By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
The Hyacinth gift shop is set to close its doors and move its business to the Internet after more than 20 years on Bell Boulevard, taking its inventory of exotic gifts, jewelry and pottery into cyberspace for good.
Lynne Andrews, who bought the store from longtime owner Sarah Quart in the spring of 2001, cited the worst retail economy in 30 years as her reason for shuttering what she acknowledged was an institution in the neighborhood.
“The economic climate after 9/11 in New York City has been pretty devastating,” said Andrews. “Business has been considerably off.”
Still, she looked forward to expanding her product base of handmade crafts from developing countries “to provide economic justice and environmental protection to cottage industries around the world.”
Andrews pointed to ceramic beaded jewelry made by a women’s cooperative in Kenya as an example of her mission.
“We will increase our focus on that as we move our merchandise to the Web,” said Andrews.
Loyal customers have flocked for decades to the quirky store, its shelves crowded recently with everything from Nicaraguan hand-painted clay jugs to Nepalese jewelry, giant wooden dreidls to a butter dish with a sculpted elephant on top.
Brightly colored Philippine kites in animal shapes, wind chimes and mobiles hung from the ceiling in a jungle of artsy foliage.
Andrews has slashed prices on everything in the store and plans to move the remaining inventory to her garage in Flushing. She anticipated staying open on Bell Boulevard until May 25.
The store already has a Web page linked to Ebay, the online shopping and auction site but will move to the independently-operated www.hyacinthgifts.com within the next month.
“We hope our current customer base will help us get the word out,” said Andrews.
It was not clear what business would occupy Hyacinth’s former space. The property’s landlord could not be reached for comment.
Although Hyacinth’s physical presence in Bayside will be no longer, Andrews plans to keep the store active in the community by working with nonprofit groups in fund-raisers such as Queensborough Community College’s silent auction May 1.
Randy Mix, one of five part-time Hyacinth employees to be let go, called the store’s closing “disappointing.”
“I hear so many people say you don’t find stores like this out here in Bayside,” said Mix, an actor who lives in Flushing. “It’s like a little piece of Greenwich Village here in Queens.”
Bayside resident and longtime Hyacinth shopper Monica Amarillo agreed.
“I will also miss our little touch of the Village and all the beautiful things that are here,” said Amarillo. “The Web is accessible; unfortunately, it’s nicer to walk through a store.”
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.