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Warren’s new Lady Next Door opens her doors

Pandemic brings East Bay native home and presents a future the new shop owner hadn’t seen coming

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Christine Stulik always dreamed of coming home to the East Bay. It took the Covid-19 pandemic to bring her back from New York City and deliver a new life.

Ms. Stulik, 35, recently took over The Lady Next Door, a vintage clothing and antique shop at 196 Water St. that had been one of her favorite haunts when she was a high school student growing up in Barrington.

Her road back home has taken her halfway across the country. After graduating high school in 2003, she studied theater at Northwestern and soon after settled in Chicago, where she worked as an actor. Four years ago, she moved to Brooklyn and continued in the arts as an actor, freelance writer, musician and in more mainstream jobs along the way. Most recently, she had been working in estate and move management - "basically STUFF," she said.

“I was having a great time,” she said. “It was going well.”

This Spring, when it became clear that the city was no longer the same joyous and rich New York she’d come to love, and when her job was impacted, she decided to come home and re-connect with her parents, whom she had missed.

“New York is still great. But I’ve always wanted to end up back in Rhode Island and settle here,” she said Friday. “When everything changed I said, ‘Well, I guess this is settle time.’ It probably wouldn’t have happened any other way.”

So she packed up her Volvo wagon and headed north, initially renting a living space from Warren artist Allison Newsome and getting re-acquainted with the area. She has since moved back to Barrington.

For decades, The Lady Next Door had been owned and operated by Sandy Nathanson, though the shop just north of the Square Peg has been largely inactive over the past few years. During high school and afterwards, Ms. Stulik spent many hours there, poring over the many vintage dresses and other clothing Ms. Nathanson stocked. It was one of her favorite places, and over the course of her many visits she and the original Lady Next Door became friends and bonded over their mutual love of theater and their similar aesthetic. When they re-connected a few months ago, her old friend presented her an opportunity she hadn’t considered.

“She expressed that it was becoming too much for her,” Ms. Stulik said. “I think it was hard for her to let it go.” Eventually, “she asked me if I wanted the shop.”

Though she knew opening a vintage shop in the middle of a pandemic was a risk, she decided it was worth it: “It was a singular thing, never going to happen again,” she said. “And then for Sandy to sell it to someone she knows ... I thought it was great. She was like a mentor to me and it was a perfect opportunity. Buying the shop suddenly seemed like the most logical thing in the world. As for Sandy, she gets to pass it on to someone who truly appreciates all the work and love she poured into it over the years.”

On June 3, after looking through the shop’s inventory and consulting with friends and parents, she signed the paperwork and celebrated by popping a few bottles of champagne. She opened earlier this month.

Getting the store ready has been a lot of work, and with the pandemic slowing foot traffic around town, business has been slow so far. But she has met with many residents who remember the shop from Ms. Nathanson’s days, and she is happy to come in every morning. Most of her days have been spent cataloguing, refining the shop’s enormous stock and working to develop a customer base. She has big plans.

“I thought, ‘Starting a business is going to be slow anyway,’” she said. “It’s giving me more time to build an online presence, advertise, and get the store the way I want it. So it was kind of nice to start off that way. It’s been a lot of fun so far and I'm happy to be carrying on the shop."

The Lady Next Door is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. You can follow the shop on Instagram at @ladynextdoorvintage.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.