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!
I met Noella, co-operator of Oxbow Farms a few weeks ago at Farmer Browns Farmer’s Market in Apalachin, NY. Wow, that’s a lot of Farms in one sentence! Intrigued by the leap of faith she and her husband, Tim took to be the first local farmers to set up in FBM’s marketplace; I had to know more, so I packed up my gear and met her under the marketplace tent.
As a business owner, she’s engaging, knowledgeable and caring- everything you would imagine from a farmer who is dedicated to “growing food while learning resilience and adaptation in a changing world.” That’s their Instagram business description! As Covid restrictions begin to lift across the world and in the Southern Tier region of Upstate NY, where Oxbow Farms thrives, I knew this business would be the next focus of The Local Lens. Couldn’t we all learn a bit of resilience and adaptation in our changing world!
Noella and Tim had the same goals of producing food on a small scale with practices that support farm ecology without the use of any fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. The catch? They lived states apart, one from Massachusetts and one from Pennsylvania. They settled as a 29 acre, family-run farm located in a beautiful valley in Chemung County, NY and have 2 adorable girls who can be seen in the background learning the family tradition.
The farm sees the first and last frosts of every season, is the home of 6 mobile hoop houses, one wood-heated greenhouse, and has the adaptability to grow over 40 different crops each season. At this point in the growing season, their focus is on all kinds of lettuce. To offer a unique crop, Oxbow turned its focus to Asian greens like Mizuna & Senposai. To learn more about these amazing greens, drop Noella or Tim a message through their website where you can find a kitchen-full of recipes on how to eat these greens.
Where can you buy their products? 2021 marks our 12th season Noella and Tim can be found filling the bags of shoppers at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. They’re located at Stall 69, April through December.
Most recently, they have graced Farmer Browns Marketplace, under the large white tent at the entrance, Fridays 1- 5pm. Owner, Logan Keeney is delighted to have them as his roots in planting began at a organic vegetable farm in Pennsylvania.
An interesting note about Oxbow Farms, as we all have something more than what appears to “Be” at face value… they love Goats and have Bucklings for sale! Their pedigree-worthy Goat, Pumpkin produced 3 Bucklings this season- Fred, George, and Ron. If you’re like me and know very little about goats, a Buckling is a young male less than a year old.
Interested in purchasing a buckling or wanting more information about Oxbow Farms? Connect with owners Noella and Tim by following any of the links in this post or use the links below:
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.”
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!
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!
These two ladies filled out the applications for the Country Living Fair as a way to challenge each other and up their motivation. They made their applications as crazy and unique as possible, and it seems to have worked – they were both accepted to take part in the fair in Rhinebeck! I tagged along to photograph all sorts of art and antiques, and to meet awesome creative folk!
Both ladies bubble over with excitement and pride when talking about their experience at the Country Living Fair. It was a huge professional affirmation of their talents. There’s nothing like being supported and uplifted by other artisans with the same interests! It was a major instance of getting a foot in the door professionally, and it lets both ladies “take [themselves] a little more seriously” as artists.
The fair features about 200 vendors from all over the country – a mix of artisans and those who purchase goods for a store, such as antiques dealers.
So let me introduce you to a few of them! Striking Swedish country antiques from Jeffree Turney at Lone Ranger Antiques, South Florida/Sweden:
Heart of Ohio Antique Center. Abbey Knight came all the way from Springfield, OH to showcase the goodies she buys and sells all over the country!
GORGEOUS jewelry from Mary DeMarco /La Contessa, based in Baltimore.
Stunning handmade jewelry from Andrea Lithgow / Dandy Craft, down in Texas!
Anyone who has spent even a little bit of time on Pinterest knows that it is full of eager wedding planners! I think that second in popularity to photos of “The Dress” are photos of “The Bouquet” and “The Flowers.” These photos, however, wouldn’t be possible without a great florist like Tioga Gardens behind the scenes!
In the past, Tioga Gardens has created stunning arrangements for me to display at vendor shows. Check out these delicate and detailed finished products:
With all the running around I do with The Camera’s Eye, my car becomes my second home. It makes SUCH a difference to my day when my Mini Cooper looks and feels professionally put-together – even if I’m not feeling the part myself 🙂 I recently had my car detailed by Jacques Gates, owner of Valley Auto Spa in Sayre, PA.
He’s a full-time college student and Valley Auto Spa is a small side business, but he puts an incredible amount of care into his work. Jacques used to live in California, where he would go to a friend’s shop for detail work. Once he moved, he still wanted to keep his car spic and span, so he bought the equipment to do it himself. And that’s how Valley Auto Spa was born!
Jacques loves what he does, and it’s easy to see why – he gets the satisfaction of seeing cars leave his shop looking way better than when they came in.