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.