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Back in 2002, eggs cost a dollar a dozen, Friends and ER ruled our televisions, and the small-but-mighty Domus first opened its doors in Hell’s Kitchen. We checked in with just a few fans of the beloved Hell’s Kitchen retail store (voted this year’s Best in our reader awards!) and its owners, community stalwarts Luisa Cerutti and Nicki Lindheimer, as they prepare to celebrate 20 years in business.
Longtime Hell’s Kitchen local and Out Leadership CEO Todd Sears saluted Luisa and Nicki as leaders in the LGBTQIA+ business community, adding, “When you buy something from Domus, there’s always a fascinating backstory on the artisan or small business that created the object that makes each piece that much more special. And you know that your dollars are supporting a gay-owned business whose products are purchased from and support LGBTQ, women and diverse artists, whose work they curate from their travels around the world. As an advocate myself, I’ve built my life around leveraging economic power to support inclusion, create visibility and fight discrimination — something Nicki and Luisa do with their amazing store and I just love it.”
Many customers praised the couple’s commitment to building meaningful relationships with customers. Elaine Keating-Brown said, “I’ve known them since before my kids were born, they have become close friends over the years. They have watched them grow up, watched my ever expanding family — all of whom love them as much as me.” Elaine even helped Luisa and Nicki expand their own family, as they adopted one of her foster kittens.
Elaine added: “I constantly tell people about Domus — I’m fascinated that there are still people who don’t know about this diamond in our neighborhood.” Many of her friends have taken the suggestion to shop there over the years: “One encounter was funny,” she said, “I was told by them one day that a charming handsome tall man claimed he knew me and was sent in by me to shop there. I went to Facebook to find out which of my handsome men friends it was I found him :).”
“Luisa and Nicki are a Hell’s Kitchen institution — I feel they are the ‘mayor-ettes’ of the neighborhood,” said regular customer and interior designer Harry Heissmann. “I’ve bought so many things there, big and small — candles, gifts, table top items, jewelry, books, ornaments, art.”
Harry said everyone in his life has benefitted from the store’s curated, unique selections of artisan gifts sourced from around the world: “I’ve shopped there for clients, for myself, my partner Mark, friends and family and for photo shoots. Samson, my dog, is also a big fan and usually pulls me in to get a treat. One time I was visiting with a client and she bought me these great paper geraniums which landed on my coffee table… I think what sets them apart is something that’s not for sale and very hard to find: big smiles always, open hearts welcoming everyone and this wonderful attitude that makes you feel like a million dollars when entering their magical wonderland! Here’s to the next 20 with much love, Harry and Samson.”
Local leaders commended Luisa and Nicki not only for their Hell’s Kitchen hospitality, but their generosity and strength in the face of adversity — especially in the wake of an attack on their store this July.
State Senator Brad Hoylman said: “I love Luisa and Nicki because they’re such stalwart members of the community, as was evident from the outpouring of neighborhood support they received last summer when they were victimized by crime. Plus, they have really great taste! Every item for sale is so incredibly curated at Domus — I almost think you could walk into the store blindfolded and pick out a gift that nearly everyone would appreciate. Happy 20th anniversary to literally the ‘Best Store’ in Hell’s Kitchen.”
City Council Member Erik Bottcher added: “Whether it’s for the perfect gift or a welcoming smile, there’s no better place to go than Domus. Their iconic storefront has brightened 44th Street for 20 years and will do so for decades to come. Congratulations to Luisa and Nicki on their incredible accomplishment. Shop at Domus!”
And the neighborhood’s other retailers were quick to commend the pair for their unwavering mentorship and support. Said Matt Fox of Fine and Dandy (who recently celebrated their own decade milestone in Hell’s Kitchen!): “Nicki and Luisa have created something incredibly special. Domus isn’t just a store, it’s a cherished part of our community. They are truly Hell’s Kitchen retail pioneers. Nicki and Luisa have been particularly kind to my mother. Each time Mom visits the city she always makes a stop at Domus. This time of the year when I pop in they always have fox gift ideas in mind for Mom (our last name is Fox).”
He added: “The pandemic was really rough for small, independent shops. Many didn’t make it and I give a lot of credit to those of us who did. Throughout those early days we emailed back and forth, sharing info and ideas. I will always be grateful to them for their wisdom and friendship.”
For other entrepreneurs, the kind spirit of and giving ethos of the Domus team are credited as essential to their own business success. Hell’s Kitchen resident and Home’edged founder Michael William G said, “It was a quiet NYC and even quieter Hell’s Kitchen when I first discovered a hidden gem by the name of Domus. I moved to Hell’s Kitchen in the middle of a pandemic from the Upper East Side where things were a bit … different. One day on my way to the gym, I passed by the cutest store highlighted with red and decided to walk in. That was the day I first met Luisa.
