Koan does not fit neatly into any business description. It is part boutique (with a near even split between new and “upcycled” clothing) and part gallery that showcases and sells paintings, ceramics, sculptures, and more. There are even tentative plans of making it part greenery - “Customers could just bring in a seed and I would water it,” explained Manager Young Gun, a Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) graduate. This evolving concept ties in nicely with the store’s mission to support emerging artists of all kinds, and, unlike many galleries, Koan offers a favorable cut to the artist, donating the rest to charity.
On the retail side, many of the accessories come from the owner's travels - she has sourced vintage items in Tokyo, antiques in Denmark, and new designers in Korea. Always on the hunt for something one-of-a-kind, she was happy to highlight a pair of earrings by a Danish designer made from upcycled bicycle tires, as well as Glerups, felt slippers from Denmark, in an assortment of colors. She also takes great pride in emphasizing socially conscious retail and keeping the high-end inventory quirky, fun, and unpretentious. Designers like Matt and Nat, a company that uses vegan leather to fashion backpacks, help fulfill this goal. She has trusted Young Gun, whom she formerly used as a nanny, to manage the store and fill the space with other forms of art.
The personal network that has influenced and created Koan is endless. The main display at the time of my visit, featuring organic shapes that created spatial illusions, was done by Benjamin Langford, also a RISD alum. Fur, a chic line of skin products for sensitive areas by Emily and Laura Schubert, friends of Young Gun, took up prime shelf space. Even the colorful ceramic bowls were handmade by another of her friends, and the rest of the staff members were not only fellow art friends, but also Young Gun’s roommates. “This is basically a hub for people I went to school with,” she confirmed. Young Gun hopes to incorporate more performance art into the store in the future. For the time being, she can be found printmaking in the shop daily during down hours, much to the intrigue of passersby. As Young Gun put it, “Thank you, care.com!”
"The Two Faces of Italian Food" is the tagline at this restaurant and wine bar. The perfect blend they are referring to is tradition and innovation. The menu boasts homemade and traditional options - the wine list is not limited to Italian varieties, though the beer is. We stopped in briefly and relaxed with a glass of wine in their quiet back garden and spoke with one of the restaurant's partners as waiters set up for that evening's meal. When we asked him to describe the food that Giano served in a short sentence he told us humbly: "Italian food. No big deal. " Can't wait to try it!
Most business owners know how difficult it is to bounce back after being robbed. Makoto Wantanabe has done it twice and, ironically, has a thief to thank for the very birth of Tokio 7. Makoto was globetrotting in the early 1990s when he arrived in Southern California on what was supposed to be the penultimate stop on his tour. He befriended a homeless man and let him stay in his hotel room for the night, but Makoto awoke to find everything except for his passport was stolen. Stranded with no money and far from his home in the Japanese countryside, Makoto called one of his only contacts in the U. S., who worked at a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan. He scrounged up enough money for a bus ticket and was off. While in New York, Makoto felt that men’s clothing suffered from a lack of style. Having always had a knack for fashion, he knew he could change that but lacked the funds to open a store with brand new clothing. So, after several years of saving his wages as a waiter, he founded one of the first consignment shops in New York City. Tokio 7 now carries men’s and women’s clothes, with the overarching theme being, as Makoto says, that they are simply “cool. ” The clothes are mostly from Japanese designers and name brands with unique twists. In the store, clothing that has been donated with a lot of wear is labeled “well loved. ”Despite its importance in the community, the shop fell on tough times during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make matters worse, Tokio 7 was looted in the summer of 2020 and had 300 items stolen. When Makoto contemplated closing his doors permanently, longtime customers begged him to reconsider. Resilient as ever, he set up a small photography area in the back of the shop and sold a portion of his clothes online to compensate for the decline of in-person purchases. Reflecting on his journey, Makoto marveled at the whims of fate. Had he not been robbed all of those decades ago in California, he had planned to start a life in the Amazon rainforest
This small, old-world neighborhood barbershop is loaded with personality. Everything about Barbiere is unique: the whimsical wrought-iron gate out front, the retro hair and shaving products along the walls, and the high-quality, old-fashioned service. When we poked our heads in to chat with the barbers and their clients—all seated in vintage leather chairs—they were proud to tell us that James Franco is among the celebrities that drop by for a haircut or a classic shave.