This week’s highlighted business couldn’t be more appropriate for shining the lens of The Camera’s Eye!
Local Utopia, located at 32 Lake St in the downtown, historic Owego Marketplace embodies the concept of LOCAL. Liz Skovira, moved back to her hometown of Owego after being displaced from her NYC job during Covid. Inspiration struck while binge watching Schitt’s Creek with her mom during quarantine. She wanted to create a store that could highlight smaller, local businesses that don’t have brick and mortar shops… and that is exactly what she did!
Filled with well over 90% local, hand-made products, Liz’s gift shop has two simple concepts; Waste Free & Chemical Free. Currently, the product focus is Homegoods: candles, teas, kitchenware, coffee, body scrubs, skincare, but she’s ever evolving so if you’re this type of artisan or manufacturer, Local Utopia is your showcase.
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 to 5, you can find Miss Skovira working away behind the desk. A confessed Shop-a-holic, ordering and inventory is anything but a chore for her.
The best part of popping in to check out the vendors within? Liz knows the skinny on each one and is more than happy to share their story, location and how the product(s) are made.
Think about the concept behind this Gift Shop with me for a moment… you’re walking into one store filled with products for your home or body created by manufactures with a passion for saving the environment or keeping chemicals off your skin or out of your blood stream curated by a woman who can tell you anything you want to know about the manufacturing process. No wondering, “what’s in this?” No trying to grab your glasses or your magnification app on your mobile to see the tinsy tiny print on the back of the label. No… you just turn and ask, “Hey Liz, who made this and what’s the process behind it?” Outstandingly Brilliant!
To shop online or for more information, check the web at Local Utopia, call 1 570-731-0373, or send Liz a direct message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again for reading the Local Lens. This week’s find is a true treasure and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Know a business that’s in need of recognition post Covid or that simply has a lovely concept? Leave a reply on the Blog and I’ll be sure to check it out!
This week’s featured small business is an absolutely adorable find nestled in the Historic District of Owego, NY. Hygge Home is not only a downtown shop, it’s a way of living for owner, business woman and mother, Mandy Neira.
While reading a book about familial relationships worldwide, she stumbled upon the Danish concept, Hygge pronounced “hyoo·guh,” meaning Cozy. Completely inspired by the concept, she visited the Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Denmark and fell in love with the lifestyle and the people embracing it.
Mandy tested the concept in a small kiosk, a natural fit for the quaint town of Owego, NY and within a year, moved into a bigger space with much more inventory at 185 Front Street. Before getting one foot in the store that’s enticing you to enter with the scent of aromatherapy, you’re reminded of the concept of Cozy stamped on the concrete doorstep. It’s as if little Gnomes are wafting the scent beneath your nose and fairies are tugging your clothing to enter.
Once inside, there’s an instant feeling of calm wrapped up in an incredible visual of unique de’cor items designed to create a cozy sanctuary within your home.
Every corner is deliberately arranged with concept of creating a cozy, loving, nurturing environment for you, your family – even your pets! Creating a feeling of complete calm; scented candles, essential oils and Palo Santo are intricately displayed in every corner while blankets, pillows, journals and mugs adorn the furniture begging you to “sit a while.”
With so much technology and overwhelming social media in our lives, Mandy believes “we need to disconnect and focus on simplicity and connection with those we Love.”
Another of Mandy’s passionate thoughts is “to create a special place where people can enjoy the moment with peace, relaxation and laughter – a place to host friends, read, journal and find stillness for their well being.” She leaves nothing out when stocking the store with Hygge Home products – there’s even a section designated for entertaining family and friends.
If you haven’t ventured into this shop yet, it’s a must see! Your husband might not be thrilled, but you will definitely leave with an entirely new outlook on decorating your Home. Open Wednesday through Saturday 11- 5pm and Sunday 11- 3pm, Mandy will be there with a warm smile on her face to greet you!
Seldom do I share my personal Life on my business platform; however, an old friend once told me, “drastic conditions call for drastic measures, Lisa.” I laugh at this today as we were coaching middle school, female, athletes at the time. EVERYTHING is drastic & dramatic in that realm. lol. This drastic time is different, and I feel an intense desire to share, so I’m rolling with it. So many friends, near & far feel a weird “something” – sadness, strength, worry, fading hope, love, despair – something for sure and truly it bonds us All, we just don’t always talk about it.
As a pro-Photographer in Upstate NY, I travel through winter months as means to supplement my income. If you’ve ever lived in an area where people hunker-down in the cold chill of Winter, this makes perfect sense as clients and neighbors begrudge facing the weather to buy essentials; forget about getting dressed up with their Family in tow for an updated portrait of their chilled-to-the-bone loved ones. Let’s be realistic!
