In one of the worst economies since the Great Depression, it takes nerves of steel to start a small business right now. The stakes are high, the odds are long. Most entrepreneurs are opting to wait for better times. But not 23-year-old Juda Leah Selkowitz of Shokan.
After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2008, Selkowitz was poised to make a name for herself in New York City. She had completed several internships and made promising connections. But by the time she was ready to make the leap from formative but pro bono interning to a paid gig, a hiring freeze had gripped the industry. Rather than wait it out, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Eighteen months after graduation, Selkowitz secured the necessary funding from her extended family, found a location, negotiated an affordable rent and bought out the assets of the clothing company directly across the street. Just like that, the Juda Leah Atelier and Boutique was born.
She’s confident the investment will pay off.
“I’m not scared in the least,” Selkowitz said. “I’m in a good position.”
With its custom designs and Selkowitz’s NYC pedigree, the boutique is a good fit on a strip that includes shops like DIG and Rock Star Rodeo which have have slowly but surely injected a hip feel to the quaint village.
“Saugerties is really chic,” says Selkowitz. “I recently read an article where someone referred to it as ‘Little Brooklyn’ and I think that’s a really realistic way to see it. It’s different than Woodstock, and there needs to be another town [for tourists] to visit up here. Saugerties is that town.”
Area businesses have been welcoming. “I think we all wish success for each other,” she said.
The clothing isn’t aimed to suit any particular style and Selkowitz says she’s open to custom orders from any man, woman or child regardless of how fashionable they are.
“I want to offer a real shopping experience that’s fun and eclectic,” she said. “I’m not just selling vintage clothing or little trinkets. I’m selling my own custom designs.”
Two years ago, Selkowitz created a dress that won Bridal Guide’s Bridesmaid Dress Makeover Challenge, and last July one of her creations was worn to Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.