It was November 2018 when sisters Temidra Willock, 29, and Tanya Willock, 25, walked into an empty retail space in Southampton Village, a space off Jobs Lane that was formerly occupied by Topiaire Candy Shop.
“I walked in and I was like, ‘This is it,’” Temidra said. “I could just envision everything.”
The ensuing months would transform a beaten down retail space into Hidden Gem, what customers have called an “authentic” home decor shop.
“She knew right away that this was the store,” Tanya said of her sister. “I saw the aesthetic, and I saw the possibilities, but it also wasn’t in the best condition when we got here.”
Tanya described this process of transformation, which began in January, as one that “took a village.” Temidra’s husband, Ken, his friend and the sisters’ father, Theo, all joined in the efforts to get the store open in March. The walls and floors needed to be repainted, a wall had to come down, merchandise had to be placed, a counter had to be made and shelves had to be built, among other to-dos. Not only did the sisters achieve their goal of opening the store by March, they achieved their long-held dreams.
Tanya and Temidra Willock, four years apart, grew up in East Hampton and attended the same nearby middle school, Hayground School. It was at Hayground School that Tanya discovered her love for design, as she interned with an interior designer. After middle school, Temidra attended Ross School and Tanya went to East Hampton High School. The two sisters noted that their East Hampton community has been very supportive in their newest endeavor, the opening of their very own brick and mortar store, an event Temidra has envisioned since she was 8 years old.
While Temidra had always wanted to open her own store, it wasn’t until last year that she approached her sister with the idea. “It was kind of a three-month thing,” she said. “I came to her, like: ‘Okay, this is the name. Help me with the logo, and let’s find a spot.’ It just all kind of fell into place.”
The sisters both agreed the East End needs more local or young artists, artisans and store owners, as the market, in Tanya’s opinion, had been flooded with chain stores and artists from New York City.
“Seeing more younger store owners and business owners is something that I’ve always wanted to have,” Tanya said.
“Our main goal is to stay true to ourselves and showcase more young and upcoming designers,” Temidra added.
Temidra, who studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, and Tanya, who studied photography at SUNY Purchase in Westchester, had made many friends in their university days. These friends, who are young artists like the Willocks, would become their vendors.
“People are starting to get tired of the mainstream shops that are oversaturated, and I think bringing something authentic is nice—a nice thing to have in our community,” Temidra said.
As two experienced interior designers and artists, the sisters have their own work for sale at Hidden Gem as well. Temidra, who owns a home decor company on the side called Vivid Blueprint, designed tea towels, rugs, bags and more fabric merchandise, among other products. Tanya created original framed artwork and screen-printed merchandise, among other artistic crafts.
Asked if she was inspired by studying design in California, Temidra said: “I’m more inspired from here. This is where I grew up. My parents are from Antigua, and we always traveled back and forth, so I think I’m more inspired by the island life.”
The two describe their style as very similar, yet different.
“We love patterns and colors,” Temidra said. “Growing up here and visiting Antigua, we wanted to mesh the two design aesthetics and bring a more colorful vibe.”
The store’s walls and floors have one simple color: white. However, the merchandise adds color and variety that stands out even more with the simple background. While the sisters do share a similar eye for art and design, they have clashed. The decision for uniform white walls and floors was just one example.
“I go for patterns and bright colors and I want them everywhere, and Temidra was just like, ‘no,’” Tanya said regarding the walls and floors, as the two sisters laughed together. “I was like, ‘We should paint the floor blue or green or something,’ and she was like ‘no.’”
And while working together has been a challenge when it comes to meshing style, design and work ethic, the two agree that it’s been very rewarding.
“Since we are sisters, we’ve lived together our whole lives. So it’s a different relationship we are bringing into our current relationship, but it helps that we already have a connection besides doing business,” Tanya said.
As locals, Tanya and Temidra Willock hope to spark more community engagement through events with artists and showcasing art by local high school students. In the future, the sisters hope to open two or three more stores, but not too many as to not have to mass produce merchandise.
“We want to keep it small and authentic,” Temidra said.
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