KATONAH, N.Y.— It was pain that first led Linda Love to Awakenings in Katonah.
Newly-diagnosed with Lyme disease in 1992, the North Salem resident was seeking relief from crippling joint pain, headaches and body aches.
“I’d buy herbs and remedies across the street at the old Katonah Natural Market, and then I’d go into this store looking for ways to heal myself because I knew mainstream medicine wasn’t working for me,” Love explained.
Not long after that, a neighbor, who had taken an astrology class at the store, urged her to reach out to the store manager, Rose Gorman. Gorman was looking for a reliable person to fill in at the store and allow her to take some much-needed time off.
Love thought it would be a great way to return to the work force after being a stay-at-home mom for 16 years.
“I came here and she hired me on the spot,” Love recalled. “I worked here for the next 20 years before I purchased the store myself in 2004.”
Within the first year, she was given an opportunity to manage the store and take it in a different direction, stocking it with spiritual books, candles, incense, crystals, clothing and jewelry that resonated with her.
For years, Love put her unique touch on the business until she was forced to close the store on April 29, after it had been in existence since 1986.
Love blamed the closure on a number of factors, including a loss of business to internet sales, and a steady increase in rent over the years. The financial issues came to a head recently when the building changed hands to a new owner based in Greenwich, Conn.
Several months ago, Love found a buyer for the store and the deal was contingent on a new lease.
The buyer got cold feet when the new owner required three months rent for a security deposit, a 3 percent increase for three years, and a payment of an outstanding real estate tax bill, as part of the deal.
“Who can afford that, especially someone starting a new business?” asked Love.
On Tuesday, April 25, customers streamed into Awakenings to purchase the remaining items on the store shelves, which had been marked 50 percent off, and to reminisce about their experiences there.
“I’m going to miss it, to tell you the truth, but it’s exciting,” said one customer who didn’t want to give her name. “Because you don’t know what change brings. Everyone here has been wonderful. It brings out kindness and warmth. It’s a wonderful place, but how long could it last, really?”
Longtime customer Patricia Higgins of Katonah said she was devastated to learn Awakenings was shuttering after more than 30 years in business.
“I felt a sense of community grief and loss. Given the challenging time we’re living in, this store has been an oasis of transformation and healing. It seems to be the way much of America and the world is going, where money trumps everything––even here, in one of the most prestigious areas of the country,” she said.
Love said she never expected to touch so many people over the years.
“Awakenings has been a big part of my own spiritual journey. Every time a customer walked in the door, it was a blank slate to help people find their direction in life. Pain brings you to change,” she said.
Raised a Christian, Love now embraces all forms of religion and spirituality and said she found her own spiritual teacher at the store about seven years ago.
As Higgins was making her final purchase, she looked around the store and summed things up.
“It’s been a very sacred space here. And Linda’s been the keeper. It’s not only the artifacts and goods. This was a place where people could come to deal with addictions or issues of grief or job loss in their life, and get a level of support and possibility, and that’s now been eradicated,” Higgins said.
“Woe is us,” said Jory Osyczka of Peekskill, who has been a customer of the store since the beginning, “This has been something of a haven to me, because I’ve learned a great deal about myself through the readers and classes here. It was through those experiences that I’ve touched hearts and met other hearts who have been transformed by this experience.”
Osyczka said Awakenings is impossible to replace.
“Because people have been coming here for so long, it’s like a church, in that the energy and love that’s been placed on here has had an effect on everybody’s consciousness,” Osyczka said.
Meanwhile, the 67-year-old Love is looking forward to the forced time off, joking that perhaps she might start working in Kohl’s department store. On a more serious note of reflection, she hinted that she’s considering a possible job offer for a new spiritual center slated to open in the next few weeks in Ridgefield, Conn.
“When one door closes, another always opens. One thing’s for sure, I won’t be going back to a 9 to 5 job,” she declared.