Eclectic Martin City Boutique Reopens to a Community Ready for Renewal
As pandemic stress drags on, Debbie Beachner is offering to distract you with the beautiful, the familiar, and the refined. “Gilded Lily is a feel-good place to just wander, browse and relax,” says the founder and owner of the two-year-old boutique. “People come here when they’re looking for a little boost.”
The ability to lift your spirit is a lofty promise for a small retail business, but Gilded Lily certainly delivers for its faithful following. After being marginalized for weeks by a virus that’s shown no mercy for ‘non-essential’ shops, the boutique re-emerged on the Friday morning before Mother’s Day to charm its way back into business. The sun was shining, the breeze was light and a renewed sense of optimism was in the air on East 135th Street in Martin City.
“Sure smells nice in here!” remarked a voice as the front door creaked open. “Oh, hi!” replied Beachner, recognizing one of Gilded Lily’s regular customers. “It’s great to see you again. Thanks for coming in!”
A Boutique and Beyond
After a long time in lockdown, we’re all looking forward to getting back to the good life. And for people of a certain taste, Gilded Lily is the perfect place to start. Beachner has turned her boutique into a platform that elevates exquisite objects, simple pleasures, and sophisticated social engagements into an experience that gives special meaning to everyday life.
“It all begins with this house,” says Beachner, looking around the room, “It’s really the foundation of the feeling we’ve created at Gilded Lily and it makes the right first impression.”
The historic house Gilded Lily calls home sits on historic Martin City property and is widely assumed to be the last remaining original house of its kind along this stretch of 135th Street. Scott Rutledge of The Sharper Edge next door owns the property. He carefully restored and modernized the house after working closely with the family that once lived there. The structure now stands like a rustic monument to Martin City’s history and invites you inside to discover treasures as unique as our community itself.
Gilded Lily first strikes you as an antique store, but you quickly find it’s more than that. Scents of delicate perfumes and the finest teas fill the air as a menagerie of floral bouquets, fine china, books, playful figurines, and nostalgic accents fill your eye. Beachner says her store is more about the possibilities of eclectic taste than antiques. “We keep a balance of old and new items, and local art too. We’re constantly looking for the rare and one-of-a-kind.”
A French thread is clearly woven into the aesthetics at Gilded Lily, adding a cosmopolitan touch to the boutique’s personality. There’s an old-world charm that blends nicely with modern designs ranging from the quirky to the elegant. Classy jazz and Americana tunes follow as you explore from the basement to the upstairs bedrooms. The entire house is incorporated into the experience with even kitchen and bathroom areas artfully arranged.
“People come in, feel at home, unwind and look around. There’s something interesting in every room,” explains Beachner. “If you’re not there for at least 20 minutes, I need to enhance the display.”
There’s just so much to notice, examine and think about inside Gilded Lily, and Beachner loves bringing it all to life with activities perfectly matched to the kind of people who shop here. “I don’t want to just sit behind a counter and sell you something,” says Beachner. “I want to do something or make something fun while you’re here. I want you to leave with a memory and an idea that you can take into your own life and make it better.”
Gilded Lily memories are often made at afternoon teas where intentionally small groups might be treated to a scone, savory and sweet courses as well as properly prepared teas and maybe even champagne, all served on china with cloth napkins and vintage glassware. “We’ll discuss a specific topic like maybe the tea or the food we’re serving, or maybe we’ll talk about the history of afternoon tea and how it came to be,” says Beachner. “Sometimes we’ll stay for hours just enjoying each other’s company.”
Are book clubs more your style? The Gilded Lily Literary Society hosts monthly meetings that unite women across generations for light conversation in an environment they all find refreshing. Beachner also invites local artists to host workshops at Gilded Lily and a big backyard is a perfect place for special events like Art in the Garden, complete with live, local music. Beachner knows there are adjustments ahead for her event planning as a result of the pandemic, but she’s not worried about restrictions getting in the way of what her customers love.
A New Day and a New Appreciation
Gilded Lily finds itself in a new context within the pandemic era. Stay-at-home orders forced many of us into an up-close look at our house and home life. Some people have seen it as an opportunity to clean things up or get organized while others have embraced an urge to beautify. That’s where Gilded Lily comes in.
Since the roots of the boutique’s beginnings several years ago, Gilded Lily has always been about making the most of life every day and turning even the most ordinary experiences into something special. Beachner truly believes that living well includes beautifying the details, from the smallest things you touch and look at, to the simple ways you indulge yourself and stimulate your mind. And she knows she’s not alone.
“I think we’re having a moment,” says Beachner. “People are reassessing what’s important. They’re rediscovering home life, the way they move through their days, decorate their world, and spend their time. They’re questioning whether they should be enjoying themselves more. I think Gilded Lily fits right into that trend.”
Beachner takes her work extremely seriously. As you browse her boutique, keep this in mind: her fingerprints are on everything. She pours herself into the potential of even the smallest details and carefully positions every piece to look exactly right. She believes her commitment is critical because there’s a lot at stake. Her sales depend on her ability to connect people to her style and the items and experiences that express that style in their own lives.
“It’s hard to believe how much effort goes into the look and feel of this house. I’m up and down the stairs all day long, every day. It’s not about the money, it’s about sharing my passion and reaching others who understand and appreciate it.”
Beachner resets the entire boutique every few weeks — the entire boutique. She does it all herself according to her instincts and a lifelong love of creativity that started as a teenager accepted to art school. “People ask me about who does my displays,” says Beachner with a grin. “There are no elaborate visual sales strategies or cookie-cutter methods. It’s just me, arranging things to create a feeling of warmth and welcoming. I put my heart into everything you see in this house.”
The result is an especially unique boutique that amounts to its own, never-ending art exhibition. The historic house near the train tracks in Martin City is Beachner’s canvas, and you will find her hard at work inside putting her best on display for the delight of the community she serves. That’s what made reopening so important for the Gilded Lily.
“People are ready to get out and look around again. Orders started coming in over the phone before we even opened our doors. I’m excited to see my customers and they’re excited to see me. Some need gifts and some just need the presence. They just want to come inside for a little refuge, you know? This has really been tough on all of us.”>
It certainly has, but tougher on some more than others. What the pandemic has done to small, family-owned retail businesses is especially merciless. They’ve been forced out onto the edge of a battered economy to hang on by their fingertips with little more than persistence and luck to see them through. These businesses may be tiny with few employees and purposes that become luxuries in a public health crisis, but they’re still part of our community’s identity and deserve our support.
Ideas like Gilded Lily are expressions of who we are. They may not draw the same attention as bigger businesses, but they do help connect us to our way of life and what makes our heartland culture feel like home. And after everything that’s happened this spring, we need all of the connections we can get. Beachner asks you to give that some thought.
“Please get out and shop local at all levels, not just when you eat. Retailers are out here too. We’re your neighbors and we’re here for you, ready to help any way we can. Need a gift? Let’s find something. Feeling a little stressed? Let’s share some tea and maybe find a book. Want to just sit and talk? Great. That’s what neighbors are for and it’s also why the working theme inside Gilded Lily right now is ‘Welcome home.’ I think it’s going to stay that way for a while.”