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Bed-Stuy Pop-up Program Expands with 'Rough and Tumble' Boutique

By Paul DeBenedetto | September 24, 2013 9:07am
 Rough and Tumble is a new boutique in Bed-Stuy focused on locally-designed fashion.
Rough and Tumble is a new boutique in Bed-Stuy focused on locally-designed fashion.
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Although some of Bed-Stuy's rough-and-tumble image may have faded with the addition of $2 million homes and $10 40-ounce beers, a new boutique is paying homage to that history — at least in name.

The Rough and Tumble pop-up shop, at 351 Tompkins Ave., is the second shop to come out of Bridge Street Development Corporation's pop-up program, and focuses on selling locally designed clothes and artwork to Bed-Stuy residents, the shop's owners said.

Owners Tila Johnson, 29, and Jessica Pimentel, 26, met while working in retail, and wanted to use their experience to create a shop that moves away from mass market designs and focuses on handmade fashion from local sources.

"Being locally designed or made brings about a sense of community," Johnson said. "It's not made in China or India, some far off place, with no real connection."

Pimentel reached out to Johnson, who has a background in fashion merchandising, to help her with opening her own business. That was when they discovered BSDC's pop-up program, which they saw as a proving ground to eventually opening a more permanent space.

"We thought it would be a good idea to do a test market, to see how the neighborhood will respond," Johnson said. "Is it going to work long term? This is a very, very good way to test and see."

The goal of BSDC's pop-up program is to spur economic activity in the neighborhood, BSDC Economic Development Director Kenneth Mbonu said. BSDC works with landlords to set up small, three-month businesses in vacant storefronts, and in turn, the business owners get hands-on experience running a shop.

The nonprofit organization previously worked with designers Ose Ogbemudia and Colleen Wadley to open Bed-Stuy Popup Shop in May.

"They can get to understand the concept of micro-retail management and build their enterprises around that construct," Mbonu said. "They practice the marketing skills that will help draw the kind of profit they're looking for."

Although the shop only had its soft opening on Friday, as the website Subsocietal first reported, the two women have been encouraged by interest from locals, with neighbors popping in to say hello and welcome them to the neighborhood.

Fashionistas can browse selections from ShockVintage, BoyNYC and Nathalie Kraynina, as well as A. Bernadette, who design their pieces locally and work with artisans in Uganda to create the finished products.

Those special touches are what the owners said they hope to focus more on in the future as the shop expands — and hopefully when the duo open a more permanent store, Pimentel said.

"As long as it has some kind of attribute, where it's fair trade, artisanal, locally-made, locally-designed," Pimentel said. "It's actually so much more special."