A woman’s place
Women business owners take over Maude Alley
HONESDALE, PA — Aromas of all kinds emanate from Maude Alley off of Honesdale’s Main Street.
From Nhi Mundy's Vietnamese restaurant Bà & Me, the scent of cilantro and pho soup brewing wafts through the air, mingled with lavender and herbal teas coming from the Mount Pleasant Herbary.
“We all help each other out.”
Main Street Honesdale is in constant flux, and Maude Alley is not immune. Two new shops have moved into the tucked-away district of quaint shops and eateries in just the last few months, replacing a home goods store and comic book shop that closed up after several years in operation. With these new openings, the alley is now run entirely by women entrepreneurs—meaning female entrepreneurship there beats out the national average, where just over a third of all business owners are female, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners.
“I’m really proud to be a part of that percentage,” said Olivia Santo, owner and founder of Gather, a home goods and clothing shop that recently moved into Maude Alley.
Business owners in Maude Alley say that as Main Street changes, so too does the dynamic of the community, becoming a place that highlights collaboration in art, culture and empowerment through diversity.
Gudrun Feigl who sells products handmade by herself, and her sister and mother in Germany, operates Mount Pleasant Herbary at the back of the alley. She said working with other women, both within the confines of her shop as well as outside of it, fills her with a distinct pride.
“Everything except the pottery is made by women: my sister makes the aprons, and my mother knits the washcloths,” Feigl said.
The women of Maude Alley coexist incredibly well, Feigl said, and help each other with both business and personal endeavors.
“It’s not uncommon for us to look after each other’s kids when business gets hectic,” Santo added. “We all help each other out.”
Santo, who is originally from Hawley, moved away for a time to pursue a career in merchandise planning. She was inspired to come back to the area after she saw how the community was changing and placing more of a focus on the arts.
“It’s awesome to see people moving back to the area and helping to contribute to the area’s culture,” she said. “I think the other owners here all share in adding to that vitality.”
That creativity and collaboration go beyond the storefronts. Alessandra Iavarone, owner of The Velvet Maple, which recently moved from its post across the street into Maude Alley, hosts a yearly fashion show at The Cooperage Project. The show this year featured clothing from Crazy Otto’s Vintage, in the alley, and Gather, in addition to Iavarone’s own products from The Velvet Maple just next door.
“It’s all women helping women,” Iavarone said. “I love it—I just love it.”
Iavarone plans to start selling an array of Feigl’s products in her sister store, located on Main Street in Narrowsburg, NY. She and Santo, whose shops are connected, already act as business partners. Santo handles merchandise geared toward men’s and baby clothing, while Iavarone’s market is more directed toward home goods and women’s clothing.
“It’s like two stores in one—we cover all the bases,” Iavarone said.
At Sommer Santoro’s vintage clothing shop Crazy Otto’s Vintage, between Bà & Me and Mount Pleasant Herbary, bold and colorful outfits piece together stories that Santoro said she enjoys giving a second telling.
“I love it when I can see someone feeling empowered and confident in a new outfit—and it’s quality too,” she said, standing at the counter of her shop, donning a red ascot and high-waisted jeans and appearing to have stepped fashionably out of the year 1950.
Santoro glowed as she discussed the environment of the alley. “It’s a great place to be,” she said. “I’m happy I chose to open my shop here of all places. I’m lucky to be surrounded by good people.”
Editor's note: Olivia Santo is the owner of Gather, and her photo caption has been updated to reflect that.