Coffee Chat with Rebekah Lazaridis
Interview & Images by: Nina Grace
Her wit is just as charming as her red hair! With a background in painting and drawing, living in cities like Chicago & New York, Rebekah Lazaridis is no newcomer to the scene of creativity and art. Making the decision to leave her previous industry as a scenic painter for theater and film, she has embarked on a new journey leading to an opportunity of self expression and entrepreneurship. Having a rich family history full of creatives and entrepreneurs - dating back to the early 1800's - it was inevitable that Rebekah, along with her sister and business partner, Rachel, would join forces and create Eugenia Woods.
What inspired you to create Eugenia Woods?
My initial inspiration was amidst feeling utterly drained, physically and emotionally, with my previous job - I worked for professional theaters in Florida and for the Union in NYC, painting several films, TV shows and Broadway productions. I was in New York and I randomly walked into this gorgeous store called ABC and I was wandering their pillows section and started gawking at the fabrics and quality of the work. I said out loud “I want to make pretty things for a living! Look at this pillow! It costs an arm and a leg...I can totally do that”! Of course, we all have that same criticism but we rarely act on it. I was so fueled up that day from just seeing beautiful items that I knew hand making was in my future.
My younger sister has a knack for fashion so we decided to start a blog together highlighting all the local love we were seeing after St. Pete's downtown rejuvenation. My mother in law gifted me two trunks full of unused vintage fabrics from Greece. This started my small vintage fabric collection. My sister and I started making and testing all kinds of items.
How long have you worked in St. Pete?
Eugenia Woods has been in business since August of 2010. We started as a blog that highlighted local events, DIY tutorials and what to wear on a night out in our new budding downtown scene. St. Pete has undergone a mini renaissance, incorporating new building developments, new restaurants, shops and a night scene. We wanted to touch on that new development and showcase it in our early work.
How would you describe St. Pete's Culture?
St. Pete has a vibe unique to St. Pete. It's a tad bohemian, traveled, transient with a dash of old south thrown in. Since the boom of the hotel industry in the 1920's I feel like St. Pete has been a landing spot for northerners seeking refuge from the wickedness of winter. Being home grown St. Pete since the late 1800's traces of southern accents stopped with my mother, although some people would argue that I have one. It's a comfortable vibe here that feels homier than neighboring Tampa. There is a wave of appreciation for the hard working mom and pop small businesses here and that's a draw. People engage with the arts scene here, and there is a great sense of community. I live in Tampa and ask people all the time what their thoughts are and everyone agrees that somehow there's just a better vibe in St. Pete.
You're very inspired by vintage finds, are there any shops that quench your inspiration in this area?
When I'm feeling uninspired and life seems droll, I take myself to a few antique shops that I love to get lost in. Even just simply surrounding myself with old stuff makes me feel better somehow. Like it's my very own showcase for glimpses into lost stories and past histories. I do feel that discarded items carry stories of owners past and I like not knowing what those stories are, but knowing an item has one gives it more meaning somehow. It's the same with a handmade item for me. So the art of pairing the two together is highly appealing to me.
I love getting lost in Memory Lane. I think there are literal mountains of vintage items in there that would be solid enough for you to climb on. I imagine myself putting a flag of triumph onto the top of one someday. They have a great section of vintage wares ranging mostly from the 50's to the 80's. Sometimes I find fabric from here but mostly I love the friendly faces of the owners when I visit and the woven aisles of treasures to maneuver. Always looking for interesting fabrics and sometimes I find pieces at Janet's on Central Ave. They have an amazing section on Old Florida items (cups, flags, cocktail swirlers, etc).
I have started a pretty decent Jadeite collection and love to find each piece in person rather than online. I am always on the hunt for good pieces. Really any Antique store, I'm game for.
St. Pete has a lot of sub communities - where should someone spend most of their time?
Well, it depends on the traveler. We have bright white soft sand beaches that absorb sound and make you feel like you have the perfect Bose headphones on. Our beaches are beautifully vast and glittered with sea oats that used to cover the sand back in my grandparents day. So if you're in the mood for a tan and a tropical drink, the beach is the place to head. Typically someone traveling here will want to pepper their visit with a few trips to varying beaches but there is so much downtown to experience. I absolutely love grabbing a cocktail at the Vinoy and pretending I'm a guest there and sitting out on their veranda watching the fancy cars pull into the valet. They know how to serve a mean martini with blue cheese stuffed olives and have the best mojito in town. Hands down. After hitting up Beach Drive and the downtown restaurants, I really love just driving around streets by Coffee Pot Bayou, during the day or at night. There are loads of old brick streets canopied by lazy oak trees and lovely well tapered homes around that area. Sometimes just taking in a place by driving around helps you absorb it so much more. I also like to discover hidden treasures of a city whilst exploring. I find that's my favorite way to soak up a place rather than hitting up all the tourist spots.