Goodbye to a wonderful retail pioneer. Moomah, you will be missed.

As a store owner, I’m pretty jaded when it comes to other retailers. Yes, there are stores I like, stores where I like to buy things, stores I admire for their success, and of course, stores I am jealous of. It’s rare, however, that a store truly inspires me.

Moomah was one such store. My mother and I happened upon it on opening day when they had a booth at the Tribeca Film Festival Family Day. Spread out on the street in front of their booth, children made headbands, did puzzles, and crafted away. Immediately, it was clear that Moomah was something different.

We had to go to the store itself, and when we did, it was equally fantastic.

Physically beautiful, it was part art space, part cafe, part movement room, for lack of a better term.

My son was instantly smitten with the interactive art wall in the back room, a place that encouraged children to interact with a computer generated environment, the Funky Forest, to watch how their actions, moving a river, or chasing away insects, helped the trees and flowers to grow and thrive, or not. He spent nearly an hour moving large stuffed tree cushions to determine the optimum path for the river to grow the most possible trees.

Out in the main room, my mother and I sipped delicious smoothies, and met the owner, Tracey, who was warm and excited about her new project, and not too busy to talk with a fellow retailer.

At small tables, kids worked with natural materials to craft projects I immediately wanted to sit down and do too. The store was about kids but also about families, and about embracing quality for our children without being overly precious.

That attention to detail and nature was a large part of what inspired Moomah in the first place.

Moomah was created to give parents, children and caregivers an inviting space to nurture creative stimulation, not over-stimulation. The color palette was inspired by nature and the seasons. You won’t find wacky clowns with oversized eyes and primary colors and you won’t be forced to listen to “kids music.” Moomah is a space where both parents and kids can bond over a great song, a fun project or new treat. A place where you can just be together.

The art, of course, was part of what made it so fantastic. Originally featuring the art of Jacqueline Schmidt, of Screech Owl fame, I immediately bought a print for my husband for our anniversary and it hangs in a special place in our living room.

I remember leaving feeling reinvigorated, slightly in awe, and loving the clarity of vision I saw in the creative and inspiring way the store had been put together. I left thinking about ways I could re-imagine my own store, not in imitation but in terms of the freedom of creativity I saw there. The freedom to think differently about what we were doing.

As a retailer, it saddens me to think that for whatever reason, a store like Moomah did not THRIVE, much less survive. Must we just become a nation of Targetized, Disney-fied drones? Can’t we do our best to ensure that places like Moomah are valued and supported?

I have to believe that we still can. If anything, the closure of Moomah makes me recommit to supporting the small independents that I love. As a retailer, I hope to continue to stay creative, not sacrificing uniqueness for mere survival.

Perhaps the passing of Moomah, sad though it is, will act as a reminder to all of us. Support your independent retailers before it’s too late and those big box clones are our only option.

And Moomah? You will be missed. Thank you.

Vietnam Wedding Style

I’m back! After a whirlwind trip to Vietnam, and two weeks of seeing things that had existed only in my imagination, I am trying to get over jetlag and remembering some of the highlights of my trip.

Our first morning there, in a jetlag haze, my family and I were searching for a bank near our hotel, the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi. Little did we know that because we were staying in a historic building, it would bride-a-palooza (my son’s words) outside.

Brides, brides, brides, brides, brides. Oh yeah – and grooms too. It’s something you see all over the cities of Vietnam, couple after couple having their “official” wedding photos done.

Some of the couples had a vaguely 1950s feel, don’t you think?

The couples come with a spare crew. Bride, groom, young male photographer who shouts directions at them, and someone to hold the light thingy. And the photographers are not always so careful. This one is stepping on the bride’s dress!

Many couples do two series of shots, one with the bride in “Western” wedding dresses and one wearing the tradition Ao Dai. Most of the wedding dresses we saw while there were pretty over the top confections and I have to confess that I much prefer the simplicity of the clean lines and elegance of the more traditional outfits.

One morning at breakfast, I looked out the window to see an actual van load of brides spilling out onto the street like a clown car of wedding dresses.

Our last night, in Ho Chi Minh city, we happened upon an evening wedding, a little unusual since we had seen countless daytime weddings, on all days of the week. Clearly, this couple was fancy!

I will share more trip photos as the jet lag subsides. Until then, come visit at Essentials if you want to hear more trip details!

Valentine’s Day is coming to Essentials! (And we’re getting crafty.)

