“The store is so important and a big part of the community. We didn’t want to lose it,” explained Yelena Ferrer, who owns Jane’s Exchange together with her husband, Rodney, and Jane, the daughter of the shop’s founder.
Eva Dorsey, a single mom-to-be, was seeking a consignment store for young mothers and children that was closer to her East Village home. Unable to find one, she took it upon herself to open Jane’s Exchange — named after her daughter — on Avenue A and East 7th. She sold her concept door to door, drumming up excitement from other moms at local daycares, parks, and schools. Over the years, it became a neighborhood fixture, offering maternity and kids’ clothing, baby gear, and toys “from books to bicycles.”
In 2018, Yelena and Rodney, parents to four children and frequent visitors to the store, learned that Eva was struggling to keep Jane’s Exchange open. They felt compelled to save the beloved business and became its new owners. When the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic hit and Eva chose to fully retire, Jane Dorsey joined the store as the third partner.
Today, Jane’s Exchange continues to be a whimsical space where everyone can stop by and browse its selection of specialty toys, check the donation bin, or read one’s child a story in the cozy library. “We created a place that people are always welcome to walk into with their family.”
Kenkeleba Garden, named for an African healing plant, is simply magical. We followed the densely forested greenery around to the back, arriving at a clearing that transported us to another world far from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. We were completely surprised when we landed in front of the sculpture garden, which is only visible from 3rd Street. From large African sculptures to collections of scraps or bricolage, a specialty of the Lower East Side art scene, we could not help but linger before doubling back and re-emerging onto the concrete sidewalks of 2nd Street. It was not until many months later, when we had the pleasure of meeting Joe Overstreet and his wife, Corinne Jennings, that we learned that this is affiliated with their gallery next door, Kenkeleba House. It is their life-long dream to someday use these grounds to build a museum that would house their massive collection of African-American art.