For most of her life Ricki Steiner has loved the styles of the big band and swing era and now she’s turned that passion into the latest retail outlet to open in Port Jefferson’s Harbor Square Mall called “411 Boutique.”
At 411, Steiner has stocked the shelves with Kit Cat clocks, candlestick phones and flapper hats. It’s all a reflection of her deep interest in the time period of prohibition, jazz and gin joints. Steiner says that she often dresses in old-fashioned clothing, listens to the music and watches the movies of the time.
“I always thought I should be born in that era,” she said.
One of her favorite movies is Swing Time starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The last concert she went to was to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy but she also loves New York’s Most Dangerous Big Band, a local act most recently seen jamming at the during the in the .
Steiner said that the name of her boutique was inspired by the old time phone operators but it’s also an easy name to remember.
“I wanted something short and not cheesy,” she said. “411 is also what's new and hip.”
Her stock of items goes from “classic to kitschy” with racks of dresses among the posters of pin up girls. The store opened just two weeks ago and Steiner said that she plans on adding to her inventory as she finds more suppliers.
In addition to the retro style and fashion, Steiner sells a line of her own cosmetics at the store, which she says reflects the era because of its “design and luxurious feeling.”
Some people haven’t embraced all of the décor in the boutique yet.
“Obviously retro pin up is not for everyone,” she commented on a recent post on her Facebook page.
Steiner said that some customers walked into her store, took one look around and walked out.
Many shoppers who wander in the store seem “intimidated by the selection but others like that they can find all this in one spot.”
Before her foray into retro retail, Steiner was a teacher assistant at a school in Queens and at Brentwood School District in their music departments. She says she was just barely using her music degree at her former jobs and although she loves music she wanted to give retail a try.
Battaglia and her fiancée Dan Battaglia are both music teachers. They own a condo in Port Jefferson and plan to marry soon. She said her fiancée encouraged her to follow her dream and open the business. It helped that he also started his own business eight years ago called “B Natural Music.” In his business, Battaglia is a piano teacher and a piano tuner.
“It was his doing,” she said pointing to Battaglia, standing beside her in 411 on Saturday.
With money from her own savings, Steiner went in search of the perfect place to set up shop and eventually chose Harbor Square Mall mostly because of mall owner, Bruce Passarelli.
“Bruce said the right words to us,” she said. “It felt right.”
There’s another plus to the location and her new business that her Battaglia pointed out.
“It’s very awesome commute,” he said.