Tiny Treasures, Infinite Pleasures
By Alex Joseph, Fashion and Textile Studies MA '15
In her gift shop, Ona Cohn '62 welcomes the world
In Ona, the Tarrytown, New York, gift shop run by Ona Cohn, unique treasures all but burst from every corner of the 700-square-foot space. Adults and children alike marvel at animals sculpted by Kenyan artists from recycled flip-flop rubber, glassware from Swaziland, and clever shark and octopus finger puppets. Ceramics and jewelry from local artists share shelf space with fair-trade pieces, such as carvings and baskets from Rwanda.
Ona is a third act for Cohn, who spent decades as a lingerie designer and dressmaker. Years ago, she helped out an acquaintance who owned a gift boutique, and found she had a knack for it: she quintupled the store’s sales over the holiday season alone. “People have told me I have a good eye,” says Cohn, who launched in 2016. On a late October weekday, the shop bustles with activity from the moment it opens. Cohn is ready. Visitors who arrive today might not return until the new year, so she has savvily stocked the place with an array of Christmas items. Cohn knows that shoppers can easily buy almost anything online, so when they come in, they’re often also seeking something more than a transaction. She delivers: the space is infused with joy and whimsy. And Cohn is a friendly face and a warm conversationalist. “I’m someone who remembers people’s names and a detail or two about a conversation we’ve had,” she says. “Sometimes people ask if they can hug me before they leave the store.” Good luck getting that from Amazon.