By A. Campbell
’Tis the holiday season and with it comes the mad scramble of presents, parties, and festive dinners galore. For Upper West Siders searching for great gifts within walking distance of their cozy apartments – as well as those who prefer to throw their hard-earned dollars behind small, local shops that add value to our community – this reporter encourages you to consider supporting women-owned businesses.
According to the Federal Reserve, women-owned enterprises represent 42 percent of all businesses in the United States. They employ 9.4 million workers and generate revenue of $1.9 trillion. Female entrepreneurs, however, face numerous challenges to starting and maintaining successful businesses. Research shows, for example, that lenders are less likely to approve applications from women than from men. And when women do get approved for small business loans, they are, on average, 33 percent smaller than those granted to their male counterparts. Still, female entrepreneurs have flourished in recent years, including on the Upper West Side.
Here are five of this reporter’s favorite local businesses owned by women, all offering goods or services worth checking out as you do your shopping this holiday season. We know there are many more; please share your favorites in the comments.
228 Columbus Avenue (between W. 70th and W. 71st Streets)
Housed within a tiny glass storefront along Columbus Avenue (between 70th-71st streets), Kee’s Chocolates offers artisanal omakase boxes, containing bars, barks, pralines, and more, to satisfy any chocolate lover. (Which — statistically speaking — is all of us.) After a career in corporate finance, Kee Ling Tong opened her own chocolate shop in 2002, originally based in SoHo before migrating north to the Upper West Side. “Her dark chocolate truffle is the best dark chocolate in the city and I’ve tried it every place,” said Aaron Manson, a self-described, dark-chocolate aficionado. Tong says she emphasizes freshness and high-quality ingredients. “The chocolates are handmade daily with fresh cream,” she notes. “There are no preservatives, so there is no aftertaste.” Kee’s chocolates are priced per piece, and she offers four sizes of omakase boxes.
Je’Derm Skin Atelier
10 West 74th Street, Suite LLD
Co-founded by Judit Galambosi and Eliana Restrepo, Je’Derm opened it’s doors in 2018 and quickly developed a loyal clientele based on the popularity of their signature offering – the bespoke facial. Bespoke facials are an all-inclusive personalized treatment with cleansing, exfoliation, massage, extractions, serums, vitamin infusion, and masks as well as additional options for oxygen therapy and microdermabrasion. “The purpose [of a Je’Derm treatment] is for you to fall in love with a skin routine and see results and come back because you see the value in it,” Restrepo said. “I’ve noticed a huge change in my skin,” said Kaptan Unugur, a longtime Je’Derm client and Upper West Sider. “They educate you on how to maintain and take care of your skin, and you can go to them for impartial advice.”
Je’Derm Bespoke Facials are $300 for a 75-minute treatment.
Amsterdam Wine Co.
271 Amsterdam Avenue (at W. 73rd Street)
Sabrina Jawer discovered her passion for wine while enrolled in a wine-making class in Napa Valley. What was initially a hobby became a full-time career when she relocated to New York City and was hired by Amsterdam Wine Co. After two years, she and fellow employee Kaare Bivin-Pederson decided to pool their resources and buy the business from its former owner. “I love the neighborhood. At minimum, I know the names of at least 75 percent of the people who come through the door.” The co-owners have updated the store’s selection of bottles and spirits. “We’ve made a lot of changes, including bringing in more diversity in our wines,” said Jawer. “We’ve also doubled our good value section, which I’m most proud of.” A couple of her top recommendations include the Lurra Garnacha ($11) and Casa Setaro Vesuvio Rosso ($24).
2244 Broadway (at W. 80th Street)
Runaway Poppy originally opened as a pop-up shop in November 2018, and has since become a permanent neighborhood staple. The owner, Cara Milling, is a cousin of Katie Thompson who owns the jewelry store KT Collection on Columbus Avenue and W. 73rd Street. The two women have traveled the globe together to New Zealand, the Netherlands, and countries throughout Asia. Milling personally curates a collection of jewelry, ceramics, artwork, books, toys, and accessories, inspired by her travels with Katie. Many pieces result from close personal relationships Milling has developed with artists like Erna Kuik and Vikki Drummond. “I love a scavenger hunt,” she says. “And I love working with interesting people and discovering and showcasing great artists.”
Prices vary and all objects are marked.
993 Amsterdam Avenue (between W. 108th and W. 109th Street)
Mugi’s owner, Outi Putkonen, calls herself an “accidental potter,” who got her start 30 years ago after taking a class at the West Side YMCA. Originally from Finland, Putkonen says, “I signed up on a whim, to develop a sense of community around me as a newcomer.” Fast forward to today: Putkonen has served as the sole owner of Mugi Pottery since 2012 when co-owner, Margot Harwood, retired. For those who want to immerse themselves in a new hobby, Mugi Pottery offers a range of multi-week classes and workshops. Mugi also offers adult and children’s classes on a weekly basis, twice-monthly couples nights, and introductory workshops on weekends. Mugi’s window displays bowls, platters, vases, and mugs for sale — works created in-house by the studio’s artist-teachers.