Iguana More Than Just a Clever Name
The Green Iguana, the latest addition to downtown
College St., offers a variety of merchandise from around the world.
Browsing the racks of this new boutique, one can find reversible
silk pants from India, shirts and skirts from African and Asian
prints as well as a line of Peruvian scarves, hats and sweaters.
Owner Wendy Akagi opened the store in mid-May of last year. Her
new venture is an expansion of her business as a kiosk vendor in
Elyria’s Midway Mall, where she sold items such as cell phone
accessories, jewelry and sunglasses.
"I hated the regulations of the mall," she said, "They
own you. I wanted do a store and have a little more freedom."
The Green Iguana is more than just a name. There are, in fact, two
live iguanas in the window of the store: Theo and Brubeck, named
after jazz artists Theloneous Monk and Dave Brubeck. Akagi said
she is planning to purchase a new cage for her reptilian pets in
order to increase their visibility from the street.
The owner of Gibson’s, David Gibson, who has owned the adjoining
storefront since the late 1980’s, said he decided to go with
the Green Iguana over other competitors for the space because, "it
seemed like a creative idea." He also said he hoped the store
would add to the diversity of merchandise in Oberlin. When asked
whether he has been pleased with his choice so far, Gibson said,
"I think she’s done a very good job…and I wish
her the best of luck."
The new store carries some of the same items that could be found
on Akagi’s kiosks, but she has been able to expand her merchandise
to include clothing, shoes and snacks. The selection also caters
to the earth-conscious Oberlin student with hemp clothing and shoes
(some of which are also made with rubber from recycled tires).
Jim Fallada, an employee at the Green Iguana and a part-time student
at Lorain Community College, is excited about the line of men’s
hemp clothing – everything from jackets to pants — that
is due to arrive beginning in October. When asked about his experience
behind the counter, Fallada said, "The college kids have been
really cool and the residents have been supportive."
Since Oberlin students are her main customers, Akagi said she has
made an effort to carry items that will be affordable for the average
college kid. She said that she hopes her pricing will "make
it easy to just pop in and buy an outfit."
For those not in the market for a new ensemble, however, the store
carries a variety of accessories and novelty items. Cheap temporary
tattoos and some very reasonably priced silver earrings are on display
in addition to clothing. On the wall behind the counter are an assortment
of Asian snack foods, such as "Pocky" (cookie-like sticks
covered in chocolate fudge). Akagi said her decision to carry these
items was influenced by her sons (ages 13 and 17) who are half Japanese.
Akagi’s step-daughter, Jenny Akagi, age 22, helps her pick
out merchandise for the store at the trade shows they visit together
in various locations ranging from Lorain to Las Vegas. Their goal
is to fill the store with items that will appeal to everyone in
"Birkenstock [shoes] have been a huge hit… across the
board," Akagi said. She said she is flexible about her stock,
and has already taken a suggestion from several students who came
in looking for candles.
Many of us have been conditioned in the past to avoid the 21 West
College St. location, but, more and more, students are venturing
in to the get a closer look. With exotic clothing, funky jewelry
and environmentally sound footwear, as Akagi said with a smile,
"It’s not Lavern’s anymore."
When asked what her pet iguanas eat, she said, "They’re
vegetarians and they love collard greens." It sounds like they’ll
fit in just fine around here.