Opening the door to Calla Lillies on Bell Boulevard is like discovering an oasis of Old World style and charm in the midst of the city, where customers are greeted by gentle music, sweet smells and a little bit of mystery.
Fairies peek out of every corner. A fountain gently trickles in the window. Tiny teddy bears greet customers with a friendly smile, and intriguing boxes painted with flowers promise untold possibilities.
Of course, the fairies are just colorful figurines, and the teddy bears are adorable dolls that come in all shapes and sizes. But everything for sale in Calla Lillies' unique collection is a reflection of the personal tastes of owner Alice Thomas.
"Basically I really have to like it," Thomas said of the items she chooses for her store. "Otherwise, I don't buy it."
Calla Lillies, at 39-27 Bell Blvd. in Bayside, features a wide variety of unusual gift items, from figurines and ornate picture frames to wedding gifts, jewelry, and dolls.
"I try to have a variety," Thomas said. "I can't buy something that I don't think is going to fit with the atmosphere of the store. There should be a flow to everything."
Soft lighting, wooden floors covered with throw rugs, and warm music give Calla Lillies its atmosphere, and the large and small items on sale throughout the space offer a sense of discovery.
Wooden and glass jewelry boxes, ornate lamps, painted wooden signs, and embroidered gift pillows sit on shelves and small tables next to trinkets and dolls. Aromatherapy candles and a trunk full of teddy bear and bunny rabbit dolls made of terry cloth dominate the back section of the store.
"I try to have a big variety," Thomas said. "I do get a lot of repeat customers, so they want to see change. A lot of thought will go into it because you really have to appeal to a lot of people."
Thomas, who has lived in Bayside for 22 years with her two daughters, moved Calla Lillies onto Bell Boulevard about eight months ago after being just around the corner for five years.
"There's a lot of people who never knew I was around the corner after five years," said Thomas of her old location on 39th Avenue just south of Bell Boulevard. The new location, she said "is right in the middle of things."
Thomas was forced to relocate after the lease on her old store, in the same building as the Bayside Movie Theater, was up. Last year Bayside residents and community activists became upset when it was rumored that United Artists, which owns the theater, would be closing it down.
Thomas said she had been looking for a spot close to her established customer base and was happy to find a place on Bell Boulevard.
"When this opened up," she said, "I thought 'let me get in there.'"
Thomas credits her boyfriend, Richard Marrocco, with helping her design the new store, which is twice the size of the old one.
The former Manhattan makeup artist said she is happy to run Calla Lillies, which she said is more peaceful than her previous fast paced job.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," she said. "I had the opportunity and I took it.
"Everybody should do that," she said. "If they have a dream, they should try to fulfill it."
©2000 Community News Group
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