More than 30 years ago, Marika Kaasik and her sister Marion decided to open a store on a remote island reachable only by ferry. In those days, Shelter Island was inhabited by 2,000 people for 40 weeks of the year, and most of them already had plenty of furniture.
At first, the boutique offered sportswear along with vintage furnishings, but as the clientele grew, its offerings narrowed.
Today, Marika’s carries mainly furniture and lighting — some refinished and some in need of TLC.
Kaasik’s eye for what makes a vacation house a second home is unwaveringly accurate. It’s the secret to her success.
Tell me the story of how and why you opened your store on Shelter Island.
I’ve been here since 1984, more that 30 years. I grew up on Shelter Island, went to school in Finland; and then my mother got ill, I came to see her, and my father said why don’t you open an antique store? My sister Marion was interested in antiques and I was doing sportswear and then we slowly were selling more and more furniture and less and less sportswear. You could take a nap on Route 114 in those days; there was nobody here.
What kind of furniture sells the best?
Everything made in Scandinavia sells really well. I’m Estonian, and I’ve been looking at furniture for 35 years, so I know what I’m looking at. Pairs of night stands, because a pair is harder to find. Large furniture always takes longer to sell than small; good lighting sells fast. In a beachy community, white sells, except wicker.
What do you think of discount retailers who offer antique-like furniture?
Walmart makes mid-century-style furniture. Does that hurt me? Absolutely. When Bombay & Company got started it brought the antique market down because they were so cheap. Now, West Elm is doing antique-style, but it is not cheap. For a real Danish modern credenza, I’m still better on price than West Elm.
Do you consider your work to be one part recycling, one part selling?
What I do is very green. Instead of this furniture going away, it’s being used again. I don’t want anything thrown out. I get great pleasure from finding the right home for something.
On an island, it’s not so easy to get rid of things you don’t need anymore. Does that affect your business?
When I buy the contents of a house, I often have to buy the whole thing, and I don’t want to throw things out. My dumping fees are high, but it also costs me a small fortune to save things. Like this beautiful mahogany set. This row of furniture cost me $400 just to move it in here.
When is the store open?
I don’t really close at all. In the summer people come over on the ferry every weekend, and never miss a weekend. If they missed, I knew they were sick. Some weekends 100 people come through, but a lot of them just like to socialize. They come because there is always something interesting here.
You are open anytime. Really?
Yes, that’s right. You can shop anytime you want. Once a guy who came over on the first South Ferry of the morning called me up at 6 a.m. and said, “I want to buy that statue.” He was standing in front of the store and he saw some statuary in the front and wanted it. I said, just leave the check in the back door. I don’t know how he lifted it into his truck, but he took it.
These are just some of the items we enjoyed on our recent visit to Marika’s.
• A pair of Herman Miller Eames reception chairs and Bubble lamp in the window of the shop.
• This Finnish Domus chair is an example of Marika’s eye for quality Scandinavian pieces.
• The solid construction and Art Deco touches are characteristic of the Heywood Wakefield chests the store carries.
• This elaborate, folding traveling chest opens into a vanity and is definitely not a carry-on.