During the season of sugar and spice, one Montauk business owner has found a way to parlay her summer-centric business space into a place to shop for the holidays.
Located at 34 South Etna, Deborah Aiza has turned Sweet 'tauk into a holiday market — offering merchandise from local artists and small business owners, from Bonac Bees pure beeswax candles from local hives to Joe & Liza's Ice Cream.
The location is also the home of the production kitchen. It's there that the ice pops and 100 percent fresh lemonades, which are made with organic lemons and peak-of-season fruits sourced locally and sweetened with a touch of agave nectar, are made.
Fresh from a course at Cornell to be HACCP Certified for juice production, Aiza told East Hampton Patch about how she's making her retail space work for her and support her seasonal business in the colder months.
Q: When did you open?
We have been making lemonade and participating in farmers markets since 2011. Sweet 'tauk (the lemonade/popsicle shop) will open in May 2013. Meanwhile, rather than have the space sit empty we conceived the "Handmade for the Holidays" Fair showcasing the creations of the most talented artists, crafters and artisans on the East End. The shop is a way to create community and give back by sharing the creativity of our friends and neighbors. The "Handmade for the Holidays" Fair is open every Saturday and Sunday through Christmas Eve. We're encouraging everyone to shop local and buy handmade for the Holidays.
Q: Do you plan to stay open year-round? With the seasonality of Montauk we will not be able to maintain profitability staying open all year, but the wholesale and web-based business will sustain us year-round as well as creative uses of our retail space such as our first annual "Handmade for the Holidays" Fair.
Q: What was the inspiration for opening the shop?
The energy in Montauk.
Q: How did you go from Sweet 'tauk the lemonade to Sweet 'tauk the store?
We love the first hand experience with customers and wholesale doesn’t give us that, so we wanted to create a destination location that our customers could identify and connect with.
Q: What are some of the challenges you feel you face as a Montauk business owner?
The expense of a year-round overhead and a short summer season to make it happen for the entire year is the biggest challenge we face. It's no secret that Montauk changes greatly from summer to winter. I make a product that is traditionally associated with summer. Although I offer delicious Fall/Winter flavors it is difficult to get the exposure I need. It is always summertime somewhere and hopefully I can create enough traction to eventually expand into these markets.
Q: What are some ideas you have employed to overcome them?
Last summer, since I was only using the kitchen and wasn't yet using the retail space, we made the front a weekly pop-up shop which turned out to be very successful for the participants. Our shop will be a unique concept where one side of the store will be the Sweet 'tauk's Lemonade and Popsicle shop while the other half will be a continually evolving pop-up shop with new vendors appearing every week creating an occasion and supportive energy to our shared endeavours. The Handmade for the Holidays Fair is another example of keeping the excitement going and drawing attention to our village in the off-season. It also gives the citizens of Montauk the ability to shop right here where they live and not be required to travel to find unique hand-made gifts because they're all right here!
Q: Everyone's looking for the perfect holiday gifts right now. What kind of gifts do you carry?
What is so special about the Handmade for the Holidays Fair is that everything in the shop has been created by someone who lives here! There is such a wealth of talent and I am absolutely thrilled with the enthusiasm (and talent) of all the participants. It is my aspiration to help grow and strengthen community and our local economy in a time when it is so relevant. Buying an item that has been made locally is crucial for our economy to grow. When people come to the "Handmade for the Holidays" Fair they will be astonished with the quality and craftmanship of our vendors, and quite simply, they will feel good to take part of an exciting movement to pay attention to the source, by shopping closer to home and carefully choosing (knowing they have a choice) how to shop and supporting our local artisans. We literally have gifts priced from $3 to $3,000. Sweet 'tauk's website has a full list of the participating vendors and our Facebook page continually updates who is involved.
Q: What has been your best selling item so far?
Luckily, it's been incredibly varied with nothing standing out from anything else, which only proves that there truly is something for everyone!