Meraki Boutik brings a passion for fashion to Main Street Saugerties

Vanessa Harrison in her “boutik.” (Photo by Christina Coulter)

The modern Greeks use the word “meraki” to describe a total surrender of one’s passion and soul to a calling. It’s a word sadly lexically lacking from the English language, but Vanessa Harrison chose the name “Meraki Boutik” as the label for her new 190 Main St. shop.

Adorned in fairy lights, Pinterest-worthy centerpieces, markedly intentional table displays of pieces that could be grouped into complete outfits and racks upon racks of designer clothing against a backdrop of exposed brick, Harrison has curated not just her wares, but the space itself. In one corner, huge box lights sit before a staging area for Harrison to take photos for her online Poshmark store, Meratik_Boutik. Her fitting rooms are separated by tall, power-washed 20th century doors, sourced from a garage sale in Hudson after a long search.

“I want people to come in here and feel like they’re going to spend time with their girlfriend, or at a friend’s house. I want them to be comfortable,” said Harrison. “I never want people to feel like they’re not welcome, even though [I carry] high-end designer stuff … I want people to come here, not just for the clothes, but to talk and have someone to be comfortable with. I think that’s what makes it different — a lot of high-end stores have high-end employees who can be snotty and not want to, whatever. I’m very supportive of women and want to help them feel good about themselves.”

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Some more visual details: Coach Converse sneakers placed carefully beside round-toed red patent leather five-inch heels; a striking violet Free People fringed dress; an impressive collection of folded designer jeans; a gray mink scarf draped over a mannequin beside a pile of faded one-of-a-kind T-shirts, the meanings of which have been lost in the sands of time; a table bedecked with many kinds of dazzling jewelry; and an impossible pair of size 11 purple suede Mary Janes. In the window, Harrison displays a size-6 coveted vintage Missoni Jacket, wool with ribbed sleeved and a high collar — priced at $549, Harrison said that it is currently the most expensive thing available in the store.

Harrison has 23 years total in the fashion industry and boomeranged back to owning a boutique after 12 years of working in retail. After owning Pique in Rhinebeck, she worked at other boutiques and in corporate stores like Vince Camuto from New York to Lake Norman, N.C. She said she’s happy to be her own boss once again.

“You move to one [store] and think it will be different; the clothes and the people are different, but it’s always selling, selling, selling,” said Harrison. “I don’t want this place to be like every other store you go into where someone jumps out and goes, ‘Hi, what can I do for you today?’ I [also] don’t want the store to be how a lot of people think when they think of consignment — stuff jammed on racks, smelly, you can’t shop. I want it to be clean, so you can look at everything.”

Cleanliness has been achieved at Meraki Boutik, with an impressive amount of merchandise, most from recognizable brands like Theory, Zara, Citizens of Humanity, Seven for All Mankind and Eileen Fisher. Harrison said that most of her collection comes from her own home — along with creativity in fashion, she said retail therapy has been her go-to method to handle stressors; her style icons include Jennifer Aniston and Sarah Jessica Parker, and she said that the most important element of style to her is comfort.

“No matter what it looks like, it has to be comfortable,” she mused. “You could wear an outfit that looks really good and be yanking and pulling it up, or be in heels that hurt, but when you put on a shirt or a pair of pants for the first time you know if they’re comfortable right away. I can tell from your face when I watch you try it on. You can’t just feel comfortable, you have to look at yourself and be comfortable in your own skin. Even if you look amazing, you have to feel the same way. I would never force someone to buy something just to make a sale — they’ll never wear it.”

Conversely, as a boutique owner (a profession that also often doubles as a therapist, a friend or a coach), Harrison aims to take those who seek her style advice just a little bit out of their comfort zone.

“I have learned, something that I really believe — I’ve had a lot of people ask me ‘what is the age bracket for this.’ I don’t believe in fashion rules, I don’t believe there is an age cut-off for dressing a certain way. I’ve changed so many people’s lives based on what they wear — I’ve learned that fashion isn’t just about clothes, it’s about how the clothes make you feel when you’re wearing them. There are no rules and, like I said, age limit. You have to be true to yourself.”

Harrison said customers who mention this article will get a 20 percent discount at her store; currently, her hours are Wednesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. You can contact Harrison or schedule an appointment on the Meraki Boutik Facebook page or at (845) 247-7642. Check out her Poshmark store at https://poshmark.com/closet/meraki_boutik

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