Downtown Meets Cape Town

By Janice Llanes Fabry

Pedestrians and drivers are lingering a bit longer on the corner of Purchase Street and Purdy Avenue. Sarza, the shop that opened its doors on April 1, is a feast for the eyes. A storefront that boasts a potpourri of rich tones and texture is merely a smattering of the South African bounties and African artifacts that await customers inside.

“Sarza is a retail space of curated, contemporary furniture, homeware, jewelry, and fashion accessories,” said owner Sarah Briginshaw. “In creating it, I hoped to offer my customers a place to find an easy gift with a difference, or a little spoil for themselves or their homes.”

The store’s eye-catching moniker is a portmanteau, combining Briginshaw’s first name with South Africa’s Internet country code. Pleased about the positive response she’s getting, Briginshaw has discovered that many shoppers have vacationed in Cape Town and gone on safaris. For those who may not know at first glance what to make of her products, she will gladly help them incorporate selections into their style.

Born and raised in South Africa, Briginshaw had never visited New York. Eighteen months ago, however, she took a leap of faith with her husband, John. They relocated to Rye, which felt very familiar as they were used to an “outdoor lifestyle and being close to the beach.” Their son Yves is now a sixth grader at Rye Middle School, and daughter Anais is a third grader at Milton.

“Everyone here has been very welcoming. We thought Rye was a beautiful part of the world,” remarked Sarah, high praise coming from a woman who lived in the south of France for six years.

Always involved in the interior design arena, Briginshaw was a buyer for stores in a series of hotels (“lodges”) in South Africa and Africa. Owning her own store surrounded by merchandise she loves and knows intimately was a natural progression.

She carries predominantly South African merchandise from small businesses owned by women. Each piece is handmade and has an interesting backstory. Vibrant papier-mâché bowls, for instance, are hand crafted by Wola Nani, a non-profit organization that provides employment for HIV-positive craftswomen.

Briginshaw proudly related that Cape Town was deemed the design capital of the world last year. Certainly, Sarza is replete with innovative designs and high-quality merchandise, from hand-blown cognac and wine glasses made with Ngwenya glass in Swaziland to stunning baskets woven in a range of color-coated wire. Plush, machine-washable, 100% cotton throws and towels come from a family-owned business in the seaside town of Plettenberg Bay that blends traditional Congolese styles with contemporary designs.

Other home furnishings include a bold line of pillows, cushions, trays, and wallpaper created by designer and photographer Clinton Friedman, whose botanicals are inspired by South African plants in his own garden. Briginshaw also carries John Vogel, a custom line of contemporary furniture with an African edge that includes indoor and outdoor chairs, tables, and décor. Shoppers can choose the style, weave, and timber.

African artifacts include intriguing decorative sculptures and fine Namji dolls, carved from wood and adorned with beads. The Kirsten Goss jewelry line of precious and semi-precious gemstones that are mini works of art is designed by Briginshaw’s “dear old school friend.”

No doubt, customers are sure to discover something different each visit to Sarza. For the arrival of new goods, also visit SarzaStore on Instagram and Facebook. Shop hours are Monday through Saturday from 9:30-5:30. For more information, call 305-2023.


Owner Sarah Briginshaw