When artist and entrepreneur Karen Berelowitz visited her friends in Kingston’s Rondout, she thought it would make a great place to open the first retail store to sell her unique line of Karmabee products. Unlike other areas she had considered, she found Rondout to be, “A village. It is a community in the middle of a larger city. It has all the conveniences of city living but it has the feeling of a small town.” When she saw the space at 73A Broadway, with its original tin ceilings above a lofty storefront, Karen knew that she had found the perfect home for her “new” store.
The storefront location is new, but Karen has been retailing her unique line of Karmabee products since 1997. If the simple, yet evocative, black drawings on t shirts and note cards seem very familiar, it is probably because we have seen them at the Kingston Farmers’ Market Craft Fair (and over 100 other craft fairs), at the Omega Institute, at the Cornell Studios” “Wild About Butterflies” exhibition, and on line on Etsy and at Karen’s on-line sites at karmabee.com.
People who attended the jam-packed November 5th opening got to see the wide range of available Karmabee products. The storefront features original black & white drawings printed on clothing for babies, kids and adults, as well as notecards, dog tees, winter hats, framed prints, jewelry, and other unique gifts. There are coloring books that are just the right size for tucking into a stocking, with Karen’s bold drawings to inspire original coloring combinations from young artists. For those who would like to send a holiday card that did not come in a pack of 25 identical cards from the department store, Karen’s most popular holiday themes are available in a specially priced packet. There are also stocking caps and home decorative items.
Now that she has a retail space, Karen is also going to feature framed works and crafts by other carefully selected artists. The shop will also feature classes, workshops, and special events. Visitors to the store’s website can sign up for a monthly newsletter listing all the upcoming events.
Karen was born in South Africa and has traveled around the globe, and has lived in California, Costa Rica, and Washington DC before settling in the Hudson Valley, NY. She received her Master’s Degree and spent 12 years in the field of International Development, with emphasis on development in Central America. In 2006, she took a “short vacation” to the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck…and she never left! In fact, she lives at the Institute during its open season! It was at the Institute that she was finally convinced that her intricate and expressive “doodles” that she’s been doing since her school days might have a commercial future. As an experiment, she printed a few designs on postcards, and was amazed when they sold out, at the Institute’s craft events. Karen began retailing on Etsy in 2007.
While some designs, like a gleefully ornate elephant and a festively howling coyote, have become customer favorites, Karen is unlikely to ever run out of new designs, or new ideas for products. Having a retail store as a “home base” is a new experience she is relishing–her operation has been developed to be portable, since she has been living at Omega from April through October, and then moving to a temporary studio, or traveling around the United States from craft fair to craft fair. As long as she has music, and “coffee in the morning, chocolate in the afternoon, and wine at night,” she can “doodle” a seemingly endless stream of her unique images of the world around her. Fortunately she also enjoys the production part of the business, scoring note cards, silk-screening stocking caps, and filling computer orders.
Shoppers in the Rondout can now have the instant gratification of stocking up on Karmabee originals for the holidays without having to boot up the computer or visit a craft fair. Karen can even accommodate special orders, for those whose gifts have to be absolutely unique! Karmabee will be open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 7pm for the holiday season!