Geri’s Bluffing Boutique delivers African design

Geri’s Bluffing Boutique delivers African design

Geraldine Barclay-King is opening Geri’s Bluffing Boutique at 40 South Main St. this weekend to bring African-inspired goods to the Blackstone Valley. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – A new holiday shopping experience is helping one city resident connect to her family roots.

Geraldine Barclay-King is the owner of Geri’s Bluffing Boutique, a new pop-up shop that opens in the Millrace Kitchen Café this Friday, Nov. 20. The shop features imported and locally made African apparel and goods and will remain open until the end of Black History Month on Feb. 28.

Barclay-King drew inspiration for the store from her family’s experiences. Born in Monrovia, Liberia, she came with her family to the U.S. in 1980 at the age of seven amid civil war. It wasn’t until two years ago, when her husband surprised her with a trip, that she returned to the country to explore her birthplace.

“When I went back, it was such a life-changing moment for me being able to actually be on the soil, learn a little bit more about the culture and embrace it,” she said.

That initial trip led to a new interest in the clothing and culture of the continent, not just in Liberia, but also in other African countries where she has relatives. Before long, her entire basement was filled with clothing she took back from her travels, and friends and family were offering to purchase the items for their own use.

“Especially now with the BLM (Black Lives Matter) and some of the folks not having access to their culture and their heritage, I looked around and there’s not anything around town,” she said. “I said, well, I’m going to bring bluffing to the Blackstone because the Blackstone Valley just doesn’t have that.”

The name, she explained, comes from Liberian slang for dressing up and flaunting one’s style. During the war, she said, many families were poor, and “bluffing” their way with expensive-looking outfits was a way to feel good about themselves.

“In order for them to kind of boost up their morale or their self esteem, they would just get dressed up and maybe in a sense mask any of the hurt or poverty that was happening,” she said. “They would dress up from head to toe to project, hey, I’m going to be royalty one day.”

The boutique features women’s and men’s clothing along with jewelry, home décor, fashion accessories and other gifts. The goal, she said, is not to feature two of the same item, with most of the products handmade and unique.

Along with African-made items, she also features selections from local artists.

“For me, tourism and economic development is huge, so I also wanted to include local businesses by including some of their non-African items,” she said.

Showcasing the talents of the Blackstone Valley is something that comes natural to Barclay-King. A 22-year resident of Woonsocket, she previously worked for the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and now works for the city of Pawtucket as an administrative assistant to the mayor.

The business will host a grand opening Friday at 5 p.m., at 40 South Main St. The entrance to the shop is located to the left of the building behind the patio, and the grand opening will include outdoor entertainment. Following the grand opening, Geri’s Bluffing Boutique will be open on Fridays from 6 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., or by appointment. More information is available at www.bluffingboutique.com .