Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
While the Co-op and Renato’s are fairly well-known on campus, most Swatties never bother to browse or explore the Ville’s small collection of specialty boutiques, much to the disappointment of the Borough’s store-owners.
Leila Kevorkian, owner of Finlandia, has managed her shop in Swarthmore for nearly 25 years. Finlandia features mainly European imports, including pottery, crystal, clothing, and accessories for the home. The store also sells local hand-crafted jewelry and items by American designing company Vera Bradley. Initially, Finlandia only sold goods directly imported from Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, often items Kevorkian brought back to Swarthmore from trips. “As it slowly became more and more difficult to import,” Kevorkian explains, “I had to start relying on suppliers of Finnish items in New York.”
Beverly Skarani, owner of nearby Poco Loco, similarly stopped her quarterly trips to Guatemala and Mexco as importing restrictions became tighter. Skarani began Poco Loco in 1990 as the clothing outlet of her original store, Galeria Mia, a few blocks away. The Galeria largely sold artifacts and hand-crafted items from Skarani’s trips to South and Central America. After running out of space at the “Mexican Market-style” Galeria, Skarani decided to begin a new location dedicated solely to women’s clothing, a risky move. According to Skarani (and several colleagues), “no one knew if it was [Skarani] or the store that was a little crazy” and thus Poco Loco was born. Galeria Mia eventually shut down, and the remaining clothing extension evolved as trips to South America became more difficult: “we now sell everything from anywhere: socks, scarves, purses, costume and silver jewelry, plenty of accessories, luggage tags, lots of little gift-y things.”
T. Bumble’s, a toy store just a few shops over from Poco Loco, has a stricter policy with regards to its wares. Owner Diane Somerdyk assures that she “does not sell anything with batteries [except for watches] and specifically no war toys or toys of violence,” a policy that seems to mesh somewhat with the College’s Quaker tradition. Somerdyk observes that, “often athletes wander in to buy Secret Santas for teammates. Students also buy special anniversary gifts for their partners. We have lots of stuff: plush toys, antiques, and just fun toys to play around with.” According to Somerdyk, T. Bumble’s also boasts a fair amount of regulars.
All three owners, however, complained that they did not get students in the store often enough. Kevorkian claims students wander in “infrequently or sometimes, mostly around holiday times.” A Ville-wide student discount offered a few years ago didn’t do much for Skarani’s trickle of College customers either. Each little boutique offers its own unique quirk that may warrant exploration (before elaborate conspiracy theories; see The Duchess), but high costs for small accessory items might simply not work on student budgets. Nevertheless, Skarani, Kevorkian, and Somerdyk all encourage students to browse their shelves.
Skarani warns, “don’t wait till graduation to check us out!”