Business Maplewood

‘Ladies of Baker Street’ Spark Design Renaissance in Maplewood Village

From left to right: Marichelle Hills of MEUS, Indira Villalobos of Toy Division, Valerie Braverman of Brave Floral, and Mika Braakman of A Paper Hat.

When looking for a potent metaphor for why we love this town so much, look no further than the four diverse, driven, and design-savvy female entrepreneurs who have not-so-quietly been reinventing the face of Baker Street, slowly transforming the once quiet throughway from Maplewood Avenue to Ridgewood Avenue into a popular shopping destination for local and visiting design enthusiasts alike.

Marichelle Hills (owner/curator of MEUS), Indira Villalobos (owner/curator of Toy Division), Valerie Braverman (Owner/Creative Director of Brave Floral), and Mika Braakman (Owner of A Paper Hat) are cultivating more than a burgeoning local epicenter of art and design, however. This successful community of open-concept, client-centered, and experience-based brick and mortar retail spaces symbolizes the thriving spirit of creative collaboration, networking, and alliance among the downtown’s distinctive and robust representation of female business owners.

As Braverman asserts, “gone are the days of fending for yourself, and we warmly welcome the notion that a rising tide lifts all boats; we’ve created a network of women to lean on with questions, ideas, rants, celebrations—truly allies in the retail space.”

Guided by an aligning philosophy, the women of Baker St. have each established welcoming and inclusive spaces that offer uniquely immersive shopping experiences, which echo their owners’ individual aesthetic and engage clientele with intentional, mindfully curated products.

With Toy Division, Villalobos combines her years of experience within the toy industry and her desire to offer visitors a highly personalized boutique shopping experience, resulting in a gleeful presentation of design-forward toys and whimsical children’s décor.

This sentiment is shared by the inviting bundles of delicate florals, ranging from exotic to practical, that instantly greet visitors of Brave Floral: Braverman’s studio is adorned with botanicals, fresh and dried florals, and a collection of small-batch home accessories and seeks to both educate and empower guests to design arrangements that reflect their individual style and purpose.

Perhaps these guiding principles, connecting with clients to create an environment that feels more like a communal open-studio or trusted concierge than retailer, account for the natural fusion of this new crop of female merchants.

However, this like-minded collective seeks to bring their passion for their individual product and expertise beyond the bounds of Baker St. and create experiences and partnerships that benefit the broader Maplewood and South Orange communities.

A Paper Hat’s thorough collection of art supplies doesn’t just satisfy the full-spectrum of creatives (ranging from young crafters to established visual artists) who trust Braakman’s product recommendations, but further seeks to benefit community organizers, teachers, and students through community-based discount programs.

Meus’ thoughtful collection of artisan wares, apothecary essentials, and inspired clothing intended to elevate everyday living has long been a favorite of this community, and Hills continues to push the envelope on neighborhood engagement hosting regular events committed to physical and spiritual wellness and growth and fostering community through curated travel experiences. Together, the women of Baker are tireless in their drive to collectively succeed and grow the street’s reputation as a sought-after destination for design and a spirited anchor for our richly diverse community.

On Sunday, April 28, the ladies of MEUS, A Paper Hat, Toy Division, and Brave Floral are inviting the community for a day of celebration featuring a live DJ, photo booth bus, a ribbon cutting ceremony by Mayor Vic DeLuca, and a host of family friendly activities, as the women honor the 10th Anniversary of Baker Street Yoga and celebrate the continued growth, collaboration, and success of Baker St. Festivities will take place on April 28 from 2-4pm at 98 Baker St. (the location of the old Toomey’s Garage Space).

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