This year during my work travels, I honored a wild itch to further my education and within a 2 week time frame, I was smack-dab in the middle of an intensive program even farther from home. Buried in studies, trying to re-establish some presence of a working office, this pandemic hit. In my early 40’s, I made a paradigm shift in the way I choose to see & respond to most Life events. This World event challenged my newly found thinking and stirred a struggle I could barely mutter to myself. My daily meditation, which always started with “We are all connected, We breathe the same air” veered from the path of enjoyment to the path of necessity to keep my focus on… Anything! Let’s just be human and honest; I’m miles from home in an intensive “bootcamp,” my career is dangling on sketchy internet & a wobbly night stand/makeshift work station and my 78 year old Mother had been in & out of the hospital the entire month of February. I was MEDITATING for far less than ENJOYMENT!
In this program, I was surrounded by a small network of people who became much like a Family. This Family was from all over the US and World; Russia, Oregon, Alaska, Costa Rica, Vermont, Switzerland- you name it, one of them was from somewhere. My roommate was a business owner from Seattle, Washington. Yes, ground zero for the US virus outbreak. If I needed information about COVID 19, I had reliable information in minutes. Following the recommendations of the World Health Organization, we too were eventually closed down and given the option of staying put or returning home.
If things weren’t difficult enough in my internal struggle, the Universe just added coal to my fire – or rather I added it myself. If you ever have the opportunity to know me, you’ll quickly learn I’m flighty and have a lifestyle that allows me to follow my whims at the drop of a hat. So, I’ve done a bit of traveling. You’d think that’s amazing and truly, IT IS! But in all my whimsical travel, I’ve gotten myself into predicaments I’d rather not been alone and so I’ve established a fear of flying. Not the actual, “get up in the air and stay there until your final destination” flying. No; more the logistics of security, the sitting on the plane for endless hours only for the flight to be cancelled nearing midnight, or the waking at 3 a.m. to make an early flight so you aren’t stranded in an airport late at night ONLY to wait the full day in the airport midway to your destination and then be stranded in the airport nearing midnight, this time EXHAUSTED. You create the scenario, I promise, I’ve lived some form of that dilemma in the airport… Alone.
My “Family” began to pick up on this Fear… might have been my pacing, maybe the incessant need for chocolate, or might have been my roomie overhearing me say, “I’d sit curbside in Newark, NJ all night before I would sit IN THE AIRPORT for 24 hrs during a World Pandemic!” Who knows, who cares; I was freakin’ out and it wasn’t a matter of muttering it to myself anymore. It was a matter of spilling it all over the place and into the Peace of the people around me.
I reached out to my network all across the US and took my meditative practice to the next level by booking a Bee session with author, Juls Amor. With the last of my money, except $20 I saved in cash for traveling, I laid atop a bed of stingless bees in effort to raise my vibration and shake the Fear long enough to ride a 2 hour shuttle, get on an airplane in an international airport and drive 4 hours in the midst of a pandemic in the mid of the night… Alone. Juls was as uplifting as an angel from the Heavens and I left the session with this mantra… “I’m protected- We are all protected.”
All of this sounds crazy as I type, but really, this is just a Life experience. I can’t make any of it up because I’m living it, as are you. Why would I share this story as it seems I’m adding chaos to the current chaos?… because it’s Life. It’s not that any of Us have perfect Life tools to manage because we added a mantra to our meditation. It’s how we learn to see and deal with Life and how we connect with those we’re already fundamentally connected that changes the chaos. This process for me is ever-evolving and today, You are apart of it.
My flight was cancelled 10 minutes prior to riding the shuttle and I was given a later, same day option or a next day option. I turned to Brit in my educational Family… “get on or stay? Talk to me, please talk to me!” “This shuttle gives you 8 of us in which to ride and walk through security… I say GO with Us now!” On I go. 2 hours later, we zoom through security and 6 of the 8 board and fly away. It’s down to Ellie and I. Little does she know, the hug she gave me when it was time for her to board was so encompassing, it could have filled the airport. She just didn’t let go and you guessed it, I felt “protected”… amongst travelers with face masks, 5 feet social-distancing announcements, disinfectant wipes and rubber gloves galore! Hours later it was my turn and every Fear I had played into fruition. If you’re thinking I melted to pieces, you’re dead-on accurate. It’s what happened next that carries today’s message.
