Name: Luna Bella Avila
Occupation: Arts Programs Associate of the Lower Eastside Girls Club and La Tiendita Manager
Barrio: Lower East Side
How long have you been running La Tiendita?
Since its inception, last fall.
How and when did the idea of La Tiendita originate?
Last fall, we were trying to come up with a way to teach our girls about running a business, teach our neighborhood about buying fair-trade and local, and a place where we can sell our great products. Easy answer: open up a store.
How many people are involved in operating it? Who specifically?
Most of our programs are interconnected so we all help each other out. The gallery, performance series, and bake shop all have a relationship with La Tiendita. Orders to Sweet Things Bake Shop often involve La Tiendita, and vice versa. It’s an intertwined family.
Who makes the items?
Some items are made by women in Africa and some by women in Chiapas, Mexico. Some are made by our gallery artists, some by our performance artists. Some are made by our girls, and some are even made by our staff. We have a wide range of things in the store. You might find a chicken made out of plastic bags from Africa, or a stuffed teddy bear made by our girls.
How are the profits distributed? Where does it go?
It goes to a variety of places, depending on where it came from. All of the proceeds from products from Mexico go directly to our sister girls club – Club Balam.
What are some of the most popular items sold? Prices?
Our rose pins, made completely of recycled materials, are made by our girls. They are a hot item, and cost $2.50. People absolutely LOVE the plastic chickens, which come in different sizes and are made from plastic shopping bags. And of course, our Girls Club tee-shirts, which can be reconstructed on-site, are often snatched up.
What is its relationship to the Lower East Side Girls Club?
It is the second small business run by the Lower East Side Girls Club, and it was started as a way to teach members in our neighborhood about buying fair-trade. It was also set up as a teaching tool for our girls to learn about running a business and selling their wares.
Who have been some of your most interesting customers?
I once had a customer who had a lot to teach me about a doll we carry. I thought it was just a cute doll of a mother and child from Chiapas, but she demonstrated how the baby could be inserted into her tummy, attached to her nipples, or held by buttons that were strategically placed. She then bought all of our stock of mother child dolls.
Favorite/least favorite thing about NYC?
I love New York. I love to tell people that not only am I a New Yorker, I am a NATIVE New Yorker. New York is ever changing, but it’s the old spots that make it home.
Plans for the future?
I love The Girls Club. There is an in office joke about the first members being trained to become the future women who run the Girls Club, but to me it isn’t a joke.
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