Meet Kristina Thelen at Amuse: Modern Cottage Industry
As far as downtown merchants go, Kristina Thelen, the proud owner of Amuse: Modern Cottage Industry, is perhaps one of the most vivacious and outgoing. Maybe it’s her laid-back native west coast persona shining through — she formerly lived in California and Washington — or she’s happy most of the time simply because she enjoys the Ithaca community, her shop, and her customers.
“I adore the local community here. There are so many passionate, diverse, and industrious people. It’s an amazing group of humans to constantly be among. And, in that, it is also my favorite thing being surrounded by so many other businesses and business owners downtown. Each one offering something unique and a piece of themselves for public consumption,” says Thelen.
Kristina and her husband moved to the Ithaca area nearly a decade ago after her husband was accepted to Cornell University’s Urban Planning Department where he received his master’s degree. While Kristina’s husband was working on his studies, Kristina gained retail management and store ownership experience owning various shops around town, such as Funky Junk, the former upcycled furniture store that occupied a location on the Commons before moving to Taughannock Boulevard. Though her business wasn’t far from downtown, Kristina longed to return to downtown’s bustling business hub, especially when she learned a new and hip retail section featuring micro shops was under construction at Press Bay Alley. Funky Junk’s inventory was too much for the tiny micro units, so Kristina closed the store and invented Amuse: Modern Cottage Industry, a quaint mini shop loaded with quality made, handcrafted items made by creators from across the country.
“I had long been interested in owning my own shop. To be in a place to meet people, offer items that myself and other artists/makers create, and support the community in the process. It had also always been my desire to refurbish and inhabit an area in need of revitalizing and warmth. To help bring an area back to life. Downtowns are especially important to the vitality of a city. So a rejuvenated, artistic, and community-focused downtown area is where I always wish to be. I am so happy to be a part of this unique urban project and of micro-retail downtown,” says Thelen.
At Amuse, customers will find a variety of home decor, fashionable accessories, and more that are fresh, fun, unique, and often amusing, of course. Plus, the items are affordably priced. Everything in the shop from the crocheted, vintage inspired baby outfits made with Organic Cotton to the canvas totes, patterned cloth handbags, colorful knit hats, and locally designed jewelry is under $50. And, the inventory is constantly changing as Thelen discovers new creators and quality made products that she enjoys and believes others will as well.
“I love seeing people connect with handmade and artistic design. I love offering something practical, affordable, and whimsical all at the same time. The makers showcased here are making fabulous and wonderful items domestically, and you will never see them in any big box commercial store. I feel so much honor and excitement choosing items to carry, sharing something different with the community, helping to put practical art into everyday life and to give money directly to these artists across the country. To choose these items, pay these artists, see customers utterly delight in them, decide they want them in their lives, and take their new delights home with them, well, that is all just the very best, says Thelen.
When Kristina isn’t busy operating the store, she’s teaching dance classes at Finger Lakes Fitness Center in Center Ithaca on the Commons as well as the Ithaca YMCA.
“I will gladly dance anytime, anywhere, but most likely customers will only see that I am outgoing and into simply being who I am when coming into my shop. Self-love is a big deal and very important to me and the Amuse customer,” says Thelen.
To learn more about Kristina and Amuse, stop by the shop at 118 W. Green St. (Press Bay Alley), check out Amuse’s website at www.ithacaisamusing.com, or visit its Facebook page.