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By Robin Jovanovich

Keeping a retail store’s engine running smoothly for 20 years requires savvy, taste, good listening skills, loyal salespeople, and luck. Lucky for Rye that Catherine Parker possesses those and more.

The owner of Rye’s one and only travel store says brightly, “I’ve always looked at the store as a work-in-progress!”

Parker, who is also our County Legislator, and someone you can count on to step up and head a community committee or a nonprofit in need, says her business wouldn’t have survived two floods and the 2008 Recession without the community’s support.

“Our heyday was before shoppers migrated to Amazon,” Parker acknowledges, “but thankfully many residents still value having a downtown and retail shops. Before the February school break, Christine Siller walked in, bought a ski parka here, instead of online or at the mall, and posted great things about the store. Pretty soon dozens of other people came in as a result.” She adds, “Whether it’s a nice comment on Facebook or Rye Moms, every one counts.”

Parker says she is not only fortunate to have longtime sales associates like Marlene Trienekens, who’s been with her for a dozen years, but also high school students who needed afterschool jobs and many adults between jobs. Her newest hire is Tony D’Onofrio, who helped his mom Peg run another longtime business, the Smoke Shop, for many years. Tony works weekends.

While Parker’s early focus was everything-travel, she soon ventured into lifestyle. “We’re now not only selling suitcases, we’re packing the bags!” she says with a smile. “We’re Rye’s answer to a mini department store.”

Understanding that a bricks-and-mortar store is “experiential and should be inviting and ever evolving,” Parker continues to tinker with the look and feel. Regular shoppers may know where to find the latest Briggs & Reilly bags, Barbour jackets, North Face fleeces, laminated city walking maps, and leather passport cases, but Parker also knows how to surprise us with new and fashionable clothing and accessories in unexpected spaces.

She does her best to compete with online competition. “I stock a plethora of styles and colors, but can’t afford to have the outliers. While I can get most things quickly, sometimes it’s not soon enough for the shopper who needs it that day.”

Coming soon are men’s bathing suits and an array of light and easy-to-pack travel clothing. Smart shoppers should make a point to stop by sooner to pick up the last of the great winter sale items.

Parker, who’d never worked in retail until 1995, has learned a lot about the business these 20 years. It wasn’t her first love, but travel was. “My mom, who taught school, did part of her Master’s degree in London. We traveled all over Europe.” Catherine was a high school exchange student in Sweden and while in college studied architecture and sculpture in Pietrasanta, Italy.

“I always loved researching trips in college,” recalls Parker. After college and a fair amount of traveling, she helped out a friend who was working at the Traveler’s Bookstore in the Time-Warner Building. “A light bulb went off! I talked to my parents about the idea of opening a travel store in the city. To their credit, they never blinked. All my dad said was: ‘You need a business plan.’”

In the ensuing “364 days,” Parker worked at the Civilized Traveler in Manhattan and learned “what not to do.”

Confident that she could own and run a travel store of her own, Parker started looking at retail space in the city, but an inner voice told her it was time to come home to Westchester, where she was born and raised.

“Finding out that the former Greeley House space was vacant, I called the building owner on a lark,” she explains, and the rest is good retail history.

Caption:

Catherine Parker flanked by her mother, Barbara Dannenberg, and longtime sales associate Marlene Trienekens

In Spiritual Song

 

 

The Christ’s Church Choir will present their first solo concert in many years Sunday, March 12 at 4. They will sing favorite choral works to raise funds for their 2018 pilgrimage to England, where they will be choir-in-residence at Truro Cathedral. 

 

Accompanied by organ, harp, and violin, the chorus — 16 boys and girls and 18 adults — will be led by Christ’s Church organist Ruaraidh Sutherland in a program of classic spirituals and anthems by Dawson, Bainton, and Wood. The program will conclude with Gabriel Faure’s evergreen <Requiem> (baritone soloist, Simon Riker).

 

 

A reception will follow in the parish hall where CD’s of the choir and information on the pilgrimage will be available. Admission for adults is $20, with children in full-time education admitted free. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information. 

 

The Rye Y’s Togetherhood Committee will host an afternoon for the Cards for Hospitalized Kids organization. Drop by the Y’s Child Care Room on Sunday, March 19 between 1:30 and 3:30 to make a card — or two — for a child who is facing serious illness. No registration necessary.

