All Paws to the Rescue

By Robin Jovanovich

Over a decade ago, Claudia Baker was giving a client a massage when the woman turned to her and asked if she knew anyone who might be interested in buying her established pet store business in downtown Rye.

While Rye wasn’t a hop, skip away from northern New Jersey, where Baker lived, she knew and loved the store and the town, and thought why not!

A few months after taking over All Paws, Baker started adding her paw prints to the gourmet pet boutique. “I cut back on the super pricey merchandise and brought in quality U.S.-made products in a range of prices,” she said.

Not only does Baker help dog and cat owners find the best food and accessories for their furry friends, she also offers training tips and support. In a number of cases, a family didn’t give up on a problematic pup because she helped them work on the dog’s behavior, and their response.

She loves the days when children come in after school and ask her advice about the different kinds of treats she sells. Many families hold birthday parties for their beloved pets, and because every good dog deserves the occasional treat, All Paws stocks freshly baked ones.

“This store is like a family,” says Baker with a smile. Many customers bring their dogs, which thrills Rory, the Yellow Labrador Baker adopted a little less than two years ago. “He was in desperate need — of love and training — and he had me at woof,” said Baker who was recovering from the death of her very special Black Lab, Murphy.

While Baker is helping shoppers choose the right size coat or collar, don’t be surprised when Rory comes over to offer his assistance. He brings you his latest toy and you soon find yourself playing tug-of-war.

One question many longtime clients and customers have asked Baker is: Do you give massages to dogs? “Other than my own, very rarely,” she answers matter-of-factly. “Not every dog is comfortable getting more than a pat or a hug.”

This week, just back from the Pet Rescue luncheon at Apawamis Club, Baker, who wears her affection for four-footed creatures on her sleeve, is thinking of all the ways she can help more dogs find good homes. She already sponsors ads for the Humane Society of Westchester in this paper, and contributes to a number of pet causes, but she’s now planning to donate 10 percent of every $100 sale to the many animal shelters.

Meanwhile, a customer calls and says she’ll be by in five minutes to pick up her order. Baker, “thanks to a generous landlord”, now offers curbside pickup. And the first of many children walks in to browse the large selection of Mother’s Day gifts — hats, mugs, T-shirts — and cards. Rory rises from his afternoon nap to help.


All Paws owner Claudia Baker with Rory

By Robin Jovanovich

One year ago, the City Council was ready to approve an application from Crown Castle on behalf of Verizon Wireless to install 64 additional DAS (distributed antenna system) nodes to remedy “a significant coverage gap” and ensure that individuals, business, and emergency services would have “reliable” wireless communication service. Mayor Joe Sack went so far as to write a column in a local newspaper encouraging the plan because upgrades were needed. But upon learning the news, and encouraged by Councilmember Emily Hurd to participate in the public process, residents were quick to voice their opposition to the plan, primarily because many of those nodes would be installed in the residential right-of-way, right in their front yards. And if the application were approved, every other wireless provider would follow and have the right to install even more.

A citizen’s committee that began last June with two, Josh Cohn and Trish Agosta, quickly became dozens. They networked and hired their own consultants. Soon, over 1,100 residents signed a petition to protect residential Rye. Over the course of a year, more and more residents have done their research, read public documents, pored over cellular coverage maps, found out what other communities have done when a wireless provider made a similar application. (Several towns have voted to prohibit DAS nodes in rights-of-way and the applicant has moved on.) What most Rye residents now understand is that the unit’s internal cooling fans make them noisy, above noise levels in the City Code. (One resident compared the noise to having a dishwasher next to your bedroom.) Homeowners also discovered that property values suffer when poles and boxes line residential neighborhoods.

During public hearings, residents have asked for alternatives to minimize the visual and community character-changing impact: stealth towers; installing units on existing facilities and on or near commercial areas and on public buildings; and reducing the total number of units. They’ve also made a strong case that technology is changing so quickly that what’s installed today will be outmoded.

To date there have been 14 public meetings, two public coffees, and, on Monday night, a special Council meeting to discuss proposed amendments to the City Code regarding noise, placement of permanent facilities in the rights-of-way, and wireless telecommunications facilities. Deputy Mayor Julie Killian, presiding at the special meeting, began the discussion by noting that, “It’s complicated.”

By Georgetta L. Morque

Shopping takes on new meaning when a portion of the purchase price is donated to a charity of your choice. Designs that Donate is a unique business that gives shoppers this special opportunity. With their motto, ‘We Find, You Shop, We Give,’ co-founders and sisters-in-law Keri Starker and Farrel Starker of Purchase set out to make a difference, and they have.

What started as a small grass roots company in 2014 has expanded throughout Westchester and beyond into the metropolitan area and the national marketplace. Designs that Donate has supported several hundred charitable organizations, and has over 4,200 followers.

“Our goal is to help a lot of organizations and get the word out about what they do,” said Farrel.

Customers can shop on the company’s website (, through Instagram, or by private appointment. Designs that Donate also acts as a pop-up shop at charitable events where donations support that particular organization. The pair have frequented Rye Country Day’s book fair and have supported Pediatric Cancer at Willow Ridge Country Club, and Play for Pink at Brae Burn Country Club, to name a few.

Both savvy shoppers and designers, Farrel and Keri have flair and taste that friends have long admired. They enjoy scouring the marketplace for new trends and high quality finds from all over the world. “We’re always looking to satisfy customers,” said Keri, a jewelry designer for over 20 years.

Designs that Donate works with over 100 designers of fashion, accessories, jewelry, home goods, and more. Many items can be customized which is a big selling point. “People want to give a gift that’s personal,” said Farrel, noting their popular Lucite boxes customized with a school logo or special saying and monogramed blankets and bracelets. “And there’s an extra step in making it personal because it also supports a charity that’s meaningful to the customer.”

In designating their preferred charity, customers can choose from a long list or submit a new one. “We’re learning everyday about new nonprofits and new needs,” said Farrel. The Starkers find their work rewarding although exhausting, but at the end of a busy day they are happy about being together and feeling good about what they are doing.


Keri Starker and Farrel Starker

All ages helped the Westchester Children’s Museum celebrate its first birthday last weekend. Yes, there was cake, but not before the guests — 800 of them! — tried their hands at Rigamajig and yarn sculpture, raced balloon cars, and accepted the construction challenge.

Here’s to many more celebrations.

Photos by Melanie Cane

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