Under The Cherry Blossoms

This first thing you will probably notice about this delightful downtown shop is, oddly enough, the ceiling.  The green and pink tissue-covered ceiling is a visual cue that you are entering a shop with some true personality attached to it.  Under the Cherry Blossoms is loaded, literally, from floor to ceiling with positive thoughts, comments and inspirational messages expressed through art.

Shoppers and visitors to the store are encouraged to write personal affirmations and positive messages and leave them to become part of the ambiance of the shop.  The delicate paper upon which they are written, is then dosed with a flame repellant spray and they are pinned to the store ceiling.

IMG_3612Under the Cherry Blossoms is intended to be a fun and uplifting experience first and foremost, according to the owner, Lynn Wisniewski.  The store is designed to sell artwork, jewelry and notions that will inspire others to continue her mission to spread human kindness, fun and positive energy. “I want people to come in and take photos and share the ideas they see here,” she says.  “That’s the whole point, really, to have some fun and share some positive energy with others.”

Wisniewski has been working at the shop’s current 433 N. Donnelly Street location for a decade now. Originally owned by her mother, Liz, it was a doll shop when it opened fourteen years ago. The store now features the consigned art of dozens of artists, most of whom live within an hour of Mount Dora.  Wisniewski gradually made the transition from being “My Doll Shop” to today’s “Under the Cherry Blossoms” over  a 2-1/2 year period.   She says as she took the store over from her mother and sold off the doll shop inventory, she began to focus on selling the things she most enjoyed.  She says she wanted to sell things that she felt reflected her voice and what she wanted to say through the shop.

Wisnieski’s unique sense of fun and whimsy show through the choice of art and the items she sells.  She beams as she passes along information and stories about some of the artists whose work is sold in her shop.  She says she has to connect with the artists she showcases on a personal, as well as professional, level.  She knows each of the 60+ artists and says she feels a connection to them all.  A variety of perspective from each artist is also something Wisniewski looks for when bringing art into her shop for sale.

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Sewn items from patterned aprons, to beer koozies, to potato cookers – talented seamstress Karen Brown has been with her since Wisniewski began her shop.  Her colorful creations hang down the shop wall not far from the “bullet” art of Deb Colson.  Through an arrangement with the Lake County Arms, a gun store located around the corner from the shop, artist Colson buys spent gun shell casings at a discount.  She then fashions them into plaques, sculptures and embellishments for everyday items. “I have to tell you about the other Karen, too,” says Wisniewski.  “Karen Simmons makes these beautiful silks we sell” she says, gesturing at a display of colorful scarves.  “She also designs all of my displays;  she’s amazing.”

Wisniewski has designed her own line of inspirational “Pick Me Up Cards” from a personal habit that she cultivated over time.  Wanting to affirm those things for which she was grateful, she began to write her thoughts down on small personal notes which she shared.  Her intent, she says, was to lift her own spirits and those of others with whom she shared them. Eventually, she began to have the uplifting thoughts preprinted on cards that she carried with her.  Those cards are now a featured and popular item in her shop.

Bearing a wide variety of sayings and quotes, the business-card-sized greetings are a simple design intended to encourage a smile or lift the spirits of the giver and the recipient.  The choice of wording is diverse – from sayings and quips originally attributed to fictional characters (Star Wars’ Yoda), to historical figures (Eleanor Roosevelt), to generic good wishes. “I use them when I leave my tip at a restaurant,” she says, “or I’ll hand one to the check-out person at the grocery store.  Sometimes I put one in my utility bill.  You never know who they may reach, who you might make smile when you use them.”

One of her best selling items is her T-shirt line.  They boldly announce “I’m a Hugger” and below is printed the name of her store.  “I’m out of those right now, my last shipment was all gone in nine days. I have them coming in blue and pink. They are due in any day.”

When asked to pose for a picture anywhere in her store that most offers an insight into her retail mission and best highlights what message she wants to send about her store she does not hesitate.  Wisniewski goes straight to the mannequin displaying that last “I’m a Hugger” t-shirt.  “This says it all,” she smiles.

An hour into the tour and interview, with much left to see inside the shop, Wisniewski apologizes as she says she has to head to an appointment.  “I just have so much going on right now. I’m a  single mom, I have my store, and now I am heading to a meeting on something new coming to Mount Dora.”  Wisniewski explains she will be involved in the Fun Bus Tours, expected to start within a couple of months in Mount Dora.  “But I love it all and I feel great,” she says, as she heads down Donnelly Street.

Melissa DeMarco, Editor (editor@mountdoracitizen.com)