Retirement beckons longtime owner of Studio Maureen
By Dave Schwab
After nearly 30 years as a mom-and-pop boutique and art gallery operator in South Park, Studio Maureen owner Maureen Ceccarelli is retiring and goin’ fishin’.
Except Ceccarelli’s retirement goal is a little more ambitious.
“My husband, who retired a year and a half ago, and I want to go to all the national parks,” she said, adding they have been to about 15 of the 58 in the United States so far.
The next park on their list is somewhat surprising: Death Valley.
“I want to finish those in California, which has nine,” Ceccarelli said, noting they haven’t been to perhaps California’s highest-profile park yet — Yosemite.
More than four years ago, San Diego Uptown News reported on Ceccarelli’s combined silver (25-year) anniversary and Dia de los Muertos party in November 2012. The small-business owner was joined then by family, patrons and friends to celebrate the success of her Studio Maureen & The Next Door Gallery, located at 2963 Beech St.
The artisan and shopkeeper said there was a good reason why she didn’t want to extend her term as a small-business owner any longer.
“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease four years ago,” she said. “Luckily, I’m very fit, and the Parkinson’s hasn’t really affected me. So I thought, ‘Let’s get going (traveling and hiking).’ We started earlier this year.”
Of her condition, Ceccarelli said, “Everyone has something they’re dealing with. I don’t feel like mine is especially horrible. I can deal with it.”
Ceccarelli is holding a retirement sale through the month of January with everything in her shop 50 percent off. After that she’s closing.
Studio Maureen, during its long tenure, featured contemporary crafts, jewelry, apparel and art, among other hard-to-find items. Ceccarelli’s adjoining art studio, The Next Door Gallery, showcased works by San Diego and Tijuana artists.
“For so long, I really didn’t make any money,” Ceccarelli said previously. “I was selling my jewelry and that was my main source of income. I didn’t picture this happening, where it would grow into something bigger, becoming a community hub.”
But a community hub — and catalyst — is exactly what Studio Maureen became.
As to following in her footsteps, Ceccarelli advised, “It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme,” while pointing out, “it’s a fantastic labor of love, really.”
“I’ve had so many people come in and tell me what a difference I made in theirs’, and their kids’ lives,” she continued. “Those kinds of things make me feel really like I wasn’t just running a store, that I was part of the community and made a real difference. That just warms my heart, makes me feel that this was good.’’
Ceccarelli has seen a lot of change during 30 years in business in South Park. She said it’s mostly all been good.
“It was kind of sketchy in the neighborhood,” she said about when she started out. “I would keep my door locked. People would have to ring the bell to come in.”
Ceccarelli said the neighborhood early on wasn’t pedestrian friendly. But as cornerstone businesses like Grant’s Marketplace, Ginseng Yoga, Santos and Buona Forchetta have rolled out over the years, the neighborhood has become more and more inviting.
“The change has been wonderful,” Ceccarelli said. “The South Park Business Group helped make South Park the charming neighborhood it now is, with the holiday tree lights. It’s a welcoming place, a place where the community can gather and shop, be entertained and eat. It’s been changing into this hub of activity.”
For the past decade, Ceccarelli has spearheaded the Old House Fair, the community’s signature event in June.
“I’ve helped to organize it, but I’m going to just continue to consult for that with the new person,” she said of the next event chair.
Though she no longer will have a brick-and-mortar store in the community, Ceccarelli intends to keep on going.
“I am still going to have an art studio in my home,” she said. “I’m still going to make art and possibly sell it, do shows and studio sales.”
Looking back on her quarter-century-plus stint as a small-business owner, Ceccarelli concluded, “It’s been a good run.”
Anyone interested in leasing Ceccarelli’s soon-to-be-available 1,600-square-foot retail space can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Dave Schwab can be reached at email@example.com.
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.