The plane was almost full to capacity and we sat on the runway for just under 2 hours waiting for an extra, but unnecessary flight crew. If 5 feet social-distancing was required, we shot that rule right out the window! I tried to meditate, but felt stifled while breathing deeply as the woman behind me repeatedly tried to muffle her cough. One hour and 45 minutes into the wait, I had closed my eyes and buried my hands in Juls’ book, “The Year of the Frog.” “I’m protected, we are all protected,” I just kept saying it over and over and over. The loudspeaker breaks my pattern, “Hey! This is Captain Andy again from your flight crew. It’s occurred to us that you’re not aware of why we’re waiting so faithfully for this crew… You are on the LAST flight out for THIS airline from THIS airport.” Behind closed eyes I begin to sob desperately – the kind of tears that if you weren’t silent would project from your eyes like an animated character in a children’s cartoon. My thoughts are racing. “This plane is NEVER going in the air! I’ve done this before. They’re going to delay for as long as they can and then ship us back into an airport that will become a make-believe homeland of quarantined international vagabonds! Nooooooo way! No, NO, Nooooooooo!”
At that moment, at that very moment when I was debating frantically climbing OVER the refined elderly couple next to me and running hopelessly down the center aisle to WHAT – I have NO IDEA, but I was running anyway… I heard a voice, soft and even-toned, “Honey, are you ok?” Unaffected but tuned in, I reply, “Hmmmm, no.” “Are you afraid because I’m elderly and sitting next to you?” “Hmmmm, no.” “What can I do for you right now?” Eyes still closed, trying with everything I have NOT to burst a spray of tears all over the back of the seat in front of us, “Hmmmm…” Silence. Nothing came out of my mouth! Mind still racing, I think.. she’s waaaaay to kind for me to ignore – Who has this much kindness right now??? Eyes closed, “Ma’am, my name is Lisa… are you a therapist?” All I could think was HOW on Earth did I land a seat next to a therapist????? As calm as she began, she replies, “my name is Brenda and No, I’m not a therapist, I’m just old as can be.” Opening my eyes to turn and look at this Being – fearless in her 70’s, it was as if someone shot a sedative straight through my veins. “You and I can’t swim home so I thought you should know, Honey, we’re going to New York… tonight!” Without anything else from her, “I was protected.”
24 hours later I arrived at my front door in NY, exhausted but grateful… for Juls, Brit, Ellie, Brenda & and all of Us. I’ve wanted to tell that story to all of Us for days, but I kept it to a select group of friends and family because I thought it was too chaotic to add to the uncomfortable reality we’re living. Really though… it’s NOT. It’s exactly what we need right now… to know that everyone of Us, US or Worldwide (that I’ve chatted with) is staying home, doing their part, and feeling “something.”
Don’t be misled, I fully understand I’m including myself in those sentences above using the word, “Us.” In sharing with you, I’m reminding myself. The thing we’re NOT right now, is ALONE despite the reality that we’re confined to places that would make Us feel… Alone. In isolation, whether warranted or welcomed… Fear grows. I was not Alone on that plane. Some fascinating Universal energy sent Brenda to that seat next to me and with my eyes closed, I felt her Peace. Yes, touch is a beautiful thing and I long to hug you All, but for now, “we are not only ALL Connected and Breathe the same air… we are Protected.”
It’s important to me that you understand, I’m not sharing this Life experience and message from a seated, Guru position of enlightenment. Quite the opposite… I share it with Us as a way of processing it, as a way of connecting, and as a way of trying to see the Light I know is hidden in this time of chaos. In meditation today, tears quietly fell down my face as I realized every conversation I had yesterday was filled with COVID 19. If we aren’t infected, who are we kidding? Our minds are infected- or I’ll speak for myself – my mind is infected with Fear. I would praise a news channel to put a “Brenda” or a “Juls” on the prime time reporting hour and watch the Universe heal emotionally. For today, I encourage Us all to part with Fear, or to at least acknowledge it and let it sit in the Air to dissipate like the dark smoke it is. My tears in meditation are Fear and my resistance to sit in meditation is my resistance to that acknowledgement… I am afraid of what is happening around me.
… and with that honesty, the Fear lessens and the Reality sinks in… “we are not only ALL Connected and Breathe the same air… we are Protected.”
A huge thank you to Laura for a great senior session with The Camera’s Eye! Best of luck in your last year at OFA 🙂
Thanks to ALL of my 2019 seniors and families! Senior sessions might be over, but it’s never too early to start thinking about grad announcements. And if you want to use any of your photos for holiday cards, I need your orders in by Dec 1.! Contact me today 🙂
Hey, Tioga County residents! Don’t miss this amazing event on November 2nd and November 3rd! The Camera’s Eye will be shooting portraits to be displayed and for sale as posters throughout downtown Owego during the month of December. All proceeds benefit the Tioga County United Way! Just bring $20 and your best smile. You’ll walk away with a hard copy and a digital file to show your community pride all over social media!
Check out the Heads Up Tioga event page on Facebook! And if you’re a client of The Camera’s Eye from Tioga County, you KNOW I would love to see you again! Mark your calendars for this Friday and Saturday, and get ready to be the face of Tioga County!
Julie and Ike bought and have been renovating the historic building, which was in need of repair. They have already enjoyed a spot on HGTV’s House Hunters, which grabbed them international attention (after 6 days of shooting for the 22 minutes of airtime!). They are on their way to opening the inn during this upcoming holiday season.