We view holidays as an excuse for craft projects and Valentine’s Day is prime for getting our craft on.

Not so crafty? That’s okay. We’ve got plenty of cards, gifts, wrapping paper, ribbon and more so you can be sure to spoil your sweetie appropriately.

And yes, everything’s better in Hipstamatic!

Celebrating LOVE at Essentials (and our new window display!)

Hello from Essentials! Yes, this blog has had a bit of hiatus but now that the holiday season is over, we can return to normal. And get ready for LOVE.

Today, some photos from our newest window, a celebration of marriage featuring a collaboration between Essentials, the wonderful Sandra Costello of Studio SMC Photography, and Pearl Bridal Boutique, a terrific source for stunning wedding fashions.

Essentials’ addition to the mix? Our wide array of paper goodness. Invitations, programs, banners, thank yous, labels, table cards – we could go on and on.

Our favorite part? The chance to work with some other terrific local business, supporting one another and showcasing the variety of services available in our little Valley. Remember – shop local!

Happy Faux Halloween!

Yesterday was our Halloween Rewind in Northampton and boy, folks came out in amazing numbers. Honestly-we’ve never seen this many people come through the store for downtown trick-or-treating.

We managed to take a few shots of our favorite costumes. Hope you all had fun and thanks for coming in!

We love this particular Pippi for so very many reasons.

This handmade R2D2 costume is just perfect!

The sister/brother duo of M&M and Eminem.

For pure creativity, this kid may have been my favorite. The Press-complete with press passes, cameras, and a plaid tie. Love it!

Cute babies in outfits. Works every time. Especially when it’s twins!

There were candy lines for most of the afternoon.

Yeah-this frog costume was amazing. Whoever made this – kudos to you!

Out on the streets, these guys did a bit of a Jabbawockeez thing.

Don’t watch ABDC? Ask your kids.

Thanks again for coming and we will see you next year!

Does Essentials still sell Kid’s Clothes?

This is question we’ve been asked a lot lately, and I thought it was time to let you, our loyal shoppers, know what’s going on in the world of children’s clothing at Essentials.

The quick and easy answer is YES! We still sell children’s clothing and we have some in stock right now.

As many of you have noticed, however, our clothing selection has been a bit slimmer than usual. There’s a few reasons for that. While we’re working to increase the selection as best we can, there are some things I thought I would share with you. .

The first reason has to do with something truly upsetting for me because it means the end of the perfect underwear my child has been wearing since he turned three. What will I do without his favorite undergarments!?!

Yup. Claesen’s, the fantastic brand from Holland that you have all come to love, is no longer distributing in the United States. Due to a massive fire in their European warehouse, Claesen’s lost the bulk of their inventory and have been unable to fulfill their Fall orders. In addition, they made the decision to leave the U.S. market while they rebuild their business. They will, of course, keep us apprised of any changes and let us know when and if they decide to re-enter the U.S. market.

Because of the timing on all of this, it means we were too late to replace the missing Claesen’s with items from another vendor.

In case you don’t know how the system works, we place our seasonal orders at least 6 months in advance. That means that when it’s freezing cold in the winter, we’re already choosing what you might like next summer. And yes, that is as tough as it sounds.

Right now, we are still awaiting some of our Fall orders from vendors like Green Baby, and will let you know when things arrive.

The second reason for our slimmer clothing section right now has to do with the way some vendors sell their clothing. Several of our vendors carry their clothing in bundled selections. As retailers, we pay a certain amount and receive a variety of clothing in assorted sizes. When we purchase clothing that way, we do not have the opportunity to choose individual items.

As you know if you know the store at all, Colette and I are pretty picky. We want what we want, and have a sense of what will sell best in the store. With vendors who make the decisions for us, it’s tough because we can’t make the choices we feel might be best for our customer.

This is something we are increasingly conscious of as we purchase our clothing for the store. As we all know, people are increasingly thoughtful about every purchase they make. We need to make sure that every item we bring in to the store will work for you. And if that means we have a smaller selection until we can find just the right thing, so be it.

Currently, Colette and I are also working on increasing our selection of Organic clothing, and love that there are now more options. I will keep you posted on new lines as they come in, and as always, thank you for your continued support.

It’s a banner day at Essentials!

Occasionally, I like to showcase some of the fantastic signage made by our amazing staff. We are so dang lucky to have such creative folks to share our days with.

Come visit Essentials soon, and spy the crafty bits and pieces hidden in nooks and crannies all over the store.