Change is good for local businesses
“What makes us different from every other gift store is that no one else has our pieces,” says Yanish of the unique inventory she and Yeshoua sell at Offerings Gallery in Katonah.
Photos by Rana Faure
Mindy Yanish has seen mostly good times since she moved her Offerings Gallery from Park Slope, Brooklyn, to Katonah 25 years ago. Today, staying in the business of selling all-American handmade goods means embracing change.
“Many of our longtime customers are moving away,” explains Rina Yeshoua, a co-owner and also Yanish’s wife. “And several of our artisans are pulling back on the life and taking second jobs.”
Creating their own inventory began organically for the couple. Yanish, who has a master’s degree in fine art, began teaching herself to build things as a child when she discovered that Mattel didn’t make golf clubs for Barbie. She crafted them herself.
Yeshoua, an antiques dealer who also has a degree in art, is a stone carver as well as a professional photographer. They say their YY Designs are “ego-less collaborations between two strong-headed and talented women.”
The couple’s first date was at a flea market, where they discovered their shared love of discarded and overlooked old things. Over the years, they hunted for antique objects, and their finds became the seeds for YY Designs. The very first piece was a gladiolas table.
“It started with a broken antique shipping crate buried in a friend’s barn,” says Yanish. Yeshoua placed it on an interesting set of antique legs, and Yanish turned it into a structurally sound piece of furniture. She lined it with mahogany, and Yeshoua added antique tassels and a mirror. It sold almost immediately.
“Eighty percent of our current customers are new to the store,” Yeshoua says. “Last Christmas we sold ten of our original works,” Yanish adds. “Our souls are in the store with us now.”
Down the street in Katonah, Viktoria Fisch opened Ebba right as the recession hit. What began as a home store with candles, fragrances, and tabletop soon evolved as a few clothing styles were added to the mix. “After that, I noticed a spike in sales,” says Fisch.
“I’ve learned that what helps me stay vital is buying small amounts of inventory frequently. It encourages people to drop by more often to check in.”
Bart and Diana Tyler (pictured left) of Kelloggs & Lawrence can relate to the success of adding apparel. Following the renovation of their hundred-year-old hardware store, they experienced “a phenomenal response” to the addition of clothing.
“Sales of luxury goods—lawn furniture and barbecue grills—were hit during the recession, but the new business more than compensated for the drop in other departments,” says Bart. “It’s a nice synergy,” says Diana, describing how one customer came in for a plumbing part and purchased something to wear.
“She tells everyone she buys her clothes at the hardware store!”
Alex Walsh and Debbie Franzese relocated Bedford Gourmet, their shop and catering business, because clients demanded it. With twice the selection of foods and plenty of parking, they “catch the Armonk crowd and people headed to Pound Ridge who were not going to turn into the village to find us before.” Parking makes all the difference.
Storefront exposure is one thing Charlie and Kristin Allen say keeps them vital in the retail game at Avantgarden in Pound Ridge. “Coming out of the recession, we do work harder but also we can innovate more,” says Kristin. After 14 years, they’ve shifted their focus from reselling modernist, mid-century garden ornaments to designing new custom light fixtures. “Lighting falls under a ‘need’ category for most people—unlike a table or a garden bench,” says Kristin.
The couple has assembled a group of American craftsman who make Avantgarden’s original fixtures. One of their first designs—a wooden chandelier—appeared in Architectural Digest. “You don’t have to be a vegan or live in Brooklyn to design cool lighting,” says Charlie, who loves the entrepreneurial nature of their business.
“So much of our worldwide business happens online. And sometimes it gets lonely in the shop. But if you don’t have a storefront, people trust you less.” T
he Allens love the Pound Ridge vibe and say there’s no desire to relocate. “But I think I’d go to Brooklyn before I’d become a vegan,” Kristin adds with a laugh.