Everywhere Shop: Building A Queer Community

Needham (left) and Molesso (right) pose in front of their newly opened shop. Photo courtesy of Sara Vala.

Nestled between a barber shop and an Italian restaurant, 44 North Front Street in Kingston is home to the newly opened Everywhere Shop. 

The chime of its bell upon stepping through the door is one of the first sounds that greets you as you are embraced by its bright colors and fresh designs. Immediately, you stumble upon an island in the center, though it is not deserted. It is adorned with stickers, patches and ceramic animals. The walls are decorated in cards and prints dating back as far as the shop owners’ earliest designs. With t-shirts, books and neon signs, it is a cacophony of color and chaos contained in one shop. It is a celebration of pride and the joy of queerness.

The Everywhere Shop is a queer-themed, queer-owned business, founded by couple Ashley “Ash” Molesso and Chess Needham. It is an extension of their other business, Ash + Chess, which started in 2017. The two started out in stationery, selling art prints, greeting cards, stickers, bumper stickers, patches and other small gift items. Beyond stationery, they have created clothing, a sticker book, a guided journal, a queer history book, children’s books and even a tarot deck. Their products range across a variety of subjects, from queer joy to body positivity to political activism to self-care, describing themselves as a “queer-forward brand,” according to Needham. 

Their story started in Brooklyn, with Molesso working as a textile designer and Needham teaching as a special education teacher. Needham recalled their humble beginnings running a booth at the National Stationery Show, an event for small businesses to showcase their stationery products, having only a handful of designs to display. The interest generated from these shows pushed the two to design more, although by that point, the business was only a part-time endeavor. Slowly, as the business began to expand, the couple packed their bags and headed for Richmond after quitting their jobs to dedicate their full time to the business. Though they were grateful for the opportunities and growth that came with their business, Needham told The Oracle that they had not necessarily felt a connection to the city. From Richmond, the couple set their sights on the Hudson Valley, gravitating towards Kingston as a contender for their business’ new home. For Needham, choosing Kingston meant choosing an “open-minded small town,” which is exactly what pulled them in. After a period of waiting, a space finally opened on North Front Street, officially providing them with the commercial space to open the Everywhere Shop.  

Along with moving locations, the company has also collaborated with a variety of companies, including Skittles, Target, Brooklyn Roasting Company, Smartfood, Nooworks and Erin Condren. They have also been working with a literary agent at Running Press, who aided in Ash + Chess’ publication projects, such as “My Queer Year Guided Journal,” “ABC-Deconstructing Gender” and “The Big Book of Queer Stickers.” They have another children’s book set to release in May 2024 titled “Just Like My Family.”  

One of their most notable projects is the “Queer Tarot: An Inclusive Deck and Guidebook.” Based on the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, Ash + Chess’ deck puts its own spin on the concept. Needham acknowledged the lack of diversity in the popular deck, as it only featured white cisgender characters. To combat that, he asserted that “if [they] were gonna make a queer tarot deck, [they] should make it look like the queer community,” emphasizing a more diversified, inclusive approach to the project. They put a call out on their Instagram for photo submissions, trying to spark inspiration for the deck. In response, they received tons of responses from queer people. From those photographs came the Queer Tarot, featuring real queer people who “represent something that is really powerful and meaningful to a lot of people.” 

Despite the expansion of products and location changes that the business underwent, Molesso and Needham’s focus always remained the same. They serve the queer community, both in celebration and in activism, through the artwork they create. Even in 2017, at a time where queerness was much more heavily scrutinized, they pressed forward in spite of the backlash. Molesso and Needham are no strangers to criticism or controversy, calling back to their collaboration with Target in June of 2023. Their designs were either being abruptly pulled from retail locations, being hidden in the backs of stores or removed from the collection altogether, with little communication from Target. Though this was detrimental to their collaboration, the couple took it in stride, with thousands flocking to their support. Ash + Chess continued to flourish, currently partnered with over 700+ retailers across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia, who sell their products in their stores. 

Being open for nearly a month, the Everywhere Shop is primarily focused on building connections with the Kingston community and continuing to grow. Needham revealed that he and Molesso hope to someday host community events in the space to establish the store not only as a business, but a business with community in mind. It is the most rewarding part of it all. “We’ve had a lot of young queer and trans kids that come in with their families and we even have an elder, maybe in their 60s or so, come in and that was just like, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Needham said. 

The community that the Everywhere Shop fosters speaks to the broader importance of community building and acceptance. With every interaction, every sale, and every new, curious person, Ash + Chess are there to serve their community and to show that “queer and trans people are just people,” from the first step inside to the final ring of the door closing behind.