“We figured we’re both small businesses in Astoria, so rather than working against each other, working together would benefit our businesses,” said Cynthia Radalj, owner of Candy Plum, a store with nearly 70 percent handmade items from local designers, including some clothing and a larger selection of accessories.
KrisTees is a bit different, a boutique featuring mostly contemporary women’s apparel that is casual yet suitable for the office and after-work gatherings. However, owner Kristie Foster, a self-described 13-year veteran of the fashion industry, shares Radalj’s desire to promote local designers.
“Coming from the design world, I think it’s important to have someone believe in your product,” said Foster, who is a former fashion designer herself. “I’m flattered they approached me to have their stuff displayed in my store.”
Radalj added that Queens’ boutique scene is a breeding ground for designers with raw talent, where trends are set instead of followed like in Manhattan’s boutiques.
“It’s about fresh ideas, and we get them first. The neighborhood is changing and more and more people are moving in,” said Radalj. “Astoria’s like the new Brooklyn.”
But it’s not only boutique owners who are banding together at this time. Kristen Connolly, owner of Brick Café, often lends her restaurant to be used for designer events even though there is little correlation between fashion and cuisine.
She admitted that they even share a market, as customers often must decide whether to spend their money on new clothing and accessories or eating a meal out.
“We have a combined client base but it’s nice for the customers. They get to enjoy a nice night out and hang out with friends,” said Connolly. “It’s always good energy here whether or not you buy something.”
Nearly all the tables in one of Brick Café’s dining areas were removed at the last designer’s market event so KrisTEES and Candy Plum designers could set up display tables for their creations of handbags, hats and jewelry. Visitors who RSVP’d to the event even received a complimentary glass of wine.
Connolly said she tries to support local businesses, especially female-owned businesses, whenever she can. Visitors have a blast, businesses gain new customers and Astorians are happy.
“We’re trying to keep businesses in the area with the economy being the way it is,” said Connolly. “We want to keep people in Astoria because it’s a great neighborhood.”