September 18, 2020 by Mona K. Pohl on behalf of the Hingham Downtown Association (photos courtesy of HDA, Lynn Barclay, Executive Director)
Third article in a series on how Downtown Businesses are Striving to Thrive
The season, the scent, the light, the texture, the color, the invitation, the music -- even the wind --intermingled, all set the mood for memorable moments. Be it an intimate gathering of friends, a wedding, a festive night in the backyard or a relaxed evening snuggled up in a warm blanket on the couch, special touches are what make a guest feel extra welcome, spark a conversation, amp up a party or set a soothing space.
If you’re looking for the accoutrements to change up what has become mundane over the last several months, venture Downtown for a fun treasure hunt at RSVP, La Petite Maison and Acquire Good. Women-owned and brimming with meticulously curated items that will set the ambiance for whatever it is your planning, or dreaming about, these three merchants are on trend and tuned in to their customers.
First, stop on Main Street and visit Judy Varney, owner of RSVP, who offers expert guidance and an array of options for the perfect wedding invitation, special note or fun party-in-a-box that reflects your personality, sentiment and style.
Then, meander down two blocks until the sidewalk ends. La Petite Maison, owned by Nan Walsh is on the corner by the clock tower. It’s like stepping off a side street in Paris or Provence into an elegant shop/flea market hybrid. Roam through the store and find something that has an unexpected element such as a gloriously scented lotion, soap or room diffuser, luxurious accessories, elegant linens, and French glassware from another time. From La Petite Maison turn right, cross Main Street and a few steps up the block on North Street you’ll find Tamala Levin’s Acquire Good. Cozy woven or plush throws, locally-themed pillows and glassware, items with inspirational and tongue-in-cheek sayings for the grad or the special birthday, along with quality sweet and sometimes sassy baby gifts and the spot-on surprise for your hostess are always in the mix.
All three merchants worked extremely hard to continue bringing their unique goods to devoted and new customers throughout the last six months. Each business has had its own set of challenges and learned so much between having to close their stores temporarily, expanding offerings on websites and through social media, then reopening in a new world where the number of customers is limited in stores and ensuring safety guidelines are met is constant. One of the biggest upsides is their collective appreciation for the local community that has embraced and supported them.
“This unprecedented time has made people more aware of how important our downtown is to the fabric of this community. The support our small businesses have received from customers has been so heartwarming. I know people understand the need to shop local so downtown Hingham stays vibrant,” said Judy Varney, owner of RSVP.
In addition to ramping up their website and offering curbside pickup, RSVP took the time to give back to the community. They designed free cards to help keep people in touch during quarantine and left them in a basket on the door of the shop. People came by and picked them up regularly. “We printed over 1500 cards in 3 months! I’m so happy they were well received, and I like to think they spread little messages of hope far and wide. We sell them in the store now, with all the proceeds going to local food pantries.”
Nan Walsh, owner of La Petite Maison and Hingham resident, reinforced Judy’s perspective about the mutual benefit of shopping in a local community. “People realize that small businesses and ‘Main Street’ are very important to the economy and our everyday lives. No one wants to see any small business close and they realize the impact shopping local really has.” She added, “One of the most positive experiences I’ve had during this time is how much the community really cares about our Downtown. Everyone was very concerned about how we were doing. They made an effort to support us and it’s something I will never forget! I had customers, even from outside the area, reach out and I was shipping items almost every day.”
In business for 22 years, La Petite Maison’s windows are known for their charming, French-influenced displays that are very enticing. They served business well when customers couldn’t enter the store, but they were able to contact Nan and order what they saw behind the glass or on social media. Nan also reflected on how the support of the Hingham Downtown Association (HDA) and the help of fellow member RSVP helped boost her business. “The different promotions the HDA has created is really helping to bring the community together and out into the Square. For example, the Mother’s Day promotion was so popular! I can’t tell you how many PJ’s we sold! It was the ‘It’ gift. We also sold so many gift certificates. I physically ran out and RSVP was able to print out more for me!”
Owner of Acquire Good, Tamala Levin, shares her appreciation for Hingham with Judy and Nan. Tamala was formerly the Director of Client Services for the Boston Bruins, a dream job she left to begin another life chapter after moving from Boston to Hingham with her husband and two young children. Three years ago, she jumped at the opportunity to buy her business from her friend Suzanne. Like every business, Tamala didn’t anticipate the major shift in retail, but she persisted and, with the insight and support of her dedicated staff, made some changes that will remain as things move forward. “For years, I wanted to put items online. When Covid hit, it flipped a switch and we had to get everything online quickly. We were so fortunate to have a community that was able to support that. I made deliveries every morning or shipped out items. It’s great to be able to continue this aspect of the business along with our regular in-store hours.”
“The community has really rallied around local businesses. A lot of people are avoiding bigger stores and they are finding the benefits and pleasure of the simplicity of shopping in our downtown. We are also committed to sourcing our merchandise from local artists and brands.”
As we enter early fall, take some time to enjoy being outside, wandering in and out of the shops around Downtown and savoring the beautiful New England days and crisp evenings.
You can visit Acquire Good, Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m-3:00 p.m., Sunday 12:00 p.m.– 4:00 p.m.; La Petite Maison, Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; and RSVP, Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., or by appointment. Check with each store for extended hours during the monthly Third Thursday Strolls in downtown Hingham. For more information go to: acquiregood.com, lapetitemaison.us and rsvphingham.com. You can also visit the Hingham Downtown Association site for details about events and businesses at www.discoverhingham.com .