Sunday, December 27, 2009

Taking Great ‘Panes’ to Attract Patrons

Rose & Eye windows spruce up West End

By Joseph Kellard

Michael Muratore and Stefano Malluzzo have brought a bit of Fifth Avenue to the West End. Each month, the owners of Rose & Eye, a women’s boutique on the corner of West Beech Street and Wyoming Avenue, dress up large display windows with a fresh theme according to season, anniversaries and the hottest fashions.

In July, their summer-clad mannequins stood with surfboards, a theme they based on “Beach Party,” an early 1960s Annette Funicello movie. They rang in 2008 celebrating the 50th anniversary of the peace sign, with T-shirts emblazoned with the symbol popularized by hippies. This summer they displayed maxi dresses and jumpsuits, two of the season’s biggest trends, and used poster-sized photos of colorful hot-air balloons as background art.

Muratore and Malluzzo have noticed that their windows sometimes stop traffic, as curious drivers gaze in from their cars on West Beech, and during the holidays children who get off school buses at a nearby stop run up to get a better look at their festive displays.

“One of the ways we attract our customers is through the windows,” Muratore said about his moderately priced store, which offers everything from jeans to wrap sweaters to party dresses. “It causes them to want to stop and look in. They may get the impression that we’re real expensive, but really we’re not.”

This month, Rose & Eye’s windows are split between Christmas and New Year’s Eve themes, with hand-made snow girls, a takeoff on Frosty the Snowman, sporting a variety of Long Beach sweatshirts with starfish images. Their carrot-nosed faces were sculpted in a storage room where the owners prepare the window displays, mounting and dressing the mannequins, painting the backgrounds and printing the eye-catching art and photos that they order.

It took Muratore and Malluzzo almost two weeks to complete all the prep work for this month’s windows, and another two days to put everything on display.

In October 2008, the shop displayed the artwork of West School students to complement Halloween-themed windows. Denise Collins, the art teacher at the neighborhood school, was shopping at the boutique one day when Muratore, whose two sons are students there, approached her with an idea.

“He asked if we could get the kids to create some artwork to feature it in the windows,” Collins recalled. “The kids loved the idea. It’s nice for them to see their work on display.”

Her second- to fifth-graders supplied some 40 pieces of artwork, including skeletons, collage masks and pumpkins with paints and pencils. Now Collins’s students are working on a Valentine’s Day theme for the windows, recreating the 1973 “LOVE” stamp by Robert Indiana and creating “fabulous fictional couples,” from Popeye and Olive Oyl to Homer and Marge Simpson.

“Pretty much they’re doing the artwork, and will build elements around the art,” said Muratore, who worked in department stores for 20 years but never dressed windows.

Soon after he and Malluzzo bought their original, empty West End store in March 2007, they installed the display windows. They put in even larger windows when they expanded twice, to spaces previously occupied by a scooter shop and a law office.

“Basically the two of us, who had worked at other stores, we dreamed that one day we’d have our own store and have these great windows,” Muratore said. “We stepped forth and did it and it worked.”

Photos by Christina Daly and Courtesy Rose & Eye

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