By Megan Fitzpatrick

Two years since her store first opened, Jennifer Simoni of The Sunshinery, is bringing new light to the neighborhood, not just through her curated products and welcoming personality but also filling this space which had been vacant for a while now. Her store, nestled in the narrow storefront of 549-555 Columbus Avenue, a landmarked building between West 86th and 87th Streets, provides a source of brightness on an otherwise gray day. Her dog Scout greets customers with a tail wag. 

“We’ve been here 12 years”, says Simoni, originally from New Jersey. “We knew we always wanted to live in the city.” They lived on 72nd Street when they first arrived, and moved to West 86th Street to be closer to her daughter’s school. Both her business and home are landmarked buildings and I asked what it’s like to move into an historic building and if she has made any changes. She explains she hasn’t done as much because she’s a small business. “There’s a lot to take on…and you learn so many lessons in the beginning.” But her store is looking fabulous and thankfully there are no issues with this 134-year old building. 

Her decision to open her business in this location as well as her style of business was driven by nostalgia. She wanted to harness something she experienced in her youth – a type of storefront that is disappearing in New York City and the Upper West Side is trying to keep it alive. “I grew up with main street shops, you would know the people who owned the shops, and it was a lovely experience.” People tell her the store reminds them of a place upstate, or somewhere on the beach, and that’s the feeling she’s looking to recreate in our neighborhood.

Simoni wanted the name to immediately get across the feeling she wanted her store to evoke. She’s providing people with escapism and an innate sense of community. Customers come into a welcoming environment, enjoy having a chat, seeing Scout, and this all adds to her overall goal of improving people’s day through the little things in life. 

Two years in, Simoni’s not slowing down, even though she sometimes wishes she could, but that’s not her style! A new idea that has been developed in the store are workshops, centered on arts and crafts, and of course, community. 

They began with a coming together of ideas. The inspiration came from a local resident, Marina, originally from France, who brought in some of her craft embroidery work to the store. Having taken an interest in learning how Marina does it, Simoni came up with the wonderful idea for a crafts workshop in the store. The most recent one was called ‘Sunday Slowdown’, a holiday ornament making workshop, which even featured a Scandinavian breakfast spread, made by Marina. She mentions that often people come with friends or sometimes on their own, but has seen people exchanging phone numbers at the end. The small number of people, capped at 10, and her small intimate store setting, is conducive to this, is her theory. 

Another initiative she has been actively involved in since opening her store, is a collaboration with a local woman, Carol, who knits ‘Hats for the Homeless’. Last year, the store hosted a pop-up which brought in roughly $1000, which goes right back to sourcing yarn to knit more hats. Jennfier has been working with her since, collecting yarn from neighbors who wish to donate it, for the creation of more hats. 

From locally-sourced to women-owned, Simoni takes pride in where she sources her products. Collaborating on workshops and selling local people’s art and products, like Upper West Side themed apparel from Best of the Upper West blogger Rachel Scheckman, and the many local artists’ paintings that hang on display in the store, is all part of the community engaging nature of her business. 

Simoni is already looking forward to the challenges next year will bring, and how to overcome them. She’s not just bricks and mortar! The store has a social media presence and a burgeoning website which she hopes to develop more in 2024 and tackle the ever difficult task of expanding online while maintaining that local connection. She wants to continue to develop meaningful relationships with her surrounding community through more events and ultimately more interaction with businesses in the vicinity. If there’s anyone up for the challenge, we believe it’s Jennifer!

You can keep up with Jennifer Simoni and The Sunshinery on social media and her website!

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