“I’ll never forget how warm and welcome she made me feel,” he added. “Somehow we got to talking and I told her about my small brand called Home’edged NYC and she wanted to check out my products to see if they could sell them. Next thing you know, I’m back at Domus a few days later and that’s when I had the chance to meet Nicki. Turns out, we’re both from Northern California, which made our meeting feel like pure destiny (at least for me). Here I am feeling totally new to a neighborhood and Domus was one of the first places that gave me a feeling of being ‘home’.”
The store soon began selling his candles: “I share this because it is people like this that give New York its true colors. As I rebranded and relaunched my brand down in SoHo’s Nolita Market, Nicki and Luisa took a chance on me. They became the very first NYC store to carry my brand. I wear that honor proudly,” said Michael William.
“They gave me a chance. They will probably never know how much that has impacted me now, several years later, as I’ve grown and scaled my business. It all comes back to that first yes.”
Michael William added, “Hell’s Kitchen should be honored to have business owners like Nicki and Luisa gracing us. We are the ones who are lucky. Thank you Nicki and Luisa for helping me make Hell’s Kitchen my home.”
Please share your stories of Domus over the past 20 years in the comments below.
A few years ago, I was searching for an area rug and found what I thought would be the right one at Domus. I couldn’t decide if it would work in my living room. Niki said I could take it home and try it out. That was it, no deposit, no full payment, just “Take it home and try it out.” True neighborliness!
PS I bought the rug. It was perfect.
If I need a gift, I go to Domus. If I need a special greeting card, I go to Domus. If I need a lift, I go to Domus. Their taste is impeccable–I would easily buy one of EVERYTHING–but the quality of the beautiful goods they sell is also perfectly matched by the warm, welcoming Nicki and Luisa, who can’t wait to show us the latest spectacular item they’ve procured. Love them + love the store!
What a fantastic testament to such a wonderful store and fantastic owners. Thank you W42 really lovely piece.
Great article about the kind of store I will now have to visit when I come to NYC! Love finding places like this that are local treasures and not in the commercial tourist brochures! Can’t wait to meet the two owners and shop! Thanks for this article!
Mi ricordo quando stavate scegliendo il posto giusto per il vostro negozio…sono passati vent’anni , incredibile!!!
Thank you W42 for reminding us of what we already
The best finds in the city
The warmest smiles and kindest hearts in the city
We love you DOMUS
With Luisa and Nicki from day one!
I owned a home textile company in NYC they visited my warehouse in LIC and they bough our pillows, throws and mats through the years! – they bought our hearts – we share the love for traveling, the love for cooking, the love for discovery the uniqueness of crafts, the goodness of being humans. We helped in the street market every year the rise money for a in-need organization.
Even today 20 years later my company closed and I retired and back in my country Colombia – they came to visit we Teavel and visit different regions and introduced them our artisans we had a wonderful time! We are still in touch we share articles photos of our trips and when we come to NY we always stop for a hug and to see each other ❤️ Thank you for writing this touching well deserved words – Domus is Luisa and Nicki forever.
Thank you Phil for such an amazing article, it came as a most welcome surprise! Thank you all those who wrote such kind words: you made us shed happy tears! And thank you Hell’s Kitchen for this amazing journey we have been on together: it has been an honor and a privilege to serve you for the last 20 years! Much love to you all.
I’ve lived around the corner for 20 years and always buy my gifts and tell all my friends to buy their gifts there too! One of my favorite paintings I own is from Domus- a show they curated of a local artist who lived in the neighborhood in the 1960s. Gorgeous, interesting piece.
When I was fundraising for my documentary film profiling young transgender people in the Catskill mountains , Luisa and Nicky did a fundraiser in the store. If that was not enough, they gave a ride home to one of the subjects who came to NYC for the event —- and he lives two and a half hours away!!!
Their generosity and friendliness is beyond measure!
My husband and I met Luisa and Nicki through a book we recently published, LOVING, which they carry in their store. What began as a purely business relationship has developed into a cherished friendship. Congratulations on your 20 years and your “Best” award. It couldn’t happen to any two nicer people!
Nicki and Luisa are amazing! When I lived near the shop I was witness to the incredible work these women put into their sidewalk sale charity events. They would make these crazy detours on their way home to pick up donations and then they would fill their already very limited DOMUS storage spaces to a perilous degree, all to raise more money for their chosen charity. They are such hard workers, but they always made time for it. What big hearts!
And their store is such an incredible little dreamy oasis where one can find a perfect gift for all age groups. One stop holiday shopping. It’s the best!
Without exaggeration, Domus is one of my favorite things about living in Hell’s Kitchen. Not only is it my and my husband’s “secret weapon” when it comes to finding the perfect gift or making our home more beautiful and personal. It is also the embodiment of everything a small business should be: a place of gathering, community, shared values, and love.
I’m dying to know! Who is the tall handsome man?
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