Many New Yorkers are used to making the most of small spaces with creative design solutions, but this new 58-inch art shop in Harlem takes petite perfection to the next level.
Nestled between two apartment buildings, MoonLab 42 measures in at just under 5 feet wide, but the store manages to house zines, books, records, incense, prints, candles, decorative objects, ceramics, jewelry, accessories, clothing and more. “It feels like a Mary Poppins bag,” Ruso Margishvili, the concept store’s co-owner tells us.
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The store opened this summer at West 145th near the intersection of St. Nicholas Ave. in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem. MoonLab 42, the store's name, harkens back to the shop Margishvili's family ran in her home country of Georgia. The name also evokes the couple's late-night candle-making in the moonlight.
Amid the early days of the pandemic, Margishvili and her husband John Holden noticed that their artist friends in both Georgia and New York City needed a way to show their work. The couple set up online shops and pop-up sales, then eventually found their dream brick-and-mortar location in Harlem.
“We didn’t want it to feel like a mall. We wanted it to feel like you came into this tiny space to experience something that’s unique,” Margishvili says. “We found this building that we call our hallway. You can touch both walls it’s so narrow. We really get a kick out of it.”
They renovated the shop in just three weeks, quickly filling every nook and cranny with wares. They also began hosting pop-up art shows where “everybody just spills out onto the sidewalk because they can’t fit into the place,” she explains.
You can touch both walls it's so narrow. We really get a kick out of it.
Though the building is tiny, the space feels light, bright and somehow even roomy thanks to clever vertical designs. Candles sit neatly on shelves, while records find space in bins beneath. Art prints hang along a string, and zines tuck into tiny ledges. It doesn't feel like a regular store, and that's what the couple loves about it. With Margishvili's background as an architectural designer and Holden's as a set dresser, they really know how to make a place feel special.
“We like how weird it is,” Margishvili says. “We like that it’s very peculiar. It’s an anomaly.”
The shop features artists from New York City as well as artists from the country of Georgia, some more established and others emerging in the profession. Prices are kept affordable with items ranging from $2 to $225 with most items averaging below $75.
“One of the rules is to make sure that what we sell is affordable so everybody who comes into the shop can afford to buy at least something,” Margishvili says.
Before the location became MoonLab 42, it housed an oil/soaps market, a vintage clothing store, a podcast studio, a barber shop and a tailor. With roots in art history, Margishvili yearns to learn even more about the tiny storefront’s history.
Nowadays, locals and visitors are drawn in to check out the art but also to talk about international affairs, especially given Margishvili's Georgian heritage. A few women—Margishvili calls them "the queens of the neighborhood"—often beckon passersby to come into the store.
“Everybody’s been so welcoming and warm. They are excited they can have an art shop like this in the area,” she says. “We’ve been very lucky to have such a warm welcome."
MoonLab 42 is open Wednesday through Saturday from noon-7pm at 405 W 145th Street. Everyone is invited to the shop for a holiday party on Saturday, December 17. Art shows will begin again in the spring.