Open for less than a year, Arabella Fine Gifts (3902 Hwy. 22, Mandeville, 985-727-9787) already is a known entity on the Northshore, having established a cadre of regular customers as well as an entreaty to open a second location in a shopping center.
The store, which opened in November 2002, offers home decorating accessories, items that center on entertaining, antiques, a range of items for the garden and a variety of gifts for all occasions. Owner Patrice Senac says she focuses on stocking items in all price ranges and makes sure every customer can find something they like and can afford.
"I wanted an old-fashioned store where you had a lot of personal contact," she says. "I was never one who really liked to shop at a big store; it was too much overstimulation. This is a small shop. There are a lot of things -- and unique things -- but it's not jumbled with so much stuff that you don't see it."
Senac, who holds degrees in interior design, business and special education, has always helped friends decorate their homes and enjoys playing hostess, diversions that are reflected in merchandise in her store. "I love to entertain and so the store has unique things for entertaining and gift-giving and everything associated with that," she says. "I have always done interior design for people I know, more as a hobby than anything else. Everything in the store is home decor and accents, entertaining and gifts."
Arabella does have furniture and antiques, but they are more accent pieces than major room anchors, Senac says. There also is a special section that focuses on outdoor spaces, including garden accents, fountains, trellises, bronze statues and more.
The rest of the store offers glassware, lamps, crystal, works from Annieglass and other major artists, sterling silver and even children's items. Senac also will do personal consultations with customers who need advice about adding special touches to their homes.
"We do assist people with their accents," Senac says. "We'll go into somebody's home and help them work with what they have and help them with accent pieces like lamps and mirrors, but I don't do full-scale interior design. We do have furniture, but it is mostly to accessorize."
Her regular customers and first-time visitors as well have been impressed by the range of prices and items available for sale. "I have had people comment that they appreciate that they didn't have to be intimidated to come in and that there were things they could afford," Senac says. "There really is a little something for everyone. It goes from one end of the spectrum to the other."
Despite the store's success, the owner says she has no plans to duplicate Arabella. "I had someone approach me to see if I would open a second Arabella in a mall, but it's a little too soon for that. I'm not quite ready."
In the age of superstores and liquor warehouses, Acquistapace's Covington Super Market (125 E. 21st Ave., Covington, 985-893-7554) not only has survived but thrived by bringing customers a range of vintage choices at great prices.
Open for almost 20 years, Acquistapace's is a full-service neighborhood grocery store with a heady ambition of being the best place to buy wine north of Lake Pontchartrain. "Our goal is to sell every bottle of wine (sold) on the Northshore," says Steve Acquistapace, owner of the store. "We can't always beat everybody on every bottle of wine every time, but we sure try." A reputation for great prices and a wide selection brings in regular customers from all over the Northshore as well as New Orleans, Hammond, Hattiesburg, Miss., and the Gulf Coast, he says.
Acquistapace's also has an outstanding meat department, with seven butchers on hand to custom-cut meat. "It's all fresh," the owner says. "It's cut all by hand. We don't have any water-added meats." Other strong points of the store include its produce department and a deli known for its New Orleans-style po-boys, especially its hot roast beef offering.
One of the best aspects of the store, and one that keeps regulars coming back, however, is the service. "We're a neighborhood store; our store is family owned," says Acquistapace, whose niece, daughter and two sons also work in the business. "We try to give personal service and know our customers. We try to be as price-aggressive as we can."
- From accessories for a baby's room to elegant glassware, shop owner Patrice Senac makes sure there is a range of gifts, entertaining and home decorating items at Arabella Fine Gifts.