How Ritual Shoppe is Channeling Community During COVID-19
Angela Monaco has mastered curation and community. If you’ve been to her Rittenhouse boutique, Ritual Shoppe, you might know what I mean. In the pink and gold wonderland, you can find anything from one of a kind jewelry to tarot and oracle cards. The space is eclectic but not chaotic and open yet intimate. The staff, including Monaco herself, are easy to talk to and knowledgeable about their products and who made them. The store radiates good vibes.
Things are different now. Covid-19 has caused Ritual Shoppe to close its doors. Even with an established online store, Monaco says that the transition to full-time e-commerce has been tough. But, while the physical collection of her “favorite things” has gone virtual, the many ties she’s made with her local communities remain real – and as strong as ever. For small shops like Ritual Shoppe, these bonds can be a ray of hope during these uncertain times.
A Community of Creatives
From a young age, Angela Monaco knew two things: she liked to make jewelry and she was going to live on the east coast. Instead of her initial plan of NYC, she landed here in Philly and established Angela Monaco Jewelry – a line of handmade pieces inspired by her love of crystals.
“I realized how much this city has to offer,” said Monaco. “The Philly creative scene is one of the best in the country. We have a little bit of everything you could ever want yet the rent is much more affordable than other major cities.”
According to Monaco, the scene wasn’t just vibrant but welcoming as well. “I find that people are less competitive here and more about bringing the entire city up together,” said Monaco. When she opened Ritual Shoppe in 2013 she did just that. Alongside her own fine jewelry line were pieces from other local creators.
“Each item we sell in the shop is carefully curated not only because we love the product but we have a connection with the makers themselves,” she said. “We were a lot of peoples first stores they ever sold in giving them that little step into the world of selling retail.”
Ritual Shoppe soon grew its offerings from just handcrafted jewelry to include beauty & bath items, crystals, tarot cards, hand-poured candles, ceramics, and other gift-able treasures. Each new category was one that Monaco was personally interested in and as you can guess, she knew exactly where to source them from.
“Ritual is a curated collection of all of my favorite things: by all our favorite independent artists & closest friends,” she said “While jewelry will always be my main craft I absolutely love design and living a lifestyle that supports a balance of nourishing the mind, body, and spirit. Supporting other makers has always been my favorite thing about what I do so as we have grown over the years we have met so many different creatives to fill in the categories.”
Local Love in City Center
In late 2018, Ritual Shoppe relocated to its current Rittenhouse location. With design and style input from her cohort of creatives, Angela Monaco and her team decked out the shop with vintage furniture, custom displays, and its signature pink color scheme. Upon opening, Monaco says that she was fully embraced by the Rittenhouse community.
“We’ve already met a lot of small business owners and we all are dedicated to supporting each other and spreading the word about our businesses to visitors of our neighborhood,” she said. “My favorite thing to do is to give tourists a list of other places to visit or eat during their trip!”
Monaco is big on chatting up customers and giving recommendations. The Ritual Shoppe staff, a close-knit group of like-minded creatives, is known for their friendly, helpful, and approachable demeanor. Ritual also hosts in-store events for customers to connect with the local designers they carry.
“We hope that when you walk into Ritual you get a sense of ease and comfort while also finding something to brighten your day,” says Monaco.
The New Normal
Alongside other non-essential businesses, Ritual Shoppe closed the doors to their store in mid-March. While the boutique already had an online store, and a robust social media following, Monaco says that the transition was tough.
“We have always focused on in-person connections and bringing people into the actual store,” she said. “Now, we are pivoting to do as much web sales as possible.”
According to Monaco, the best way to support local makers during this time is to buy little things for yourself and loved ones and then posting videos on social media opening the pieces. Those who can’t make purchases can still make a difference by simply sharing social posts with their followers. This can help local businesses reach more customers – many of whom aren’t aware that a lot of small shops are offering the same free shipping or local pick up as larger stores.
Social media has been playing a big part in helping businesses stay connected to their customers and show their value from afar. Monaco has used her social channels to promote a virtual new moon circle that she hosted with another Philly artist over Zoom. She has also hosted Instagram takeovers with some of the designers she buys from at Ritual. This allows them to interact with Ritual Shoppe’s followers via the boutique’s account.
In the next few weeks, Monaco is planning different promotions, the creation of intention boxes, and a live streaming chat with her followers..
Real Connections in a Digital World
During these uncertain times, the strength of the community is more evident than ever. Angela Monaco’s relationships within the Philly creative community has become a huge asset in the current economy. The online collaborations Monaco is doing with other local creators helps Ritual Shoppe expand their reach online and put their products on more people’s feeds. The online cross-promoting between Philly artisans helps each small business connect with new customers and increase sales.
The community between creators and customers is important as well. With live streams and takeovers, Ritual Shoppe continues to foster a valuable relationship between local makers and potential customers. While these interactions don’t replace in-person conversations, learning more about a creative’s journey goes a long way with customers, especially during these times.
Last, but certainly not least, Monaco is ensuring that her online followers maintain their relationship with the store. With her new moon circles, intention boxes, and special sales, she is providing value for her customers during a difficult time. These actions are key to fostering Ritual Shoppe’s community within its customer base.
For Angela Monaco, supporting local artists and small businesses is a way of life. “I will drive 20 minutes to go to a local hardware store before I just order something off Amazon,” she says. “I intentionally think about each week what artist or small restaurant I want to support.” We hope that the broader Philadelphia community can adopt this lifestyle in the following months to ensure that Monaco and her peers can create for years to come.