Shop Talk: Clara K. & Cartabella

This weekend’s Broad Ripple Sidewalk Sale might be the last for one of the village’s best boutiques. Clara K. & Cartabella operate as one in a petite jewel box filled to the brim with exquisite gifts from Japan, Europe, and the East Coast, and the owners are planning to retire at the end of the year. Luckily, they’ve given us plenty of notice—a social courtesy that defines the store full of gifts, entertainment accoutrements, and handmade greeting cards. The Broad Ripple cottage is full of everyday luxuries like Hibi aromatherapy matches, which burn for 20 seconds for a stolen moment of self-care, and Karst stone notepads, a paper alternative made of ground rocks that feels velvety to the pen. Co-owners Ghega Scolari and Ellen Schwartz, who launched the sister stores 10 years ago, never had employees, instead building the business on personal relationships with northside dwellers. Some customers are memorialized in Scolari’s line of greeting cards, one of which was inspired by a man who asked if she carried a card for being a jerk (she does now). Scolari imports a favorite jewelry collection from her native Italy and silk scarves from Lake Como, where Ferragamo and other designers have theirs made. Schwartz, who named her part of the store after her grandmother, Clara, stocks sculptural wood bowls from a Massachusetts artist she loves, as well as her own brand of cooking tongs called Surgical Chef, which she launched after noticing that her husband’s steel ortho equipment is perfect for gripping meat.

On any given day, one of the owners is stationed behind the counter. In the tiny space, you can stand in any spot and ask them about an item, and they always know the provenance or some detail that might have escaped you. Pick up a gorgeously wrapped Belgian chocolate bar, and one of them may point out that it’s a nice alternative to taking a bottle of wine to a dinner party. The lovely baby spoon with a rattle on the end—did you notice it’s one seamless piece of sterling silver, making it all the more exquisite?  The darling French Knot winter hats and gloves are made by a woman in Lafayette and sold in Anthropologie stores, too—and Schwartz knows the maker personally and can tell you her whole incredible success story. For many purchases, Scolari often pens a gift tag with calligraphy.

Retirement is beckoning now that both women are grandmothers, leaving the fate of their joint boutique unknown. If it shutters, plenty of regulars—like film vet Teresa Sabatine, the managing director of Sparkland Studios and owner of her own life-coaching consultancy—will grieve. “It’s really magical—beautiful and intentional,” she says of the space and the selection. She can rattle off the items she has bought for herself and others—a robe, Italian jewelry, knitted hats, aromatherapy matches, bamboo kitchenware, whimsical art prints, an Indianapolis Motor Speedway tea towel, a mug that says, “Pour yourself a cup of ambition.” Once, Sabatine was producing a movie in New York City and an actress noticed her ring, which said, “Only those who dream can fly.” It was from Cartabella. She called Scolari, who sent another along as a gift with a card in her own calligraphy.

These personal touches have made the place more than a store to customers. “Every time I go in there, they know everyone in the store,” Sabatine says. See it for yourself on Sunday, August 6, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., when vendors throughout the village take part in the sidewalk sale.

INFO

Clara K. & Cartabella

825 E. Westfield Blvd.

Hours

Tues.–Sat., 11 a.m.–4 p.m.