Let the 'Sunshine' in
With the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival 50th anniversary just around the corner, it seems that everyone in Sullivan County is jumping on the hippie bandwagon. Not to discredit the excitement buzzing around the county in anticipation, but SC has an original ‘Funky Hippy Chic’ with a story that deserves to be told.
It was a cold rainy evening as I ventured toward Monticello to interview Patti Greco Sunshine, owner of The Funky Hippy Chic Boutique. However, as soon as I walked through the doors, I experienced nothing but warmth and sunshine. I was taken aback by a rainbow of garments, the light dancing off the stunning silver jewelry on display and the radiant energy of the shopkeeper, Sunshine herself. She was strumming her guitar until she saw me. Immediately, she hopped up, embraced me and welcomed me to her boutique.
She asked if I wanted to look around before we sat down to talk—how could I refuse? Every garment, necklace and trinket in her boutique told a story of several cultures. In just five minutes, I took a trip around the world. I could’ve spent an hour or more admiring the eccentricity of her items, but I was eager to sit down and talk to the woman who started it all.
“I love fashion,” Sunshine said, “and I love unique fashion, so it’s not like it’s main-stream here.” And she was right about that. I got the sense that her boutique is an extension of herself, a declaration of individualism that is hard to come by these days. She is always working on presenting her garments in ways that have not been done before, inspiring the women who shop there to reach out of their comfort zones. Her goal is to give her customers a fun experience and a funky, original outfit that complements their personalities.
Sunshine has always had a sense of style that was her own, but she recalls when she truly began to grow into it. In her early 20s, she worked as a singer, headlining cruise ships. Experiencing warmer climates than she was used to, she began to dress in flowing skirts and dresses made of light material. Whenever the ship would pull into a port, the passengers and co-workers would follow her just to see where she bought her clothing. This was when she noticed that her style was something other people admired and wanted.
“I always said, while walking around on the islands, that one day I would have my own boutique,” she recounts.
Sunshine’s mother had always been a big influence in her life and inspired her sense of style. Her mother was a seamstress who crafted beautiful and original gowns for her to wear. So, from an early age, Sunshine enjoyed having a style that wasn’t owned by anyone else. Her mother encouraged her not to blend in and to revel in expressing herself through fashion.
“That comes from growing up poor,” she said.
She would craft her own, unique articles of clothing by combining two different materials into an original that no one else would have. This is something she still does today with her famous jeans skirts, made from recycled fabric that has been sewn into the jean.
After performing on cruise ships for nine months at a time and traveling from Las Vegas to Atlantic City, Sunshine was ready to return to a calmer life. Although she enjoyed living the life of a performer, she knew that she wanted to return to her roots. “I went from singing for a living to singing for a loving,” she said.
The boutique came about when she met her husband, Jonathan Sunshine, who is a renowned restaurateur and chef in the area. They met when Patti was selling him a house, but he ended up marrying her instead. They opened a restaurant together, The Luzon Station in Hurleyville, which later moved to Kauneonga Lake. It was there that Patti developed the concept for her boutique. There was a need in our area for a retail store that offered unique items at a reasonable price.
“My husband has always supported the boutique,” she said with a smile. It was always important to them for locals to be able to spend money at their businesses; they didn’t want to be another shop that just caters to the tourists and visitors. In addition to the boutique, they also operate a real estate business called Sunshine Group Real Estate Corporation, and are the proud parents of their “four-legged child,” a pup named Zoe.
As a performer, Sunshine traveled all over the world. She sang with world-renowned musicians and made a name for herself as a powerhouse singer. She experienced different cultures that influenced her boutique today. But to Sunshine, nothing felt better than returning to her roots.
“My grandfather bought this property for his father in the late 1920s,” she said, referring to the boutique’s location and its surrounding land. The farmhouse and property had once been part of a large farm surrounded by hotels, boarding houses and bungalow colonies. Sam Chanin, her grandfather, was a cab driver in New York City who would vacation in the Catskills during the summers. Knowing that other folks did the same, and having to still make a living, her grandfather built three bungalows to rent to vacationers. He also had a stand on the corner of Thompsonville and Chalet Roads where he sold candy, soda and newspapers. He sometimes sold cans of Coke with “hooch” in them to the handymen working at the nearby bungalow colonies.
“People asked me why I came back home when I could’ve gone anywhere in the world. It’s this land, this property,” Sunshine said full-heartedly, “I feel the most grounded here.”
Having her boutique be at the heart of where everything began for her has been a blessing. She enjoys walking barefoot around the property, playing guitar and singing for customers, and helping women find their confidence and individuality through fashion.
In addition to finding unique, beautiful garments and jewelry, a trip to The Funky Hippy Chic Boutique is like a journey through the past. This boutique is so much more than just a place where customers can shop; it’s a whole experience of what the Catskills used to be and what they continue to be. Patti Greco Sunshine and her boutique are timeless and represent what small, locally owned businesses should strive to be.
For more information about the boutique visit www.funkyhippychicboutique.com.
The Funky Hippy Chic Boutique is located at 679 Resorts World Dr. Monticello, NY.