Waterford boutique finds new home in East Lyme

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East Lyme — A busted tooth may have slowed her down, but nothing was going to stop Betty Davis from reopening her store in its newly expanded space.

Striking Tela, which Davis started five years ago with homemade wish boxes sold out of her home, opens March 3 at 190 Flanders Road, behind Wild Birds Unlimited and Dancers’ Outlet. It comes after a few months of renovating the space and an unfortunately timed incident with a car door; she said she put off the opening until she knew she wouldn’t have to close for follow-up dental visits.

A self-taught entrepreneur and longtime Waterford resident, Davis said the name of the store came to her in a dream; “tela” is the Latin word for canvas, and she felt it fit because everything people make or do in life comes from a canvas of some sort.

She wanted a store where she could offer gifts that people couldn’t find anywhere else, including natural body products, handmade items by other local artisans, and other things her customers request.

She describes the store’s tastes as jazzy, chic and boho, and with an ever-changing lineup of products; it’s uncommon for someone to come in multiple times and see the same things.

“You’re never going to find in a corporate facility what you find at Striking Tela. It’s one of a kind,” she said. “I don’t carry 200 of something. I’d rather carry three of something knowing that three people are going to get it and it’s something unique to their home or what they’re wearing.”

In a recent visit to the store, displays included knitted baby sweaters and onesies, incense and other meditation products, homemade soaps and lotions, local honey, and purses and wallets with various animal themes.

Kim Barboza, a fellow Waterford resident who runs Peace Signs and Dragonflies, has been selling beach-themed art at Striking Tela for about a year and a half. She reached out to Davis to sell her wall hangings, frames and other decorative pieces made with shells, stones and driftwood from local beaches, and she said working with Davis has been fantastic.

“She has so much to offer that she needs a bigger space, so this is going to be great,” Barboza said of the new location. “It’s a good spot, there’s a lot of traffic that goes through there and it’s close to summer shopping, so she should do really well over there.”

As her vision for Striking Tela grew beyond her home, Davis went through the permitting process to build a shed on her property and run the store there. But as the business expanded over the next four and a half years, thanks in part to a loyal social media following, she found that the shed, which is less than 300 square feet, wasn’t enough.

“Most people never looked up Spithead Road to see an ‘OPEN’ flag flying because it wasn’t a road you would expect a business to be operating (on),” she said.

Parking also had been an issue; despite changes she made to the layout, customers would sometimes get blocked in by others, and drivers were hesitant to back out onto the road.

Davis is no stranger to East Lyme, having worked and lived there in the past, and she said the Flanders Road storefront gave her the same positive vibe that the Waterford space had. The move required nearly two months of renovation work that included knocking down several walls, redoing the floors and a lot of paint to cover up the prior tenant’s bright pink and green color scheme.

She said Striking Tela’s new location offers more visibility as well as more space to display a larger collection of goods.

Davis said being a small business owner in a world dominated by big-box stores and online shopping can be a challenge, especially as she tries to pitch the success of her space to prospective vendors, as well as new customers. She said she’s most proud of her ability to “hang in there” through those challenges.

“I just kept pushing forward because I knew what Striking Tela had to bring,” she said.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

Business Spotlight

Name: Striking Tela

Owner: Betty Davis

Address: 190 Flanders Road, East Lyme

Hours: Tentatively 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tues. through Sat.; call ahead to be sure.

Phone: (860) 460-8518

Website: strikingtela.com

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