves, the commitment involved in signing a long-term lease, the red tape factors, insurance requirements, etc., even those suffused with can-do spirit will think twice. Enter the phenomenon of the “pop-up” or short term store. It can be a perfect fit between landlords without enough permanent tenants but mortgages to pay, and potential business owners who want to test the waters and/or do something seasonal.
This week, Cold Spring’s Main Street will experience this national phenomenon with the opening of Monica Mahoney’s new clothing and accessories boutique. Mahoney, of Garrison, has worked in fashion for many years, both wholesale and retail, designing her own line of clothing and accessories. Since moving here from the city, she has been selling her wares online through her website and at local and regional trunk shows. She had been mulling over opening a store since falling for Cold Spring’s charms years ago, but the investment required and the uncertainties involved kept her from taking the plunge. “Ever since I saw the town I’ve thought about it—every storefront is screaming out—but so many go out of business. I was talking with my friends, who own the building [where the store will be located] and I finally just jumped in. It had been a question of how big or how small to start. And I decided to start small. This way it will tell me a lot.”
The store, which will be known as “Monica Mahoney New York” had a soft opening this past weekend, and will be up and running fully this weekend, with plans to remain open until after the holidays. It will be stocked with an “ever-changing” array of items designed by Mahoney, along with artifacts and objects she has picked up from her travels around the world. “When I committed to the store I realized I already have a whole
store’s worth of stuff. I have things from Guatemala, Mexico, France. I bought things with selling in mind. A little bit of everything from artisans around the world. Every day the merchandise will change. Different things will appear.” All of the clothing from Mahoney’s own line is “made in the USA.”
In the words of her two “tween” girls, future fashion flacks no doubt, the store promises to be “fancy and fun,” “cheap, cheerful, mod,” and “clean, not fussy.” The store will be “following the holidays,” (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas) with related items for sale. Mahoney says “I’m encouraged by my two girls. They want to hang out in town. They have a few places to go to, but I feel the need for more.” The store will have selections for all ages, from babies to moms, and “tweens” will be targeted because “I have them, and I know what they like.” High schoolers will also be encouraged to come in and explore.
Mahoney has “always been working in fashion, making, designing, creating or buying. I went to school, but school wasn’t for me. I started out in the hat business. Selling at flea markets [in NYC].” She spent time in the millinery district in the city, where “the older guys really taught me the craft. I wound up doing really well.” Her hats wound up being sold at top department stores, but the difficulties in the 90s with on-time payments to vendors from some of these stores resulted in her shutting down her business and vowing not to sell through stores, with their heavy mark-ups. “I liked giving the customer a lower price on what I made—still do.”
Mahoney also has prior short-term retail experience, opening a seasonal high-end footwear store for people in the Hamptons for the summer months. “It was really successful—but all for someone else!” Having children led her to Garrison and Cold Spring and a transition to her online business, and trunk shows in places ranging from Mamaroneck to towns in Connecticut. “My web business is amazing, I get orders from all over, people I’ve never heard of, but the maintenance and keeping it up to date is very difficult.”
Mahoney’s designs always stem from one main source. “Fabrics drive me. I find pretty fabrics and then decide what to do with them. I could make a pretty party dress for a little girl, use the same fabric for a tunic for women or festive holiday pants for little boys.” So what’s her tip for hot holidays items? “Little flashy accessories. Flash up your old-fashioned. Doesn’t necessarily have to be a whole new outfit.”
Monica Mahoney New York is located at 3 Kemble Avenue, just off Main Street, and store hours are Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., or by appointment, through some point in January. There will also be special dates and in-store promotional events. The phone number is 917-992-0070.