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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Amal Ishak

Turning sweet dreams into reality

Amal Ishak, mother of nine-year old Christian and four-year-old Noah, got the idea for opening a trendy women's clothing boutique in historic downtown Newburgh after a single day's string of events. At the time, she was working in Ridgewood, New Jersey, where she liked to go window shopping. During one of her shopping forays, she recalls, a girlfriend, who works in the New York City fashion industry, suggested that what the lower Hudson Valley needed was its own unique boutique.

"I told her to get out of my head with that,'" Amal says. "That night I went to Liberty Street Café in Newburgh and noted to my partner, 'Whatever is going on here now, I want to be part of it."

Chasing a dream, fighting a stigma
By November, 2016 Ishak opened Cream Boutique in a historic building just down the street from the bistro (the name came up at a separate waterfront dinner, also in Newburgh, when another dining partner commented on the texture of a dish the two were sharing). The place has turned out to be a major success, including a move to a different building across Liberty Street to accommodate more storage and more floor room.

Ishak says that as much as Cream Boutique has been about sharing fine women's fashions, it's also been about Amal's dreams for her kids Christian's and Noah's futures.

"In my previous working life I was always driving here and there like a maniac, struggling to be there for my kids," she says. "Now I have a full support system of what I like to call my Liberty Street family. We all have each other's backs."

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Ishak notes how when she started telling customers about her plans to open in Newburgh, some would ask why. "The city still had a stigma but I always loved the place's history and its architecture. And I was right. By the time I was open, Newburgh was hopping, and not only with new people coming up from Brooklyn, but enough locals moving in to give it a deep sense of home."

Investing in new communities
Ishak is from Morocco and moved with her family from Casablanca to Rockland County when she was 12 years old. The youngest of eight kids in a strict family (her father owned retail stores in Morocco, she notes with gleeful irony), she graduated from her local high school before studying fashion in college. She got married and moved to New Windsor where she still lives, only eight minutes from her store.

Ishak's oldest son is on the autism spectrum, which has forced her to become a strong advocate for him in their school district. In fact, were it not for the successes she's found for Christian within the Cornwall School District, she'd be quick to move right into Cream Boutique's Newburgh neighborhood.

"I'm afraid of messing up what's been working well," she adds. "I've been working for three years to get where we are now... I'm still trying to balance being a mom, being invested in the communities I am a part of and being a business owner."

That last persona, meanwhile, has grown to include regular trips to major fashion shows in New York, Miami and Los Angeles several times a year (her next being Vegas, later this summer). But it has also meant that by staying awake to all aspects of her full life, Ishak's made Cream desirable to everyone from teenagers and grandmothers, to Brooklyn travelers and native Newburgh residents.

"I only buy a specific number of each item, no more than seven, and when it sells out I get something new," she is quick to point out. "People now know to come by the shop on Wednesdays to see everything new we're getting in. It makes it always fun..."

Finding sweet reality amongst family and strong women
Ishak is in a hub of a growing community that includes the nearby bistro, Blacc Vanilla, APG Pilates and other new Newburgh businesses run by strong women.

"We're talking about starting up our own daycare for everyone," Ishak says with a laugh. "We've got something vibrant happening for our kids."

Ishak pauses before continuing.

"All through my struggle to meet my son's special needs, I've thought about his future. As well as that of my younger son," she adds. "I always figured that if I have my own successful business, I can have a place for them down the line. That's my dream."

And that's Amal Ishak and her Cream Boutique's sweet reality, too.

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley. He lives in Catskill.

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