A Taste of Latin America at Lucy’s

By Sarah Blaisdell

Dresses blow in the wind outside Lucy’s Hand-Made Clothing Shop, beckoning customers to step into the unique store. Scarves, hats, sweaters, jewelry and even wooden flutes are just a sampling of what waits inside. It’s hard to believe that for more than 10 years, this outdoor display of merchandise was all that existed of Lucy’s.

“In the beginning, it’s always hard,” owner Lucy Moran, says.

Open seven days a week on 2021 Penn Avenue in the Strip District, Moran opened her store with the help of her friends and her two daughters. It was a big step forward for Moran and her customers, whom she refers to as her “sidewalkers.” The new space allows her to showcase a greater variety of hand-made goods from Peru and her native Ecuador.

Photo by Fred Blauth

Photo by Fred Blauth

“You cannot find some of this stuff in the malls,” Moran says. “People come back for quality.”

Quality is exactly what Moran hopes to offer with her store. Originally from the Sierra region of eastern Ecuador, Moran grew up learning the traditions of Latin American manufacturing culture, such as weaving and hand-embroidery. Her shop now brings this artisanship to the Strip with hand-made goods from her home country as well as Peru, India, Nepal, Mexico, Guatemala, Pakistan and Bolivia. Customers search through the reasonably priced offerings as if they are on a treasure hunt.

“The main reason people decide to get something here is because they want to see what other countries can offer. They’re tired of seeing the ‘Made in China’ label,” Moran says.

Moran tries to accommodate all of her customers and takes their satisfaction seriously. She always remembers three rules for success in business, which are posted at the front of her store: “1. Take care of the customer 2. Take care of the customer 3.  Take care of the customer.”

“We want to make them happy,” she says. Moran emphasizes these rules to everyone on her team, which consists of three members. She believes the only way her store can be a success is with these three women. Hesitant to call them employees, she instead refers to them as her “very good friends.” Her team reflects the diversity of goods in her store, as one is from Guatemala, one from Iran and one from Mexico.

“We work as a family,” Moran says. “We share everything.”

Marta, a member of Moran’s team for two years, says she never expected to see the type of clothing Moran sells in Pittsburgh. A professor in her home country of Mexico, Marta says she enjoys seeing what customers discover at Lucy’s.

“They have fun in the store. It’s like a tour. They can find different styles and they feel like they’re transported to another place,” Marta said.

Soon, customers will be able to shop in a new place when Moran opens a store in Southside. This store is scheduled to open on East Carson Street in mid-November, and will carry all of the goods currently found at Lucy’s, such as hand-made sweaters, hand embroidered dresses, hand-crocheted children’s clothes, scarves, pashminas and animal hats. The big difference will be the store’s hours, which will reflect the later schedule of the neighborhood. While Moran opens her shop in the Strip as early as 6 a.m.  on some days to keep up with customers’ earlier tendencies, the store on Southside will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to accommodate a typically later crowd.

Photo by Fred Blauth

Photo by Fred Blauth

For Moran, her second store is not only for reaching more customers, but it is also a symbol of personal triumph. Hard work has allowed Moran to live in Pittsburgh for 15 years while supporting her family at home in Ecuador. While she has not been able to visit her family since 2004, she was able to see her uncle when he stopped by Lucy’s for the first time.  “He was congratulating me day and night,” Moran says.

Moran urges her daughters to follow in her footsteps and become “professionals” who treat customers and employees honestly and fairly. Their success would make Moran extremely proud and grateful . She hopes they will follow her model of building from the ground up.

“My goal is for my daughters to see how people can start from nothing and become an entrepreneur,” she says.

An entrepreneur is exactly what Moran has become by bringing a little piece of Latin America to the Strip. She will continue to decorate her store with unique hand-made treasures until every space is filled. Her success and strategy are distilled in a simple maxim her mother taught her: “The only thing that is impossible is coming back from the dead. The rest you can fix,” Moran says.