Owner of the award-winning Port Washington boutique wit & whim, Laurie Scheinman, had no intention of opening a store named after its unexpected nature in 2012 to give her sick father something to focus on. So it should come as no surprise that on Jan. 2 Scheinman announced on social media that she sold the store to four-year co-collaborator and visual merchandiser Krissy Harper and jewelry designer Jacquelyn Conte after “six, turn-my-life-upside down, wit & whimsical years.” Both Harper and Conte want to keep the philanthropy of the store alive while adding some new merchandise options and lifestyle workshops.
“Wit & whim was literally created on a whim,” said Scheinman. “The reason it came to be was because my father was very sick and he was given a few months to live and just to visit him was difficult. He was so depressed. To get his mind off of the fact that he was dying, my husband and I bought 6 Carlton Ave. We would brainstorm what to do with the commercial space.”
In 2011, Scheinman turned her living room into a flea market for hurricane relief, with products similar to those sold in wit & whim. Scheinman and her father brainstormed a fake store where 100 percent of the profits were donated to cancer.
“We were engaged and he kept living and as he kept living, we kept taking the store to the next level, but we never had the intention of opening the store,” said Scheinman. “Finally in 2012, he said we need to do our first buy and at this point, he had lived almost two years longer than expected. We opened the store on Sept. 28, 2012 and I told the first worker it was probably going to fail and I’d help her get another job. But it just grew and grew. It was profitable from the beginning and just kept going. But it was never even meant to be. I have a private practice and I had a variety of plans; one was not owning a store.”
Scheinman explained that she had been begging Harper to take over wit & whim for a while, but it was never the right time for Harper. However, Harper finally found a business partner to help her with the store and Scheinman knew she was handing the business over to a great team.
“I was working at wit & whim for four years,” said Harper. “I collaborated on branding and marketing with Laurie and basically helped her build the brand. When she decided she wanted to sell, she offered it to me to purchase. Jacquelyn and I were discussing partnering on something and I approached her with this and she said yes.”
Both artists, Harper and Conte met at a vintage clothing shop and soon realized they had many common passions. Harper, who makes handmade cards and other gift items, and Conte, an antique and vintage jewelry dealer, did markets together where they sold their handmade goods.
“I take vintage and handmade jewelry and repurpose them,” said Conte. “They showcased me at the store and kept me on because it was selling well and then before you knew it we were collaborating on the whole takeover. When I first walked into the shop, I thought it was such a cool shop.”
Harper and Conte both agreed that they found the boutique to be unique and the perfect fit for them. The two hope to keep the philanthropic spirit of the store alive by holding monthly special events in which the profits of those events will go toward a different organization each month. Events may include raffles, auctions and shopping events. Scheinman had previously donated the monthly profits to different organizations after expenses.
Some of the changes and additions Harper and Conte will be making include offering refurbished vintage frames and modern eyewear, introducing a skincare line and adding pet products.
“We want to offer lifestyle workshops like jewelry making, creative crafting and mindfulness chats,” said Harper. “When Laurie was creating wit & whim, she wanted it to be a community hub and we truly believe in keeping that part of the shop alive, so we want to keep doing that and have people try new things.”
The new owners are excited to continue Scheinman’s hosting of Long Island Makers. Each month, wit & whim features a different Long Island artist, allowing them to showcase their goods, give them exposure and allow them to make profit.
“We are just very excited about keeping the legacy of wit & whim,” said Harper. “We want residents to know that their favorite shop is still here. We’re still going to carry the same products. I don’t want them to worry about a whole makeover. It’s still going to be their neighborhood mom and pop shop.”
A grand opening party will be held on Saturday, Jan. 27, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the wit & whim located at 6 Carlton Ave., Port Washington, to welcome the new owners.