When Suzette LaValle and Laraine Gordon were looking for a place to open their new business, they wanted one that felt like home. They had both spent much of their childhoods in Northport, and sought a community that would match the village’s artistic feel. Sea Cliff, LaValle said, was the perfect fit for Hummingbird, a new boutique that opened on Nov. 30 at 321 Sea Cliff Ave.
“I just felt that it was a very magical place when I first came here . . .,” she said. “It’s got a peaceful, harmonious feel to it, and that just emphasizes what I’m about.”
Hummingbird is LaValle’s second boutique. She also owns the Suzette LaValle Boutique, in Brooklyn. This is the first one, however, that she has opened with Gordon, who co-owns and co-manages the Sea Cliff shop. The two, who are in their 50s, met at a product sale in the Hamptons. After getting to know each other, they realized they had similar missions in life and decided to go into business together.
This is no ordinary partnership, however, because the two have markedly different professional backgrounds. LaValle entered the fashion industry not long out of high school, hired by Ertan Seyhun, the owner of the women’s boutique Vizio in Manhattan, to promote the store’s collections. By age 23, she was regularly traveling between New York and Paris to buy the latest items in fashion.
As her career progressed, she moved into fashion stylizing, learning more about the clothing and jewelry industry. In 2002, LaValle began buying products for a store called Institute in Manhattan’s Soho, and she remained there for six years before the economy tanked in 2008. Forced to leave the store, she became a freelance merchandiser, helping struggling businesses turn themselves around. Then she began selling accessories from around the world in street fairs and festivals, which led to the opening of her first boutique in 2014.
Gordon, in contrast, got acquainted with the fashion industry as a young model. Although she has maintained an interest in fashion, she earned a master’s in social work from Stony Brook University in her 20s and has owned a private psychotherapy practice for 24 years.
As a result, she is passionate about promoting wellness among her clients, she said, explaining that she looks at the whole person, not discrete aspects of his or her personality.
With Hummingbird, LaValle and Gordon hope to combine their passions into something special. LaValle said that they want the store to provide a harmonious experience for shoppers. She wants customers to sense the peacefulness they are trying to achieve by feeling the products, enjoying the atmosphere and focusing more on cultivating a style than on fancy labels.
“What sets [us] apart is the feeling that you get when you enter,” LaValle said. “There’s just a lot of harmony here, and it’s such a genuine experience.”
On display are different styles of clothing, jewelry and accessories, as well as wellness products like essential oils and candles. Gordon plans to teach wellness classes at the store once a month. “I really don’t feel like there’s anything else like it,” she said. “There’s definitely a feel of both of us in the store.”
Steve Warshaw, president of the Gold Coast Business Association, said he was excited to see what Hummingbird could bring to the community. The boutique, with a certain Manhattan feel, should thrive in Sea Cliff, he said.
“I think it’s the perfect kind of shop for downtown Sea Cliff,” Warshaw said. “It fits the artisan type of atmosphere they have there.”
LaValle and Gordon said they hope that Hummingbird’s impact on the community goes beyond its sales and shopping experience. They offer 10 percent discounts to teachers and nurses year-round, and LaValle said she wanted to mentor local young women hoping to become successful entrepreneurs themselves.
Hummingbird will celebrate its grand opening on Friday with a ribbon cutting at 3 p.m.