Astoria Artisans Shine Bright
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Dec 10, 2008 | 14768 views | 0 0 comments | 699 699 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Designers spread the word about the neighborhood

Astoria just might be the next fashion center of New York City, and local merchants made their case for that designation last Tuesday night.

“Starry Night, Astoria Bright” brought together dozens of the neighborhood’s finest clothing and jewelry makers for a night of shopping and socializing at the famous Cup Diner.

“People don’t think we have good shopping in Astoria,” said Cynthia Radalj, proprietor of Candy Plum boutique and co-creator of the shopping night. “There’s so many new stores, between restaurants and boutiques, we wanted to bring new customers into the area.”

Retailers from all over Astoria set up booths and tables inside the Cup Diner, creating a makeshift gallery of hand-crafted baubles, one-of-a-kind accessories, and locally-made outfits from the trendiest shops in northwestern Queens.

Shirts, dresses, bags, wallets, and necklaces were among the easiest items to find, and items would suit a gift recipient of any taste.

“Fashion is moving into a very hand-made, almost organic direction,” said Radalj.

The participating stores are part of a growing movement of handmade items, as individual artists and craft makers wanting to make a go at the fashion business are finding Astoria as an inexpensive, artist-friendly place to open for business.

“Just as a lot of larger businesses have been moving into the area’s traditional shopping districts like Steinway and Broadway, the shopping scene is moving to Ditmars, 30th and 31st avenues,” said Radalj, who explained that larger chain stores were also moving in to the neighborhood. “These smaller stores are offering something different and special.”

Working with Kristie Foster, owner of Kris Tees, Radalj has been organizing special events that highlight the best of local businesses. They put together a successful fashion show last June that showed off the summer styles of area designers. The show was such a hit, that they began considering another event. In September, they struck upon the idea of holding an event to encourage holiday shopping, which ultimately became Starry Night, Astoria Bright.

More than 50 stores rented out individual tables inside the Cup Diner, and hundreds of people came to shop and spend. The merchants and shoppers were ably assisted by a squad of silver-spandexed roller girls, who glided across the restaurant’s floor and made sure that everything ran smoothly.

“I’ve gotten very good feedback from designers,” said Radalj. “We had people from all over Manhattan and Queens coming out to shop. It was a very solid amount of people, and everyone I spoke to about selling or buying was very happy.”

The event was successful not just because of the large number of sales made, but also because it brought so many diverse Astoria businesses together under the same roof. The event was chance for neighboring - and even competing - stores to meet and familiarize themselves with each other, giving designers a chance to bond and help create a stronger shopping scene for both the owners and shoppers.

Hundreds of shoppers gathered at the Cup Diner for a gift-buying extravaganza that showcased the best of Astoria’s local designers and artisans.

Councilman Peter Vallone poses at Starry Night, Astoria Bright with the event’s roller girl facilitators.

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