Leah Smith labels the business venture she recently entered into with her sister and mother as a “fun, multilayered, awesome experience” of a store, which is terminology that could also apply to the life she has led thus far.
The Philly-born and soon to be full-time Brigantine resident spent five years playing Cinderella at Walt Disney World in Florida; she creates and markets clothing and artwork for boutiques in the Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy; she bartends and handles employee scheduling at a summertime hot spot in Brigantine; and she occasionally accompanies her musician fiance Adam Holcombe and his band on stage, playing ukulele and singing backup.
Through all this she has accumulated friendships and business connections, and she intends to incorporate many of them — along with input and ideas from her sister Lexi and mother, Cynthia — into Island Items, a store at 301 14th St. South. The new store is billed as “a unique boutique filled with treasures, art, music, gifts, vintage finds, home decor, workshops and more.” It is just off Brigantine Avenue between Rita's Water Ice and the Art Is... Salon in the central business district.
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“Everyone's added their own flavor and vision to it,” said Smith, who recently joined the board of directors on the Brigantine Chamber of Commerce. “The ultimate goal is to clear a little area out and create a stage for open-mic nights, do-it-yourself events, maybe hold art classes for children or paint-and-sip parties for adults. There's unlimited ideas and options in the works.”
The store's name is a nod not only to Brigantine, but to islands worldwide where wheels are in motion to bring in unusual and hard-to-find merchandise.
“We'll have treasures coming in from St. Bart's (where Lexi Smith resides much of the year), Hawaii – it's a collaboration of many different islands,” she said. “There's artwork from local artists and artists from around the world.”
One of the artists whose work will appear often at Island Items is Andrew Miller, who might be considered a blend of local and overseas talent. Best known by the nickname Drew Toonz, Miller grew up in Brigantine, relocated to Hawaii, and established a reputation for painting murals, creating still and video animation, and producing artwork for major events in the surfing community worldwide.
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Among the current inventory at Island Items are decorative frames made to hold vinyl album covers. The frames are hung on walls, and the covers double as artwork.
“You can pop them off the wall, remove the record and play it,” said Smith. “You can either buy them with the covers and records in them, or buy them blank and put your own records in. To me, much of the cover designs from old vinyl records is art within themselves.”
Smith also made use of some old vinyl record covers to fill in some of the missing panels from the store's dropped ceiling when she and her partners took over.
“When we started moving in, everything was empty and there were some ceiling tiles missing,” she said. “So I thought 'Do I want to put more money into replacing the tiles or work with what I have?' So that's how the album idea came into play.”
She also makes and sells sarongs that, when wrapped around the waist, give a person lying on the beach the look of a mermaid.
Store hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. but will likely be extended as the busy season approaches. A grand-opening party is in the works for sometime in May.
“Lexi has a friend who's in a Mummers band, and we think we'll be able to get them to play. That will be a lot of fun,"
“This is exciting,” she added. “I've always wanted to do something like this. Everything's coming full circle.”
For information email email@example.com, call 609-576-0501 or stop by during business hours.