by Mike Hays
Maria Whittingham has been a retail presence in Nyack for 30 years. The owner of Maria Luisa Boutique and ML by Maria Luisa is always ready to tell customers the stories behind the high quality clothing and accessories sold in her stores. Maria is a well respected pillar of the community who backs human rights’ causes and supports the local arts. She also founded the ML by Maria Luisa Scholarship Fund to recognize Rockland County women who, through their actions or beliefs, embrace civic and community involvement, commitment to social justice, social equality and environment/eco-friendly lifestyles.
For all her steadfastness to the village, she has moved many times in her personal life. She grew up in the Bronx and Puerto Rico, before returning to New York City, moving to Rockland County and Nyack. Her business has moved six times in Nyack at four different locations on South Broadway. Each location has a long history in the fabric of our village history.
37 South Broadway, the former A&P Supermarket
Maria Luisa opened her first store in 1987 in a tiny shop in the basement of the Hudson Valley Emporium, an indoor antique mall where she sold clothing that she had mostly sewn herself. She shared the basement with a retro portrait photographer, a popular entertainment of the time. She moved to a better location upstairs, sharing space with Helen’s Antiques and others. By the next year, she had expanded and moved across the first floor hall to a larger space. She began selling apparel made by others.
37 South Broadway was built at the same time as the Nyack YMCA in 1926. While the architecture is different, the two buildings share a common wall and the same type of bricks. The A&P grocery store was on the first floor. The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company was the largest chain in America from 1915-1965 and had a number of other locations in Nyack. Along with the Grand Union, it was one of two Nyack supermarkets, “super” because meats, fish, baked goods, and vegetables and fruits were sold together where they had been sold in entirely separate stores before. The A&P lasted until 1969. The second floor had offices for dentists and lawyers.
14 South Broadway, once home of Shea’s Drugs
When Shea’s Drug left 10 S. Broadway in 1990, Maria Luisa jumped at the chance to move to the location now occupied by the Saffron Trading Company. As the first new tenant in the building since 1910, she briefly shared the space with a garden shop that occupied the back and loft of the store. Soon Maria Luisa took over the whole space and remained a tenant at that location for nearly 20 years.
As early as 1861, the site was the location of Van Houten’s Drug and Medicine Store. A large, four-story building with a mansard roof and a large central cupola called The Commercial Building was built at the location in the 1870s. The first floor was home to a number of shops including Kelly’s Cigars on the corner and Edward Hopper’s father’s dry goods store (at what is now Grace’s Thrift Shop.)
A fire destroyed the upper stories sometime around 1920 and the beautiful mansard roof building was reduced to its current configuration of two floors.
Somewhere around 1910, Daniel Shea opened Shea’s Drugs, remaining at the location until 1980. The drugstore had the only soda fountain in town, so it well remembered by the kids of the day.
75 & 77 S. Broadway once the site of greenhouses
In 2008, it was time to move again. Maria Luisa purchased 75 S. Broadway and moved into space that had been occupied by another long-time Nyack apparel merchant. The store is on the first floor and in what appears to be the original basement with stonewalls and wide plank flooring. Just a few doors north, the Nyack Brook goes under S. Broadway and the commercial block on its way to the Hudson River near Memorial Park.
Perhaps inspired by the greenhouse once sited at that location, Maria grew her brand by opening a second shop at 75 S. Broadway. ML by Maria Luisa, a boutique that offers Fair Trade and eco-minded goods, complements the original flagship store, Maria Luisa Boutique, located at 77 S. Broadway. The attractive lavender-painted original storefront has warm, dark wide-planked flooring inside and an inviting home-like addition on the back with views of the Hudson River.
Tied together by a common decorative cornice on top of the first and third floors, the set of five continuous three-story brick buildings (69-77 S. Broadway.) They were built in the 1880s on land owned by Tunis Depew and were previously the home of the Depew greenhouses beside the Nyack Brook. The buildings covered the Nyack Brook and incorporated the bridge that ran over it on Broadway. With some exceptions (the stucco front on #73 and the first floor front on #69) the buildings remain much as originally conceived with stores on the first floor and apartments on the top two floors.
Photo credits: Historical photos courtesy of The Nyack Library
2017 photos by Mike Hays
- Nyack Sketch Log: Maria Luisa, 12/12/2017
- ML by Maria Luisa Scholarship Fund
- Maria Luisa Boutique and ML by Maria Luisa
- Say No To The Bag petition at Change.org
- Earth Matters: The Politics of Plastic Bags, 3/4/2017
- Nyack Sketch Log: Women of Leadership and Vision, 3/3/2015
Michael Hays is a 30-year resident of the Nyacks. He grew up the son of a professor and nurse in Champaign, Illinois. He has recently retired from a long career in educational publishing with Prentice-Hall and McGraw-Hill. He is an avid cyclist, amateur historian and photographer, gardener, and dog walker. He has enjoyed more years than he cares to count with his beautiful companion, Bernie Richey. You can follow him on Instagram as UpperNyackMike.
Nyack People & Places features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY. Sponsored by Weld Realty.