Port’s wit & whim captures national award

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Laurie Scheinman recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of the opening of her store wit & whim in Port Washington. The store has supported dozens of charities and picked up a few awards along the way, including being named one of 2017’s Top 25 Gifted Retailers in America by Gifts & Decorative Accessories magazine.

“We’ve won it before, which is unbelievable,” she said. “We’re being recognized across the country for being a very unique, independent brick-and-mortar.”

Located at 6 Carlton Ave., the store won Scheinman the ICON Honor Award, which she received at a ceremony in Atlanta. She also was named the 2016 Small Businessperson of the Year by Port’s Chamber of Commerce.

The store is a collection of unique gifts, ranging from handbags and scarves to mirrors and cocktail glasses. But what really sets the store apart is the fact that all of the store’s profits go to charity. Scheinman selects a different charity each month and has never selected the same charity twice since the store opened in 2012.

“We do everything,” she said. “The only criteria that I have is that 96 percent or above have to go to helping people, not to administration.”

October’s charity was Options for Living, which provides housing and support services to people recovering from mental illness or chronic health problems. November profits will be donated to the ongoing aid efforts in Puerto Rico.

“As soon as I heard, I knew that we had to do a month,” Scheinman said. “But we didn’t have a month open, we had already committed to other organizations prior … November is our biggest month that we donate, so it was a no-brainer.”

The store started as a project that Schienman could work on with her father. But she said the original idea for a philanthropic store came all the way back in 2005.

“The seed that was planted for this store was … with Hurricane Katrina,” she said. “I turned my living room into a flea market and encouraged people to come and shop and all the profits went to Hurricane Katrina” relief.

In the past few years, wit & whim has supported local organizations like the Sands Point Preserve and national organizations like Planned Parenthood.

“We always have literature so people can find out more about the organization,” she said.

Scheinman has two part-time workers but mostly runs the store herself. She finds the items the store sells, saying that she shops with 15 people in mind – a group  that includes family members and celebrities – to find things to sell. If Sarah Jessica Parker ever stops in, Scheinman said, she would have the perfect sunglasses to sell to the actress.

In addition to buying inventory, Scheinman is often at the store herself, which is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. And it isn’t her only job. She’s also a family therapist, which she does before opening the store and after closing.

She said it is difficult work, but she enjoys it and is grateful for the support she has received from the community.

“No shop is an island,” she said. “This shop has been supported since day one by the community as well as the surrounding communities, and that’s how we’re still alive.”

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