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Elizabeth Cecil

8.1.19

Shop Talk: Where it’s Always June

A new boutique takes root in the place Bananas once grew.

There’s a new kid on an old block of North Tisbury, that small commercial stretch of State Road as it wends and winds up-Island. Perhaps you’ve spotted the understated sign – June: A Clothing Shop – on a familiar front porch; the Greek revival building, built in 1850, was the original North Tisbury post office and later a full-service ice cream shop (with an onsite cow hard at work in the back), a single-pump gas station, a restaurant, a bookstore, and most recently, the long-running women’s boutique Bananas.

June owner Gina Solon hadn’t planned on opening a retail shop, but she hadn’t not planned on it, either. “I was doing the stay-at-home-mom thing,” she said. We sat in the shop’s remodeled storeroom in an inviting lounge area tucked against racks and a corner bookshelf showcasing dresses, breezy tops, and folded stacks of textiles. Solon, who has two daughters, saw a pattern between major milestones and big decisions. “When Isla went to kindergarten, we got a puppy,” she said. “When Simone went to college, I did this.”

Which isn’t to say that this – the purchasing of a business and taking over of a lease – happened overnight. “I always thought about having a sweet little shop,” said Solon, who in addition to raising children had worked developing recipes for the magazine Edible Vineyard. A longtime resident of West Tisbury, Solon had frequented Bananas for years. “I used to pop in here and saw the potential,” she remembered. A few years back she mentioned offhandedly to owner Judy Hartford that if she ever thought of selling, she should get in touch. “Judy said she needed five more years,” Solon said. “A year later she called me back.”

Hartford and her husband, psychologist Thad Harshbarger, had decided on a move to Hudson, New York. Both women liked the idea of creating a smooth transition for customers. “I worked in the shop last summer, and officially took over in September [of 2018],” said Solon. She kept the boutique open as Bananas through the fall, and then spent the winter remodeling and ordering new inventory, reopening as June in late May.

While it might seem like a quick turnaround, Solon had quietly been building a brand through her own personal tastes and values as a consumer. “It was less about loving clothes in general and more about loving a specific kind of clothes,” she explained. In recent years she noticed that she was shopping and buying in a more thoughtful way. “I was thinking about quality over quantity, really thinking about the time that goes into each piece and investing in smaller, independent, women-owned brands,” as well as brands owned by women of color.

When the time came to build her own vendor list, therefore, she had a good idea of who to approach. “I had a lot of vendors already earmarked,” she said. Almost all of the brands she carries in the shop – including New York–based designer Ilana Kohn, organic cotton line MATE, and the made-to-order brand Seek Collective – are brands that she had been buying herself for years. As well as promoting ethical, primarily U.S-based brands, Solon made an effort to be size-inclusive in her ordering.

Solon wanted to keep the focus on ethically sourced, sustainably made clothing and not attempt to do too much too soon, as is evidenced by the look of the store. The space feels airy and uncluttered, with just a few choice accessories – jewelry made by friend and Islander Hannah Keefe, and charcoal drawings by her husband’s uncle, the artist Allen Whiting – complementing the racks of flowing fabric.

As she pitched her shop to brands – many of whom are young, and new not just to the shop but also to the Island – she was mindful of the legions of loyal Bananas customers who would be returning to find their favorite up-Island boutique in different hands come summer. “It was important to me to keep Judy’s customers in mind,” Solon said. “I wanted to give the shop an updated, brighter look, but I still wanted them to feel comfortable.”

Luckily, Solon and Hartford saw eye to eye on some basic elements of style; both look for unique, well made pieces that prioritize comfort and wearability. And since many of the ethical and sustainable brands Solon admires tend to design along similar values, she is hopeful that long-time Bananas shoppers will continue to find the fit and styles they come back for year after year.

So far, the feedback from patrons, both new and returning, has been positive. “They’re very discerning,” Solon said of the latter group with a smile. There is generally a pause as they take a first look around the markedly more minimalist space, she said. But all it takes is a quick sweep through the racks, maybe a few try-ons in the updated dressing rooms, and they’re convinced.

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