This family event is open to members, non-members, and kids of all ages. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. For more information, contact Denise Woodin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Chamber Music at Rye Presbyterian

Chamber Music at Rye Presbyterian will present the second concert of its 2016-2017 season Sunday, March 19 at 2:30, with a program of works for piano and strings. The concert, to be given by pianist Jeewon Park, violinist John Marcus, violist Toby Appel, and cellist Edward Arron, will feature works by Franz Schubert, Joaquín Turina, and Johannes Brahms. This year marks the 220th anniversary of Schubert’s birth and the 120th anniversary of Brahms’s death.

Rye Presbyterian Church is pleased to have this series and these musicians as a part of its larger outreach to the community.

Tickets may be purchased at the door for $40 or reserved in advance by contacting Ronald Arron, artistic director of Chamber Music at Rye Presbyterian, at 523-4646 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Caption

Pianist Jeewon Park

Makers & Shakers Afterschool Club

The Westchester Children’s Museum invites young scientists — grades 3-5 — to explore, build, and experiment at a new afterschool Engineering Club.

A four-week drop-off program will be held Wednesdays March 8, 15, 22, and 29 from 4:30-5:30.

The cost is $100 per child for members, $120 for non-members. Register online at www.discoverWCM.org.

By Janice Llanes Fabry

When Leith Colton joined the Carver Center four-and-a-half years ago, she soon found herself with the opportunity to provide mental health services at the longest- running community-based organization in Port Chester. She came with the knowledge that teaching wellness, helping to promote assertive communication, and engaging in healthy relationships within organizations was long-term work that she was willing to take on.

“Joe Kwasniewski [Carver CEO] and I envisioned a mental wellness program that would focus on people’s strengths, while acknowledging their challenges and supporting them with a skill set that they might not have,” she said. “We all struggle at various points in our lives and I’m really grateful for the people who have taught me skills that have helped me feel more at peace with myself or my circumstances.”

As Carver’s Community Wellness Director, Colton has supported a culture and programming that includes mindfulness. She believes that practices supporting self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and healthy decision making have tremendous implications for organizational health and community resilience.

"Our mindfulness program is designed to provide students with techniques, habits, and mental training that can set them up for healthier lifelong skills in the social emotional arena,” explained Colton. In addition, mindfulness can help teachers better manage the daily demands they face in an effort to best serve students and families.

More than just the buzzword du jour, mindfulness is a nourishing combination of awareness, self-regulation, and “presentness” that can lead to greater empathy, compassion, and balance, despite life’s distractions and demands. Mindfulness in education provides youth with tools that enhance their ability to learn.

Prior to her non-profit experiences, Colton worked in the corporate world but felt a deep tug to do something that held more meaning. “I came to the helping professions at a point in my life where I had lost my way and I needed something that would fill me with a sense of purpose,” said Colton, who became an EMT for the Armonk Fire Department.

“The experiences I’ve had as an EMT have been pivotal, life-changing,” she noted. “I’ve come to realize that what one knows to be true can change in a minute. I’ve spent the past number of years trying to make every minute count.”

It was at a mental health conference that Colton made an acquaintance who introduced her to Kwasniewski at a time when Carver Center was well positioned for positive change. About the unwavering support she has received from Kwasniewski, as well as Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District Assistant Superintendent Joseph Durney, Colton remarked, “These two visionary leaders have been amazing thinking partners and I could not be where I am without their support and guidance,” she noted. “My life purpose has become the work that I do. Whether in my role as an EMT or in teaching mindfulness skills to others, I need to contribute to a more positive world.”

Colton first introduced mindfulness skills and basic knowledge about brain/body function to Carver’s summer campers in 2015. She taught 14 groups a week during the six-week program.

“I was determined to reach as many children and counselors as I could and introduce them to these transformative skills,” she explained. “Over and over, kids expressed how they used these tools, especially mindful breathing, to deal with their life challenges.”

In the last year and a half, Colton has brought mindfulness programming to daytime classes and to the afterschool programs at Thomas A. Edison and John F. Kennedy Elementary Schools, as well as Port Chester Middle School. Today, she supports the 85 teachers, administrators, and Carver personnel who have participated in training through an agreement with Mindful Schools.

She hopes to continue to expand the work she has begun in order to include more children, families, and teachers. “Mindfulness can open our hearts in ways that give us the opportunity to lovingly connect,” said Colton, who has a daily mindful meditation practice. “The practices have made me more compassionate and have provided me with more mental clarity and equanimity. There is no end to the implications, so we will continue to infuse mindfulness into much of what we’re doing here at Carver.”

CAPTION:

Leith Colton, Community Wellness Director at The Carver Center