The latest entry in Norwalk’s retail scene is not found within the trendy parameters of SoNo or bordering the traffic-clogged thoroughfares of routes 1 and 7. Instead, it is a small store offering second-hand merchandise that is tucked away on a side street in the gritty, working-class Whistleville section of the city where retail outlets are few and far between.
The new store is called Euphoria — perhaps an appropriate name, considering the selection of items packed into the snug 600-square-foot space. Since its opening Sept. 1, Euphoria has presented a happy mix of yesteryear’s pop culture and today’s items that are ready for another go-round.
Clothing, furnishings and appliances share space with vintage toys, framed art, previously owned CDs and DVDs and what could only be described (for lack of a better word) as tchotchkes. An ebullient plastic Halloween pumpkin greets the visitors entering the 5 Mulvoy St. establishment while an Elvis Presley Christmas album and a trio of boxed G.I. Joe dolls from the Vietnam War era occupy places of honor on a shelf above the store’s front counter.
And not unlike the merchandise, the store’s owner Catherine Hornyak is enjoying a second lease on life.
“I had a very bad accident many years ago and I’ve had spinal stenosis and a lot of medical issues,” she explained. “But I persevered. I have three kids that are all grown and I wanted something for me now.”
Hornyak’s lifelong interest in acquiring knickknacks and antiques helped build the store’s initial selection. Indeed, she expressed surprise that people know her for her collecting talents.
“I’m always in a position where I am at someone’s house and people say, ‘Catherine, I don’t wear these clothes anymore — would you like to have them?’” she continued. “And I’m like, ‘Sure!’”
Yet Hornyak doesn’t approach Euphoria from a total sense of commerce, but rather with a holistic appeal to community. Free coffee, tea and bottled water is served and a comfy couch enables shoppers to relax and chat with the highly personable proprietor.
“I’ve had so many people come in and say, ‘You’re like an angel, we love to talk to you,’” she said. “People love coming in here — they feel it is a real homey atmosphere. I want them to feel comfortable that they can come in and talk to me. They can stay for hours — I don’t care, I’ve made a lot of connections.”
And Hornyak is not shy about using her connections to help those whose needs extend beyond her inventory. She recalled meeting a young woman of very limited financial needs who received an apartment from the state but lacked the means to furnish it. Hornyak made a few telephone calls to her circle and the young woman quickly had a bed delivered to her apartment. Word of Hornyak’s altruism has spread in the neighborhood and her good deeds are being fueled by those who adhere to the concept of paying it forward.
“Now, I have people drop stuff at the door to help people, because they know I help people,” she said. “If people come to me and say, ‘If you can give me a little bit of a break,’ I can do it because I know what it’s like. Some people just can’t afford a lot.”
But that’s not to say that Euphoria is a retailer of last resort for the cash-strapped. Hornyak has advertised the store on Craigslist, emphasizing its esoteric and eclectic offerings, and has welcomed visitors in search of something out of the ordinary.
“The typical customer is like me and you,” she said. “They come in looking for they don’t know what, but they’re just happy to be able to find it. You can walk through and, believe me, you can find something. I’m not Walmart, but I have stuff from the old days. I have stuff that might remind you of your mother and your father. I have stuff that you had when you were a kid.”
And if it that item is not in the store, Hornyak insisted that “I will actually help you find that item, and I won’t stop until I do.” If one item bedazzles shoppers, Hornyak observed, it’s her diverse selection of jewelry. “Everyone loves jewelry, even men,” she laughed.
Hornyak is already preparing to expand Euphoria’s square footage by taking over a warehouse behind the store, which she said is double the current space. She is also planning a Halloween party of the neighborhood children, which she said would reinforce the sense of community that her retail outlet seeks to generate.
“The reason I named it Euphoria is because it’s a happy state of mind,” she said.