SHINING CREATIVITY  Maria Bivins, proprietor of Life Repurposed, a resale shop on Main Street in Livingston Manor, has found that her fellow store owners who are women work together for the benefit of all. Photo by Marge Feuerstein

SHINING CREATIVITY Maria Bivins, proprietor of Life Repurposed, a resale shop on Main Street in Livingston Manor, has found that her fellow store owners who are women work together for the benefit of all. Photo by Marge Feuerstein

Women laying claim to Main Street

They own majority of Manor’s shops

 By Demi Budd | Manor Ink | October 2019

Livingston Manor, NY – In this hamlet in northern Sullivan County, there has been an influx of women-owned businesses in recent years.

You don’t see this often in many towns, but it’s becoming more and more common as we continue through the 21st century. In a time where equality is nationally a burning topic, women are stepping up and taking the roles formerly held only by men. This is refreshing to see, especially in a small town like Livingston Manor. The presence of women independently taking control of businesses in the workforce is an important milestone in establishing gender equality.

Here, many familiar businesses are owned by women. Jess’ Headquarters, Carole Edwards Realty, Nest, Life Repurposed, Long Weekend, and Morgan Outdoors are just a few examples. In an effort to learn more about these women’s experiences as business owners, I got in contact with a few of them and asked them about their perspective.

“I think it’s fabulous [having so many women-owned businesses]. Everyone is so supportive, and they’ve done great in just being supportive of new businesses here … I think there should be a lot of women-owned businesses,“ said Ninze Chen-Benchev, owner of the newly-established vintage furniture store Long Weekend.

The proprietor of Life Repurposed, Manor-born Maria Bivins has had a similar experience. “I think women tend to be more supportive of each other than men and we work together as a collective … I think it allows our creativity to shine,” she said.

The hamlet’s welcoming atmosphere drew in Meg McNeill, owner of Upstream Wine & Spirits. “I knew I was ready to open my own store,” she said. “But I was not eager to get into the ‘rat race’ in Brooklyn where I knew it would be more expensive to get my business open and run it day-to-day, and where I would also face more competition.” Having camped in this area for many years, she loved it here and thought it could be a great place to live and open her business.

ENCOURAGEMENT  Owner of a realty company, Carol Edwards advises potential women entreprenuers to perservere. Meg McNeil, below, finds inspiration in Beyoncé. Marge Feuerstein photos

ENCOURAGEMENT Owner of a realty company, Carol Edwards advises potential women entreprenuers to perservere. Meg McNeil, below, finds inspiration in Beyoncé. Marge Feuerstein photos

Helping each other

These women have found a tremendous amount of support from the other female business owners. Anna Bern of Nest, Lisa Lyons from Morgan Outdoors, Carolyn Walton Brown of Willow and Brown, and many others have all given encouragement to each other. They have created a support system for one another, and it shows.

They have found great success in their businesses and would encourage other women who wish to pursue a business of their own to do so.

“My advice to women who want to start a business is to stay committed and make yourself available. Being a business owner can be a 24/7 job, [and it isn’t easy] ... Be proud and support your town,” advised Carole Edwards of Carole Edwards Realty.

“The future is absolutely female!” said Meg. “I encourage any woman who wants to open a business to not think twice about doing so on the basis of her gender. Have confidence in your abilities, ladies; find yourself some awesome women who’ve done it before you and ask all the questions and advice. Do the math and go for it. And when you’re feeling discouraged, listen to Beyoncé. Who runs the world? Girls!

The time is right

It would seem Ms. McNeill is right; the future may well be female. Women are standing up to societal standards and doing what they want and what makes them happy. They are no longer required by society to be a housewife; that has been challenged since the 1950s. This is the 21st century. Now is the prime time for women to carve themselves out of the cookie-cutter image they’ve been pushed into.

Livingston Manor, and the women here, exhibit this needed distance from old-fashioned standards. They are serving our community – not just in the goods they sell, but in the energy they bring.

“Many of the business owners in town work well together and support each other. There is a great group of female business owners that put a lot of effort into their business and their community,” said Ms. Edwards.

Anyone can see how incredibly happy they are doing what they do. Any challenge regarding gender (or just business in general) doesn’t bring them down. This is part of what makes Manor a welcoming destination that draws tourists here. These women continue to pursue what they love, and having that positive energy in Manor makes our town even more appealing.