When the Kon-Tiki Trading Co. went out of business in May after nearly three decades at 70 Main Street, many local residents bemoaned the fact that the eclectic curio shop would no longer be a part of the New Paltz scene. But MaryAnn Tozzi of New Paltz and Ana Lynn of Gardiner did more than waft nostalgic on Facebook, joining forces as business partners to re-open a revamped version of Kon-Tiki Trading Co. under a new name. The Kon-Tiki Trading Post of New Paltz is anticipating opening its doors by the end of the month.
Neither Tozzi nor Lynn have been shop owners before, though Tozzi has a history working in retail and Lynn oversees various business interests of her own. The two have complementary personalities and strengths, and their business plan for the new venture is well-thought out, incorporating much of what people loved about the old Kon-Tiki with ideas of their own.
In a recent conversation held during the course of renovations at the shop, Tozzi says she has memories of visiting the store going back as far as she can remember. “I always loved Kon-Tiki. And when the landlord posted on Facebook that the store was closing, I reposted it, and said that I wished I could keep the store open.”
A longtime acquaintance of Tozzi’s, Lynn saw the repost, and reached out. “Kon-Tiki has been a fixture in this village for a very long time, and a lot of people, including myself and MaryAnn, were sad to see it go. So I said to her, ‘Maybe we can save it.’”
Lynn says she’d had it in the back of her mind for a long time that Tozzi would be a good person to go into business with. “She’s a very interesting person and has lived here her entire life. She knows this area inside out. She’s a fun, outgoing people-person, and she has a lot of retail experience.”
The two almost lost out on the space when it was initially rented to someone else, but when that business dropped out, and the store became available again, they acted quickly.
Some of the Kon-Tiki experience will remain the same, notes Tozzi, who says she always appreciated how comfortable she felt in the shop. “You could really talk to the people who worked there, and I really felt like they had a heart and soul. And I don’t want to see that go.”
But while much will feel familiar when the new space opens up — the new owners acquired the fixtures and merchandise left behind by the departing Montesa family who owned Kon-Tiki for 29 years — “It’s not going to be a head shop; we’re cutting that out completely,” says Lynn. “We’re trying to create a mix of ‘best of the old and the new.’”
Currently the space is receiving a coat of fresh paint and waiting for the new and old merchandise to fill its shelves. “Our target customers are locals, tourists and the college students,” says Lynn. “We plan to have something for everyone.”
For the tourists, they’ll carry souvenir items. For the college students, who don’t always have access to a car, they’ll sell items to make everyday life easier. And in the effort to draw local families, there will be a lot of kid-friendly products and toys, which, she adds, they hope will fill the void left in the village with Enchanted Toys on North Front Street closing. “There are a lot of gift shops along Main Street, so rather than compete with everybody else, our goal is to try hard to offer something a little different, a little unique, that you can’t find anywhere else in town.”
The shop-owners also plan to show local art on the walls for sale and carry jewelry and handcrafts made locally. Lynn, in particular, is very interested in bringing in “green” products for sustainable living, such as reusable drinking straws, reusable bags and zero-packaging items. “The bottom line, is, what are people going to be excited about?”
Once the shop is up and running, they will also maintain a tribute wall in Kon-Tiki paying respects to past New Paltz residents such as Ludwig Montesa and Erica Chase-Salerno, who even though they’ve passed on, left behind a major impact on the community. “People who had a heart in New Paltz,” explains Tozzi.
Keep an eye on Instagram and Facebook to see when Kon-Tiki Trading Post of New Paltz will open, and a website is in the works.