The new L.I. Boutique and Art Gallery, a business that puts the spotlight on Black entrepreneurs, artists and artisans, opened its doors in Mastic on Monday.
“We have quite a few different things — it’s not just clothing. We have some unique pieces,” says owner Philana Aiken, a photographer and entrepreneur who also owns Phenomenal Reflections, a selfie and portrait studio in Patchogue.
Noting that there are many Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs working on their own or sometimes in competition with one another, Aiken aims to create a space to bring the creators and community together.
“This is what this business is really about: It’s just me getting some other business owners together and trying to stick together and support one another and hopefully lead by example where somebody might want to help somebody else,” she says.
LOCAL BRANDS TO SHOP
The boutique carries clothing lines from Black-owned clothing designers, including LIRClothing and Natural Born.
Based in Bay Shore, NaturalBorn, owned by brothers David, Terry and Michael Simon, features a line of hoodies, sweatsuits and tracksuits, with plans to soon add a line of women’s clothing, denim and sweaters.
David Simon says he met Aiken when he started his business and is eager to collaborate with her.
“It feels great to be a part of something that is becoming more and more prevalent in the Black community,” he says. “To be in a store and feature products that our community can be in touch with — that is a great thing to bring everything full circle and be able to just represent where you’re from and help have an influence.”
Available in malls and small boutiques on Long Island, LIRClothing, a line of everyday, comfortable sweatshirts, T-shirts and hoodies, has attracted a loyal following with celebrities, NFL and NBA players, says owner Anthony Harris, who started the business in Riverhead a decade ago.
Harris’s belief in loyalty — LIR stands for “Loyalty is Royalty” — is evident in his commitment to his hometown of Riverhead, where each year he gives away backpacks filled with school supplies, turkeys on Thanksgiving and toys at Christmas.
Having known Aiken for 10 years, Harris says it’s a privilege to be one of the first brands in her store.
“She approached me 10 years ago and said ‘I want to be a part of what you got going on’ and now it’s a blessing for me to be a part of what she has going on.”
PRODUCTS THAT PROMOTE HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Health and wellness products also hold a prominent spot in the shop, from Xblendz blenders for healthy smoothies on-the-go to Melanin Savage's waist trainers and other fitness equipment.
Started in Franklin Square in September 2020, Xblendz sells portable, battery-operated blenders in pink, green or black, notes owner Jamall Lynch.
Working exclusively online and at trade shows, Lynch is excited to make his foray into brick and mortar with this partnership with Aiken.
“My biggest take-away from her was that she’s very big on helping other people get their business to the next level,” Lynch says. “Even if you don’t have a business: just keeping the community together and spreading the word of knowledge and unity.”
L.I. Boutique will also be Coram-based Melanin Savage’s first retail experience, says owner Kenya Crump, who’ll be offering waist trainers, workout outfits and more.
“I’m very excited to expand my business,” says Crump. “We don’t have anything out here and for [Aiken] to want to do this, is very exciting.”
ART TO INSPIRE
The art gallery will feature rotating artists working in a variety of media, but with one common theme: inspiration.
Currently, there are works from Quincy D, a Virginia-based artist, who creates oil and pastel paintings of celebrated names, including Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Jordan, Snoop Dog, Tupac Shakur and other hip-hop artists.
Also on exhibit is Amanda "Semente" Caroline de Oliveira Pereira, a Connecticut-based multimedia artist whose creations include a painting of the Black Panther, a multimedia piece featuring two black mermaids, and some other uplifting works.
L.I. Boutique and Art Gallery will be a family affair and Aiken anticipates that all four of her children — ages 16 to 23 — will help mind the store.
Creating a relaxed retail vibe, Aiken has added a coffee bar in the shop where people can sit, relax and enjoy the music playing in the background.
There’s also a separate space in the back for birthday parties or special events.
“It’s kind of like a little private venue space to have nice little intimate gatherings,” says Aiken.
L.I. Boutique and Art Gallery is located at 272 Moriches-Middle Island Rd., in Mastic. The shop is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; 631-578-0097.