As Julie puts it: “My vision for the Inn is to provide a unique guest experience, including the history of the building. The furnishings will be a mix of old and new with plenty of technology mixed in. We will have on-site catering available for intimate parties and weddings.”
While the inn’s future is invigorating, its history and namesake is just as important. Julie explains: “The thing that got me about Belva is that I was born, raised and educated in this country, and never heard of Belva Ann Lockwood until I bought this house. She ran on a national ticket for Presidency twice in 1884 and 1888 and stood for equal rights for all people. She’d be at the forefront of the equal rights movement today, but she’s not here, so I feel strongly that it is our job to help spread her message.
I’ve photographed Julie tour countless guests through the renovation project and I can feel her passion when she speaks of Belva. It moves me to tears, something very rare while working behind my lens!
Logan, who has a self-described “rather diverse background in horticulture,” became the owner of Farmer Brown’s a little over a year ago, and he has HUGE plans for the business 🙂
In his first season alone, he improved the store display and shopping experience, featuring products that were 85% homegrown, and even increasing sales despite the wonky weather we went through this year in the Southern Tier!
At Farmer Brown’s, you can now enjoy rewards for frequent purchases. Even more exciting, Logan has brought his brother-in-law Adam R. Coney on board as house designer, which puts them on the path of custom planting!
Also, just because the temps are dropping doesn’t mean Farmer Brown’s is done for the season. This year, keep an eye out for home-grown poinsettias and ‘Live From New York State’ Christmas trees. Logan and Adam hope to move to a year-round farmers market-style business, and are using this year’s holiday season to test the waters 🙂
To own a piece of Logan and Adam’s custom work and support The United Way at the same time, please visit our plant auction Facebook page! The auction is hosted by The Camera’s Eye, Farmer Brown’s Marketplace, and the Belva Lockwood Inn – sneak peeks are available up until the auction opens on Friday September 28th!
As the owner of The Camera’s Eye, I find networking with business owners vital to thriving in small upstate NY! Last week, I shared my love of gardening with the owners of the soon-to-open Belva Lockwood Inn and scored a fun gardening project that exploded with creativity and opportunity for two other local shops! Read through to learn how THIS WEEK you can own a piece of our project and support The United Way at the same time 🙂
Locals Julie and Ike Loveless purchased a dilapidated building at 249 Front St. Owego, NY and gained more than they bargained for with both a spot on the hit HGTV television show House Hunters AND a striking piece of history from the 1800s.
When Julie asked me to “fancy up” the half-torn-down porch for an official tour by travel bloggers converging for an international TBEX conference in Corning NY, I was “game on!” I drew in Logan Keeney, the new owner of Farmer Brown’s Marketplace, not only because his flowers adorn my property; his brother-in-law designer, Adam Coney, also created a stunning arrangement across the street from my studio that I used as a photo backdrop all summer!
Adam wanted to incorporate a shabby chic style to match the re-purposing of the old house, so off I went to Rusty and Jewel to beg owner Lisa Bystrak for wares that could create the look Adam desired.
Adam named the custom arrangements “A Cinderella Story” because they literally came to life in one night! The event went off fantastically, and construction at the Inn is now back in full force. Logan and I can’t handle seeing the Cinderella arrangements become covered in deck stain and wood-working dust, so we’ve decided to auction them off on Facebook with proceeds benefiting the United Way! Bidding is Friday and Saturday, September 28th and 29th – check out our sneak peaks all week!
Meet one of our 2019 seniors at The Camera’s Eye – MacKenzie, a soccer player from Maine Endwell!
MacKenzie is one of my many athletic seniors this year, and I really love her style! She brought a striking striped dress to the shoot, and a really soothing lavender top 🙂
She kept it simple and used her outfits to really capture her personality and style without going overboard, which I love!
You would never know from the photos that she had ACL surgery this summer – she was totally game to bring her brace along and take it off whenever we stopped to shoot.
You’d also never know that we had to reschedule three times due to the weather! Of course it was worth it – MacKenzie was amazing to work with, and we got just the right senior photo session to show her personality and style 🙂
We are booking up fast, but we still have a few slots for senior sessions in the next month or so! Contact us at The Camera’s Eye today 🙂
Hard to believe it’s partway through September! While we still have a few slots for senior sessions at The Camera’s Eye, we are already booking family portrait sessions in the great outdoors.
I LOVE working with clients to take advantage of all the natural autumn beauty upstate New York has to offer.
You can’t beat the light and the leaves for a memorable portrait shoot 🙂
September and October are the ideal months for your family photo shoot – this gives you some gorgeous options for your holiday cards, and lots of portraits as gifts for grandparents and other family and friends.