BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A new home decor and gift shop is opening just in time for the holidays in Bed-Stuy, occupying a storefront that fomerly housed an independent black history bookstore.
Peace & Riot Pop-Up is owned by longtime Bed-Stuy resident and business owner Achuziam Maha and husband Lionel Sanchez, who say they're trying to fill a void for everyday gifts like greeting cards, candles and bath and beauty products.
"We're really trying to fill a lot of holes I think are in this neighborhood," said Maha, who previously owned the African home decor shop Ibo Landing. "We can't fill everything, but I definitely want to fill some of them."
The shop opens on Black Friday at 492 Nostrand Ave., the former home of the True South bookstore. The independent book seller, which focused on black history and culture, was threatened with eviction shortly after shop owner Monroe Brown was sent to the hospital with a stroke and brain anuerysm.
Brown's son, Ajamu Brown, tried to save the shop by holding a fundraiser, but ultimately couldn't afford the newly-raised rent. It closed in late September.
Now Maha and Sanchez hope they can bring a new sense of community to the area. In addition to selling gifts and furniture, the two plan to hold events in the space, including Easter egg hunts and concerts for kids, as well as art exhibitions.
Maha said she was inspired to create a more community-focused space by her grandmother, who lived just a block away in the house the couple now shares, and who every week opened her doors for community members to share her meals.
"I feel like it's my job to continue some of the stuff she was trying to do," Maha said of her grandmother. "[Making] sure we're tied to the community is important."
The two owners met at a concert 13 years ago and "haven't stopped talking since," Maha said. They were bandmates, started dating and were married four years ago.
Maha, an interior designer by trade, began looking for a location to open her new shop last year, and she jumped at the opportunity when the Nostrand Avenue location opened up.
Sanchez, who was laid off from Universal Music last year, decided to bring his social media and design skills to help the shop grow.
"I was always helping her whenever I could anyway," Sanchez said. "It was her vision that brought us to this place. I wanted to support it.'"
Now the two are each bringing their own spin to the shop, using the message in the store's name — Peace & Riot — to focus on the contrast in the items they sell: Maha focuses on more traditional items like furniture and candles, while Sanchez will stock the store with useful knick-knacks like novelty USB hubs and cooking equipment.
"We collaborate in everything," the Bronx-born Sanchez said. "We collaborate in life, we've collaborated in music— we just know how to work together."