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THE BROOKLYN STORYTELLER: When Shopping Becomes a Cultural Memory

By Guest Blogger Linda Cousins-Newton Photo: Linda Cousins-Newton Storytellers have the knack of making a memorable adventure out of what others might find to be a commonplace, mundane occurrence.

By Guest Blogger Linda Cousins-Newton

Photo: Linda Cousins
Photo: Linda Cousins-Newton

Storytellers have the knack of making a memorable adventure out of what others might find to be a commonplace, mundane occurrence.  Such has been my experience in shopping in some of the unique businesses in Prospect Heights.

As "Black Friday" and the holiday season approaches, I "think back," as the Tennessee elders would say, to visits to neighborhood shops where discovering "must-haves" has lifted itself from a mere quickly browse, "buy-and-fly" moment to a deeply warm cultural experience.

Since when does neighborhood shopping inspire one to make a collage of one's favorite vendor's offerings; and even more so to create kaleidoscope art from treasured purchases?  Again, of course, when one has the mindset of an Aquarian ancestral storyteller and digital artist, that's when!

The above photo on the left is of the artfully-decored Shaz Gallery whose proprietor, Sharon ("Shaz") Williams, is one of Brooklyn's most talented jewelry designers.  Not only does Shaz have a knack for creating one-of-a-kind, head-turning jewelry,  but her skills for studio and store interior and window design have long been  lauded by her peers and customers.  And by the way, that necklace just in front of the watchful leopard is actually made of rings of mud.

Fascinating!  Each visit to Shaz Gallery, in fact, provides a memorable cultural experience and each purchase of the reasonably-priced, eye-catching jewelry is an investment in body decor that makes one live up to Shaz's motto of "I Dare You to Be Different, adding to her equally artful business card proclamation, "I Make the Jewelry.  You Rock It".

Now on the right is the popular vintage boutique, Hooti Couture whose warmly effervescent owner, Allison Houtte, makes each customer feel quite special and right at home.  One fine day after just returning from Florida where I had done a lecture on the Black Seminoles, I was passing Hooti Couture and noticed a fox c collar outside that took me back to the days of my Tennessee aunts and mother decked out in fox collars and fancy hats for church.  I had no idea what I would do with the fox collar but knew for old times sake that I had to have it.

Allison gave me a great price on it, and during our chat, I learned that not only was she from the very city in which I had just lectured in Florida but that her brother lived in Andros, Bahamas, the site where many Black and Red Seminoles had fled in the 1800s to maintain their liberty, including my Bahamian husband's ancestors.  In addition, I learned that Allison, a former model, was also an author and had penned an entrancing book with her sister Melissa on her experiences in operating a vintage clothing business.  Immediately purchased the work, Alligators, Old Mink & New Money, for my jewelry designer friend, Karen Best, who had operated a neighboring boutique, Khalli Marcello, for a number of years. Made a vow to purchase a copy for myself on Amazon after getting this surprise gift off to Karen.picstitchI've proudly worn several items purchased over the years from Hooti Couture but never quite got around to wearing the fox fur. I guess I just bought it in honor of my mother and aunts. It, however, hasn't lain around the storyteller's home gathering dust, though. It is a long-time part of my decor, gracing the shoulders of my knight in unshining armor whom I call "King Henry."  shaz-allison kaleidoscopeGood ole King Henry is a purchase made many moons ago from a Brooklyn plant store.  Here are a couple more pics of Shaz's cloth jewelry designs, which she calls her "Knotty Collection" accompanied by King Henry sporting the fox collar from Hooti Couture.

To celebrate the warm, homey atmosphere of these two artistic BK business owners, I did two kaleidoscopic digital art pieces (which can be seen in part below).  I label the top one "Shaz's Knotty Artistry" and the other "Fox Fur Circles."

Enjoy, talented BK business owners, Shaz and Allison, as well as those who also share this storyteller's mindset of shopping in businesses which provide warmth of spirit, unique products, and even a memorable cultural experience.