BY KATHY KAHN
For more than a quarter-century, Strawtown Jewelers has been a fixture on New City’s South Main Street.
When owner Ellen Arkin decided to retire to Florida, Rockland ARC stepped up and bought the popular store. “For many years, ARC of Rockland has been successful in encouraging members of the business community to hire people with disabilities to work in shops, stores and other venues throughout the county,” said ARC’s executive director Carmine Marchionda. “It’s for us to lead by example.”
Arkin is staying on to help with the transition while ARC’s job coach, Jessica Lowther, familiarizes herself with the store’s operations and work with the staff. With an accounting degree from St. Thomas Aquinas College, a degree she paid for by working in a jewelry store for four years, “Jessica is the perfect fit for this venture,” said ARC’s Anna Gottlieb.
Strawtown Jewelry will keep its name and location on South Main Street, paying taxes just like its neighboring store owners. Items purchased in the store are not tax-deductible— but you can’t put a price on good will you’ll be wearing every time you put on a piece of jewelry purchased there.
“This venture is a national trend,” said Gottlieb. “We still some in-house positions for our clients but the goal is transitioning to Main Street USA. We are so lucky to have Jessica’s experience in both accounting, the jewelry business and in her dedication to those who are disabled who will work under her.”
While many who are disabled work in the community, purchasing Strawtown gives ARC a hands-on opportunity to help mentor clients and giving “Shop Local” a new meaning—supporting local businesses as well as giving the developmentally disabled the opportunity to truly become part of the fabric of the community.
For Arkin, she will miss Strawtown but is pleased to have sold it to ARC of Rockland. “They will do a great job running the business, and I like knowing they will employ some people with developmental disabilities.”
For Lowther, who will manage the store, “I grew up with a family member with a disability—this is a special opportunity for me to use my accounting skills, knowledge of the jewelry business and my love for those who have special needs—a perfect combination. I couldn’t be happier!”
For ARC client Mindy Goldenberg, it’s an opportunity to learn the jewelry business and to work in a mainstream environment. “I’m a little nervous…but I am so glad to be working here and learning. I love the store and I’m very happy to be here.”
More information on the programs and services offered by ARC of Rockland can be found at www.rocklandarc.org.