New Biz: My Oyster
Weddings have become a booming business on Block Island, and the number of events being held here is only growing. Melissa Sitbon Philip comes to Block Island every summer to create floral arrangements for some of these brides through her current business Painted Rock Designs, which was named in the “2016 Best of Weddings” by bridal network website The Knot, and received a “2016 Couples’ Choice Award” from WeddingWire. Recently she began asking the brides she worked with if they feel that there’s anything they think is missing from their wedding experiences on Block Island. Their feedback is what inspired her to open up My Oyster, which is far more than just a store.
First, Sitbon Philip is currently aiming to create an online network, of vendors from all over the island and the nearby mainland in the wedding business, called The Little Block Book. The website will be in the same vein as popular bridal networks WeddingWire and The Knot, but tailored for the local community. Vendors will pay yearly to be a network member, and brides will be able to easily find information on all the vendors in the network, review those they work with, and see how others rated the vendors they’re interested in. Sitbon Philip hopes to create a “network of businesses that respond quickly, are reliable, and work together to cultivate each other’s businesses in a noncompetitive environment.
That last part is very important: Sitbon Philip wants to create a team through the network, instead of cutthroat competition. “Of course we’re all competing for the same business. But there are over 150 weddings here between June and September. I’m very comfortable recommending someone to Jamie at La Bella Rose, for example, because I know how great her work is. We also have very different styles, so if I know she would do a better job on something, I’ll send them to her.”
She will also offer her space on Corn Neck Road for small wedding businesses to meet with their client in a professional environment. “If you’re not a large place like the Spring House, then you’re meeting with people in your kitchen, or in your car in the winter.” Sitbon-Philips wants to step up Block Island’s game and create a professional space available for use (by appointment) year round. Each network member can have the space customized for them before their appointment, with their business cards and examples of their work set out, along with drinks, food, and bathrooms available to everyone.
Sitbon Philip offers customized Block Island gifts for weddings; accents, centerpieces, and home décor items to help decorate for the weddings; farm tables and chairs for rent, made by Marc Philip; and baskets for the family of the brides and grooms, as well as favors for the wedding party or guests, all of which can be delivered to their rooms. “I would see all these girls come off the ferry carrying boxes and boxes of things to put together themselves, and it’s hard on Block Island because you have to come with everything. So I wanted to make that a service that we offered.” Sitbon Philip will also still be creating floral arrangements for weddings, but as a retail florist she also creates arrangements for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, baby showers, and any other special occasion, delivering all over the island, including to boats.
Sitbon Philip's grandparents traveled to Block Island in the 1940s. They desperately missed the shore and the sea, so they came to the island after seeing a tiny ad for it in a New York paper. Cecille Sitbon, who was a chef trained in French cuisine, opened the bakery that is now the Old Bakery Inn on Water Street, and she is her granddaughter’s biggest inspiration. Sitbon Philip has lived here every summer for decades as a result, and her store is settled in the old kite shop, the first stop for her during all those childhood summers. “I don’t want people to think that I’m coming to make Block Island into some big city splash. I love Block Island. I like that it’s not the Hamptons, I like that it’s not Martha’s Vineyard.”
In the spirit of the network-to-be, various vendors have already shown Sitbon Philip great support, including Above & Beyond Events, Summer Sisters, and La Bella Rose. “They have been so supportive of me, and helped me out so much already.” My Oyster opened in early July, though the network will take longer to set up. Vendors interested in being part of The Little Block Book can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.