In 1992, at the ripe old age of 8, Ben Busko started his découpaging business at home in Setauket.
His craft would later allow him to show off to Martha Stewart on television in 2010. Today, the 36-year-old is running a growing retail operation.
Ben’s Garden now has locations in Soho and Stony Brook.
But what is découpaging, and how does an 8-year-old start his own business?
First, Busko says he didn’t find his passion for découpage and design — it found him.
Découpaging is the art of decorating objects by gluing colored paper cutouts onto them and finishing with a combination of decorative elements.
Busko says he was always drawn to art and creating, and entertaining himself in that way. And he had thought he invented his own thing.
(We imagine most adults don’t even know what découpage is.)
“I always knew what I was interested in, my mom would always say as a little boy I would be water coloring in a high-chair,” Busko said. “I was also very content by myself — I was doing my own thing, and because I was in business at a very young age, I got along very well with adults.”
And, of course, it was the adults who had money to buy his creations.
Busko’s works now include intricate map designs, botanical designs, inspirational quotes, and themes of family, friendship, and love, which he says is the perfect emotional gift for those at a loss for the right words.
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“When I started selling things and people asked what my business was, it was my garden,” he says, “because that was mine.
“It was something that in this big world that I didn’t really understand yet I could transform.”
His success eventually led him to meet Martha Stewart and show off his découpage skills on her show.
Ben’s Garden on Long Island recently opened at 141 Main Street in the Stony Brook Village Center, which is an outside crescent-shaped, colonial-style shopping center that overlooks the Long Island Sound.
The area is essentially a “living Williamsburg” created by Long Island philanthropist and businessman, Ward Melville, and Busko said this historic significance is what drew him to the center.
Ben’s Garden is filled with a wide range of custom design items, personalized découpage, and other gifts, such as individualized trays, notepads, greeting cards, napkins journals, candles, home décor, and more.
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Busko describes his business model as very “old-fashioned” — for him, it is always the customer first and focusing on what they like.
He believes it is more fun to open a present when it’s in wrapping paper, so all orders are individually wrapped, with a ribbon on top.
Many of the items are also handmade by Busko himself and, when wrapping up orders, he will include a written thank-you note for the customer.
How the store looks and feels to a customer is also important to Busko, he says.
“I take a lot of interest in doing visuals in the store to make it really feel like a creative space,” he said. “These details add up that you don’t really get shopping at big-name stores and having a gift shoved into a shopping bag.”
Ben’s Garden first opened in Oyster Bay, but Busko later closed that location and moved the boutique to Soho in New York City.
Everything has come full circle for Busko since returning to his Long Island roots to open his Stony Brook location in December, and the feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive so far.
He closed his Huntington location but will be returning to that area with plans for a Ben’s Garden in Cold Spring Harbor in the spring, just in time for Mother’s Day.
During these disconnected times, Busko also tries to provide as much of a personal shopping experience as possible.
The owner shared a personal story of being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome six years ago and how during his life, he didn’t understand why he formed certain connections with some people and things, but not others.
Ben’s Garden is not only his business, but his own way of connecting with others who share similar values of kindness and love, which he believes the world could always use a little more of.
“Personalizing their experience and connecting with customers allows me to connect with customers in a way that I may not [otherwise], because I was just born a little different than anyone else,” he said.
“It’s nice to know that we can all be connected by mutual values.”
Below are photos of Ben’s Garden in Stony Brook.
Top: Ben Busko outside Ben’s Garden in Stony Brook.