Meet Polly Wood at Toko Imports
For some of downtown Ithaca business owners, living the life of a retail shopkeeper wasn’t initially part of their life plan.
Such is certainly the case for Polly Wood, owner of Toko Imports in the Dewitt Mall. As a youngster, Polly was destined to be a performance artist. She spent 18 years of her life receiving training in a variety of dance styles. Then, during her college years, she started singing, songwriting, and performing on the drums.
“I studied performing and visual arts while in at a college in Boston (Massachusetts) in the early 90s but then I dropped out to gain some life experience. I ventured out to California where I eventually returned to college to study global economics, the value of creativity, and ritual activism. I earned my bachelor’s degree and then earned masters degrees in Women’s Spirituality and Fine Arts in Creative Inquiry,” says Polly.
Armed with her education, stellar drumming skills, and extensive knowledge of percussion instruments, especially African drums, Polly unknowingly became the prime candidate to succeed Toko Imports longtime owner Tom Kozlowski.
“Since I used various drums and percussion to perform my songs, during my trips back to Ithaca I would regularly visit Toko Imports to see the latest drums that were available in the shop. It was inspiring to see the percussion collection, Tom, the previous owner, had in the store. Eventually, I bought a djembe from the shop, but it was not from Africa. It was made for me from local wood from a tree that fell after it was struck by lightning. Many years ago on one of my trips home, Tom gave me a photo of the fallen tree my drum had been carved from. I carried that photo, along with the djembe, for a long time and now they are both back in the store,” says Polly.
After Polly move back to Ithaca — it’s where she wanted to raise her daughter — it was often suggested to her that she takeover Toko when Tom retired. In 2014, the shop became hers.
Toko Imports has been part of the Ithaca community for nearly 40 years and sells a unique selection of drums and specialty world percussion instruments. Customers can try the instruments before they buy them. Toko also carries an assortment of multi-cultural goddess statues and gifts including museum reproductions of ancient mother goddesses, folk-craft deities and contemporary art of the sacred feminine. Customers will also find locally produced pottery, funky and traditional name brand hats, and colorful hammocks. Also, instrument repairs are available and there is a community space within the shop that the public can rent to host workshops, classes, and other small events.
“When I purchased this shop it was important to me to successfully carry on Tom’s (the former shop owners) legacy of offering a place where the public can find quality made percussion instruments in an experiential retail setting. I believe I’ve managed to do that. I enjoy the human connection element of interacting with customers and community members and I like having a shop in the Dewitt Mall. The shopkeepers here offer a tight-knit community that truly supports the shop local movement,” says Polly.
When Polly isn’t busy working at Toko, she’s either spending time with her teenaged daughter or offering birth support to local families as a Postpartum Wellness & Placenta Encapsulation Specialist. Or, if you’re lucky, you may catch her performing her music and sharing her art in other cities across the country.
For more information about Polly and Toko Imports, visit the shop at 215 N. Cayuga St. (The Dewitt Mall) or you can find the store on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tokoradwoman/.