Scroll to Meet your caz neighbors
“With ‘Eye Love’, I wanted to make the point that I’m going to give back. When I’m able to, I’m going to give back. This wasn’t so that I could buy a bigger house or upgrade our lifestyle. This is so that we can give back as much as we can, and that’s really important for us. I grew up and very much had a lot of help when we were younger. I’m one of five. My mom was single and we didn’t have a lot. And, it’s tough. It was tough, tough, tough. So, I’m in a different position, and I’m going to be sure that somebody who’s in the position I was in when I was younger, if I can help make their life easier, I’m gonna do that.”
Shawna is the newest addition to the businesses that line the historic village streets of Cazenovia. And, her mission is clear: she aims to provide her customers with the best quality frames and lenses while forming the connections and honesty that is often lacking in her industry today. While the name she chose for her business seems fitting for any optical boutique, her desire to give back to those in need through her talent and business, makes the name an even more perfect match.
Shawna’s story isn’t all lenses and frames, though. She’s a CNY local who’s spent her entire life in the area. She grew up in Chittenango, and found herself bartending at Tacoma’s in her early
20s. She was there on September 11, 2001 when the nation was frozen with fear and anxiety, yet filled with a renewed and unconditional love for one another. This was also the day that would mark an unexpected change in her life’s course for another reason; this was the day that she met the man who would eventually become her husband and the father to her children. “He came home (to CNY) the night of 9/11. He lived in Manhattan and when that happened, his parents had him get into the car, and come home because they were scared; nobody knew what was going to happen. And then he drove out of there and went straight to Tacoma’s where I worked. And, that’s the first night we met. Geez, we must have been 23 when that happened.”
Fast-forward almost 20 years, and Shawna found herself moving to Cazenovia during the beginning stages of the pandemic with her family of 5. Having grown up right next to Caz, it was not a new place for her, but one she had grown to love. “I love that it’s not so much a ‘tourist town’, but there's a lot of stuff going on here. I wanted to be closer with my customers and, you know, really get to know them and be a part of the community that I’m living in. It was always a dream for me to have my work be two miles from my house. So, when this spot opened, I was like, ‘No way!’.” And, while the newness of her home is just beginning to wear off, and the doors to her business have only just been opened for a few short weeks, she’s been overwhelmed by the support and kindness she has received from the community.
There is no better proof that you can live out your dreams with just a bit of dedication, some hard work, and a lot of goal-setting. Shawna’s journey in frames and lenses began at a big-box eye care provider working at the bottom as a receptionist, and through training and many years of experience practicing her craft, she’s now the owner of a brand new eye boutique. She, herself, has 20/20 vision and it is clear that her own words cannot be further from the truth: “the future is open!”
“The grass is greener...well, we always think it’s greener somewhere else. But, then somebody comes and sees what you have, and they think it’s greener where you are. My niece, in England, is a detective and she said something I thought was really wise. She said, ‘The grass is greener when you water it.’ In other words, you better get on and water your own grass.”
Judith Warburton has called CNY home for more than 40 years after she immigrated to the United States from England. It was her husband’s career in cable television that brought the couple across the pond all that time ago, but it was “serendipity” that landed them in Cazenovia where they became decades-long residents and owners of a small Mediterranean housewares shop. You see, Judith was simply in search of a hot cup of coffee when she decided to make the short drive from Manlius to Cazenovia for a change of scenery. It was on this visit, that she noticed a “For Sale” sign in a vacant storefront window, and without much deliberation, she and her husband decided to purchase the building and open a shop.
Fast forward to today, and you’ll still find Judith at Lavender Blue in the heart of Cazenovia. When asked how her shop compares to those in Europe, she explained, “People have said to me when they come in here it takes them back to their visit to Provence.” The products that fill the store are a curated collection of ceramics from Spain, and table linens from France. I witnessed, firsthand, Judith’s passion for her products as she enthusiastically toured me through the shop pulling out and describing the uniqueness of her tablecloths. “The tablecloths are 100% cotton, but they have a process (only in France, I believe), where they can put an acrylic in the face. So now, with my grandchildren, when they spill on this (tomato sauce, chocolate sauce), I’m able to not shout at them, I can just wipe it off and it creates harmony.”
Creating harmony is not just something Judith strives for with her tablecloths, it’s also a goal of hers within the greater community as well. There is a light that sparkles in her eye when she speaks of the people who’ve walked through her door. “The customers are wonderful. We have marvelous conversations. We make friends of the customers. They send photographs, hand-written cards. It’s not just been the shop, it’s been a wonderful meeting place for all of the people. People come back year after year. It’s wonderful. I love it. It’s really, really nice to have that connection with people.” It’s this human connection that she fears will continue to diminish in the future. “It’s an ongoing battle because, with Amazon, which is so efficient with everything. I would hate to think that for my grandchildren, that small shops and small beautiful villages were gone. Small shops are essential to the vibrant life of a village. And, without it, we would be a ‘pass-through’ on Route 20. I hope the day doesn’t come when we are superseded by just multi-chain shops and online. I know it’s so convenient, but there’s nothing like making that human contact. That’s so important. And, I think it would be a cheated world that the kids didn’t have that experience of being able to shop locally. Human contact is what it’s all about.”
After just an hour speaking with Judith, it became clear that the grass is greener where she is because of how much she waters it. The best depiction of how well she tends to her “grass” is seen through her own words when she was asked where her “dream retirement location” would be: “I am living my dream. Except I do like to travel. I really enjoy going to France, and to Spain, and of course, back to England. But, this is a very, very beautiful part of the world to live. We’re very lucky. With the lakes, and...well, the snow can get a bit… But, I’ve solved that problem. I’ve bought myself cramp-ons!” I think we could all agree that the grass does seem to be greener when you water it...so let’s get on to watering it!