Business climate key factor for choosing Claremont

Small businesses are getting a big boost in Claremont. Despite economic difficulties in recent years, the tides seem to be turning for local mom-and-pop shops looking to make their home in town.

This weekend, 2 Claremont stores are making their debut. Yale Avenue’s       Buddhamouse Emporium is preparing for its grand opening celebration Saturday, May 12, while The Green Gypsie at The Packing House gets ready to open its doors for the first time Friday, May 11.

The owners agree that, despite the risks of starting a new business, perks of the Claremont community make the challenges worth it.

“Claremont is a community focused on sustainability and giving back to small businesses,” said Amanda Reifel, co-owner of The Green Gypsie. “I knew that if there was one place my business was going to be successful, it was going to be in Claremont.”

Reasons for increased new development in the small business sector are twofold. The first is the recent signs of economic resurgence, according to Claremont’s Community and Human Services Manager Brian Desatnik.

“The weekends are reflective of what’s going on. It’s really crowded here,” he said.  

In addition, bigger development over the past couple of years is helping to lead the way for smaller establishments, Mr. Desatnik added.

“Newer development like the area west of Indian Hill takes a few years to catch on, but once it does, and people discover it more, it becomes a destination,” he said.

While opening shop was a scary experience for the co-owners of The Green Gypsie, it was something “that just felt right.” An alumna of Pitzer College, and lifelong resident of Upland, Ms. Reifel has always had a special affection for Claremont. She felt the small town, supportive of small startups, was the ideal location for her “green” concept.

The Green Gypsie, whose grand opening celebration will be held on Saturday, May 19, from 5 to 7 p.m., is an eco-friendly, sustainable home decor and accessories store. Products range from children’s clothes and pet accessories to bath products and kitchen supplies, all handmade in the United States. Many of the items featured in the shop are handmade by co-owner Angela Rossi. Ms. Reifel and Ms. Rossi hope to find more local inspiration to showcase as the store establishes itself.

“We want to find other local artists trying to break out and feature their talents,” Ms. Reifel said.

Temporary signage is up for Crepes De Paris at 510 W. First St. The French bistro-style eatery, which has locations in Brea, Victoria Gardens and Mission Viejo, will offer a variety of savory and sweet crepes in addition to soups and salads. Crepes on the menue include chicken and spinach, curry, chocolate, Nutella and dulce de leche, among others.

Charlotte Cousins of Buddhamouse Emporium at 134 Yale Ave., on the other hand, is bringing goods from far-away places into the hands of Claremont consumers. Many products were inspired by Ms. Cousins’ recent trip around the globe, including a stop in Nepal. Merchandise includes jewelry, tribal carvings, indigenous masks, music, books and accessories, and Ms. Cousins encourages guests to interact with the items.

“It’s a hands-on shop. They can bang the gongs, strike the bells and make the bowls sing, and touch everything,” Ms. Cousins laughed. “When mothers come in with their kids, I’ll say, ‘Don’t worry. It’s okay for the kids to hit the gong.’”

In addition to the products, Ms. Cousins will offer yoga, meditation and other instructional classes. Buddhamouse takes over in the space of The Tibetan Art Craft, which closed after the retirement of owner Lobsang Dorje. A regular of Mr. Dorje’s shop, Ms. Cousins decided to continue on in Mr. Dorje’s stead after retiring from an information technician job last September.

After a month of refurbishing and a name change to make it Ms. Cousins’ own, Buddhamouse officially opened its doors in March. The shop has become a family business: her boyfriend is working to refurbish; her brother’s artwork hangs on the walls.

“It’s a labor of love,” she explains.

Buddhamouse Emporium—named after an animal totem or symbol used for meditation—focuses on objects promoting peace, beauty and well-being.

“Peace for the Buddhist tradition, a nonviolent approach to life, beauty for the creative process, and well-being promoting all aspects that help our bodies as well as our earth,” Ms. Cousins said. “All the products in my store help contribute to those thoughts.”

In addition, Ms. Cousins is living up to that slogan by donating one percent of the proceeds of her shop to nonprofits supporting nonviolence, environmental awareness and the arts. May’s nonprofit focus, which will change on a monthly basis, is The Claremont Forum.

After the business ribbon-cutting ceremony tomorrow, May 10, at 5:30 p.m., Ms. Cousins will be holding a grand opening celebration this Saturday, May 12, from noon to 7 p.m. An art reception featuring her brother, Christopher Cousins, will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. and Phyllis Douglass will perform on the “singing bowls” at 1 and 5 p.m. Free gifts, food and chair massages will also be on hand.

Though there is always a decent amount of uncertainty in starting a business, Ms. Cousins is taking the challenges in stride.

“I’m still continuing my consulting so I’m not trying to make a living on this store, it’s just something I want to offer and have available. I’d like to see this become a little community center,” Ms. Cousins said. “I want people to come in and have an interesting and introspective moment. I hope they find a moment of peace.”

For more on Buddhamouse Emporium, visit Visit The Green Gypsie at Check out the menu for Crepes de Paris at

—Beth Hartnett


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