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The window display of River of Time Boutique on West Washington St, Oct. 29, 2023.

River of Time Boutique is ‘overflowing’ with culture

There’s a new kid on W. Washington’s block: River of Time Boutique. River of Time is a vibrant and new boutique located on 19 W Washington St. and a new addition to Athens, hosting its grand opening a little over two weeks ago. From apparel to jewelry to home and garden, the shop has something for everyone.

Vanessa Kaukonen, owner of River of Time, is passionate about helping to fight for equality among people in impoverished countries and women especially. Her contribution is found through selling the hand-crafted works of these communities. 

“Our goal was to really focus on local craft, local art, and then focus on women's art globally and locally," Vanessa Kaukonen said. “A lot of the works that we have in the boutique, 90% of the companies that we partner with, are women-owned. They’re in areas of the world that would be considered impoverished, or women who have very little rights.” 

For Vanessa Kaukonen, selling these products is not just about getting the word out to a town like Athens. Rather, so that she and River of Time as a whole can give back to these communities through their business. 

“The growers, the weavers, the potters, the jewelers, so that they have access to goods to make their art,” Kaukonen said. “That they're able to purchase it at a fair price, that they're able to make it and give the people that work for them a fair wage, and then they're able to sell it on the open market, not for a crap wage. You know, we talk about a living wage here, which is still an issue.” 

River of Time has a wide variety of options when it comes to its products. They have cross-body bags handmade in Uganda for $28, organic and all-natural body butter for $30, various bracelets for $3 to $20 and much more. 

However, the collection of fair-trade items was not cultivated easily. Kaukonen’s husband, Jorma Kaukonen, described the time his wife took to gather a set of unique, one-of-a-kind, handmade products that have meaning and history, along with use. 

“(Vanessa) has all kinds of really interesting stuff that she gets from all over the world,” he said. “She makes sure that it comes from cultures and women's organizations whenever possible.”

But the store is not just a boutique, the space also features a full gallery with various artists' works and a variety of concert and television posters. 

“These are all original runs,” said Vanessa Kaukonen. “When I say original runs, I mean the original posters from all of the ‘Fillmore!’ shows. So these were all from the Fillmore in the Bay Area, north of L.A.”

For Athenians, River of Time is an addition to the robust population of small businesses. Wendy McVicker, the previous Poet Laureate of Athens and now current karate instructor at the community center, described the energy of the shop from the moment she entered. 

“We heard some guitar in the back and that was really exciting,” McVicker said. “And then the curtains parted and Vanessa came out with her warm welcome and so we were happy. We felt welcomed.”

Not only is there a wide array of items and art to keep the public entertained, but also music sessions that will be happening soon within the gallery section of the store. 

“We will have more music,” Kaukone said. “We're going to try to do music once a month, and not a full concert, but usually associated with a reception. We're opening a music room with vinyl, kind of like a vault, and guitar supplies.”

River of Time will have its next music performance on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. The set will be played by Kaukone’s husband Jorma and his partner, John. 

As the boutique gains more versatility, so do its visitors. Due to the upbeat nature of Uptown Athens, getting people in the door of the shop is not a hard task. With the exploratory options that OU has to offer, a store like River of Time is a hot spot for those with an interest in all things culture, art and music. 

“Being here, foot traffic is absolutely not an issue,” Kaukonen said. “So, I was hoping and really expecting students to want to come in. We're working with Ohio University and hopefully the College of Fine Arts or the College of Art and Design. There are various programs; one of them is a degree program on curating, so I'm hoping to get students.” 

According to Kaukonen, one of the most important items the boutique carries is saris, or the outer garments traditionally worn by women from South Asia. At the boutique, the garments are reused to make other items. She loves these creations because, for her, it’s all about the celebration of culture and the unification of women. 

“I want to celebrate everyone,” Kaukonen said. “Some of the recycled and upcycled saris that we carry are turned into quilts, robes and scarves. The sari is a symbol of, you know, a young woman coming to age. The sari is very special to them (South Asian women).”

The River of Time boutique and gallery is a safe space for anyone wanting to feel a sense of comfort during their shopping and viewing experience. Kaukonen advocated for supporting everyone, especially women both without fair opportunity and with privilege, because of the belief that all women can come together to help each other succeed. 

“As far as women go, for me, it's about lifting up other women,” Kaukonen said. “I don't care if they're in Appalachia or New York, or New Jersey or L.A. or Uganda or India, Nepal, even parts of China.”

Community members like McVicker are optimistic about River of Time’s future.

“I'm really excited to have this presence in Uptown Athens,” McVicker said. 

lulumcghee1975

km266922@ohio.edu

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