Karen Cortés CTLatinoNews.com
A Latina-owned Connecticut business captured the attention of The Boston Globe this week. Mercedes Esposito’s Inka Arts, a retail shop carrying artisan jewelry, decorative arts, and cotton and alpaca apparel and accessories imported from Peru, was featured in The Globe’s “A Tank Away” column promoting Simsbury, Conn. as a tourist-friendly day trip destination.
Esposito says she wants to use Inka Arts to educate local residents and visitors about the myths and legacy of the Incas. “Simsbury is a community that will appreciate different cultures,” says Esposito. She features handcrafts that are “made as they were centuries ago so we don’t forget our roots, how everything started.”
Items in the Simsbury shop are selected by Esposito, primarily from crafters in Peru. Recently the product line has been expanded to include handcrafted global merchandise obtained from local non-profits that support efforts in Uganda, Ghana, Guatemala and Haiti. Esposito also accepts consignments from local crafters.
Esposito grew up in Lima, Peru, one of nine children. “I always dreamed of going to the United States,” she said. When a friend suggested a trip in 1991, she jumped at the opportunity. Esposito eventually settled in Stamford, where she worked as a bookkeeper. When her husband’s job was transferred to East Hartford, the couple moved to Avon.
Esposito was inspired to start Inka Arts after a visit to Machu Picchu in 2008. “I never realized the history, the story, the beauty of handmade items. No one knows how things were made. The skill was in their hands,” she says. “Machu Picchu has this energy, it makes you see what you want to be. It enlightens you.”
She returned to Connecticut from her trip armed with Peruvian goods that she began selling at craft fairs and tag sales. Soon her husband Scott encouraged her to find a storefront. Though she was a skilled jewelry crafter, she had no retail sales experience prior to opening Inka Arts in 2010.
Among the standout items in the shop are natural cotton baby clothes on display in the front window, soft alpaca sweaters, scarves and capes, and Esposito’s handcrafted jewelry.
Esposito’s jewelry is made from recycled and eco-friendly materials, including the huayruro seed, believed to an amulet of good luck and protection from evil spirits. “When a baby is born, a gift of huayruro seed protects the innocent,” says Esposito.
Shoppers at Inka Arts are greeted by an unlikely soundtrack— American 1940’s and 50’s era popular music that Esposito listened to as a youngster. “I knew all the words,” she says.
While many of her customers are tourists, Esposito is hoping for increased traffic in her store, both from visitors and area residents.
Inka Arts is located in the Simsbury Town Shops, 928 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury http://www.inkaartsllc.com/