STATEN ISLAND, N.Y — Since Renee Sarno, 31, owner of Yaymaker — a paint-and-sip franchise — can only hold virtual paint classes during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, she had some spare time to put her creative talents to use.
Utilizing materials gathered for her paint-and-sip classes, the West Brighton resident developed a line of Staten Island-themed items — from sweatshirts and hats, to coasters and notepads — and opened an Etsy store called NYCrafts And The City.
“When I had to make the shift to virtual art events with Yaymaker, I realized I still have a garage full of craft supplies, and I also needed my own way to decompress during the pandemic,” said Sarno. “Especially in the beginning of the pandemic, when I didn’t know what would happen to my Yaymaker business, I needed to keep going as much as I could. I started spending my free time creating projects and items that I then used to open my Etsy shop.”
Using her creative talents, she came up with logos and designs for Staten Island-centric merchandise.
“I am a natural creator. I enjoy making things with my hands — crafts, cooking, baking, anything with a final product made with my own hands,” said Sarno.
“I’ve always been crafty, but it has really been within the past five years that I’ve pursued and put the time into making things, especially with Yaymaker. As an [art] instructor, I get to share the love of creating with the community,” she said.
NYCrafts And The City was born out of this unprecedented time, when Sarno’s Yaymaker business was forced to go online with all indoor dining shuttered amid the pandemic.
“This was not something that I was planning. A lot of people had told me over the years that I should open an Etsy shop, but it wasn’t something I had time to sit down and actually go through with,” explained Sarno. “Unfortunately and fortunately, with less Yaymaker events at night, the pandemic gave me the free time I needed to make a plan and to open the shop.”
NYCrafts And The City started with items Sarno had leftover from Yaymaker events. These included mosaic coasters, resin beach art and personalized wood signs. And the online business has now transitioned to more items showcasing a Staten Island theme, including sweatshirts, coasters, mugs, Christmas ornaments and more.
“I enjoy showing my own pride for Staten Island. I started creating items I wanted to own myself,” said Sarno. “I just really enjoy creating and crafting. I like making people happy. When I read a review on my items that they [customers] are so happy with their purchase, it puts a smile on my face and makes it all worth it.”
She makes the majority of the items herself, but also works with a production partner.
“I was constantly creating and designing, and I realized there were a lot of items I wanted to offer, but I didn’t have all of the equipment I needed to make and offer those items. One day I hope to have a large enough space to create everything in-house,” said Sarno.
A PERFECT FIT
And Etsy was a perfect fit for selling her wares.
“For me, Etsy was a natural match from the start. Etsy gives artists an established marketplace to reach people who are already looking for handmade items,” said Sarno. “I was nervous at first that no one would be able to find me, and thought, ‘What if people didn’t want what I was creating?’ Etsy has the tools to reach those people who would be interested in what I create, and it has been a successful platform for my shop.”
She is also listed on the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce’s new e-commerce website, Shop Staten Island. “I think this is a great way for Staten Islanders to connect with and discover local small businesses all in one place,” she said of the local site.
ORDERS DOMINATED BY FORMER STATEN ISLANDERS
When Sarno started to get busy with her Etsy store, she quickly noticed the majority of her customers were actually non-Island residents. However, after chatting with her buyers, she quickly learned that many were former Islanders who wanted to show their pride in their hometown.
“I had a modest goal when I started my Etsy shop, but I hit that goal within three weeks of opening. And I was so surprised and happy,” she said. “Once I started putting up my Staten Island items, I saw that Staten Islanders who live here now were not the people buying those items. It was people who lived on Staten Island at one point and moved away. Some would say, ‘This brought up such good memories of when I grew up on Staten Island.’”
In addition to Yaymaker and NYCrafts And The City, Sarno is approaching her fifth year working for Borough President James Oddo as a special events coordinator. She has recently taken on new challenges in the digital space for his office.
NYCRAFTS AND THE CITY AT A GLANCE
Shop Staten Island: https://statenisland.shopwhereilive.com/vendor/ny-craft-and-the-city/
New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that relates the stories of new Staten Island businesses owners.
If you have a new business on Staten Island, e-mail [email protected].
Tracey Porpora is the business writer and Sunday manager for SiLive.com/Staten Island Advance.
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