I met Paulette Gay on a wonderful spring afternoon while walking around.
I love scarves and didn’t know her store existed.
The first thing which caught my eye were the African Violets outside the shoppe (at 408 Lenox Avenue, between 122nd and 123rd Streets). I thought that was fabulous to see and most inviting. My immediate thought was there must be a warmth of the owner to have done this as it is very easy to become tired of concrete. The shoppe stood out.
As I entered, I didn’t see anyone initially. I heard a voice say “welcome” and as I turned, I saw this figure ease out from the back to greet me, it was Paulette.
As I glanced the walls taking in the hats, neck ware, clothing and finally her best items; the scarves, she invited me to take my time and look around to see if there was anything I wanted to see, she’d be more than happy to get it for me. I did take my time as I was taken by some of the items in the store and I asked her lots of questions. Questions of who she was, about what caused her to open such a store, what invited her to place African Violets outside the store and her wares. She didn’t find my chat uninviting at all and stated she was glad I was inquiring.
That day I didn’t make a purchase. Over the course of a year, I’ve made several and have each scarf today. I’ve taken care of these particular scarves in a way which I’ve not taken care of others.
The last time I saw her, she was preparing for renovations and stated the shoppe would be closed for some time but rest assured, she’d be reopening. She’d been having some issues with the landlord, which she stated she’d pray on to continue the work she was involved in. Paulette made it a practice to give to organizations which housed people in need and she felt that each and every woman needed to feel her own beauty. The organization I worked for at the time was Project Greenhope for Women located on the upper east side and she’d donated scarves to the women.
As for myself, the last scarf I purchased from Paulette was black/white/gray silk and velvet. I was waiting for the shoppe to re-open, walking by at least once a month as I lived in Harlem at the time.
That didn’t happen of course, before I left NY. It wasn’t until the other day when I thought of gifting myself with something beautiful that she came to mind. While it saddened me to read the news, I trust the other side is filled with an extra beauty which only “The Scarf Lady” could provide….
Editor’s Note: Paulette Gay was one of the first businesses to advertise in the print edition of Harlem World Magazine in our early years. In an article in NY Peace Kahu Fred called her “Miss Harlem,” during a healing church service. He said, “…everyone should touch her, and get a partical of her light…that she had enough light to help all of Harlem.”