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September 30, 2020
Fresh Face: LEARKE
“We would just walk around and meet up and have coffee,” says Nella Panella, co-owner, with Molly Godfrey, of eclectic Easton shop LEARKE, “and talk about what buildings we had crushes on, and how we’re going to get involved in the community. What we could do here. The space became available and we went to see it on a whim. Everything felt right.”
LEARKE—a portmanteau of Molly and Nella’s children’s names—may have been born of a lark, but the two have been friends for a decade. They share a mutual connection in Molly’s husband (who grew up down the street from Nella in New Jersey) and an easy friendship of similar taste: in art, in architecture, in unique local goods. “We’re a small business,” says Molly, “trying to support small makers, with a nice mix of old and new.”
The 400-square foot store is a collection of special objects, plants, stationary, home goods, and other treasures that “bring us joy,” says Nella, “and that we feel will bring other people joy.” LEARKE focuses on handmade and ethically-produced items that reflect and sustain the community, whether they be plants picked up directly from the grower, art from Easton-based creatives, or books hand-selected for the neighborhood cycling crowd.
It hasn’t been easy, though, launching an in-person experience during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a small place, where you can come in and say hello and enjoy the visit,” says Molly. (The lockdown led to “an extended soft opening,” Nella jokes.) But it has also been a time of great kindness.“For being so new, the following we established made a true effort to support us,” says Nella. “It gave us hope to figure out how to get through it.”
The store is open again for in-person visits (check their website and social media for the latest hours), and in the future LEARKE will safely become a community event space as Molly and Nella originally envisioned. For now, they both feel lucky to be working together, grateful for the support they’ve received and for the new people–makers, shoppers, and community members—they continue to meet. “There are some really beautiful things happening, as far as connections with people,” says Nella. “It is in a different way, but I feel like it’s authentic.”