A serendipitous meeting on an airplane has led to a business venture that joins fine beauty products with fun and fanciful home and garden decor.
Sound like a strange mix? One visit to the coupled Rocky River stores of Lilly’s Beauty & Soul and Urban Home & Garden, and you’ll see that one flows into the other like champagne into a fluted glass.
“Tom Paghi and I met on a plane two years ago,” says Lilly’s owner Jeanette Fortunato. “We just clicked, and we’ve been together 24/7 ever since.”
Their friendship quickly kindled a discussion of a business partnership.
“Tom had a home-and-garden accessory store in Lakewood and Westlake, and I had the beauty products shop in La Place,” Fortunato says. “We decided to test a theory: Would a woman shopping for a new lamp be interested in buying a lipstick at the same time?”
Fortunato says the temporary shop they opened in Rocky River’s Beachcliff shopping plaza for the 2000 Christmas season was a huge success, proving that shoppers loved the concept of taking care of their home and themselves simultaneously.
And so a retail niche was born.
After an exhaustive search for the perfect location, Paghi secured a storefront at Detroit and Lakeview roads. He closed his Lakewood store, Georgetown Gallery, and moved from Westlake into the Rocky River location.
Although the two shops have separate entrances, strolling through the space is a natural progression.
A tumbled brick floor, upbeat jazz, pleasantly scented air and artfully displayed merchandise create a comfortable and sensory-tickling experience.
Fortunato arranges products such as Lady Primrose dusting powders, candles and bath salts, which are packaged in re-usable crystal containers, alongside cultish “star-power” products – the powder supermodels Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss can’t live without (T. LeClerc) and Tom Cruise’s signature scent (Turquoise by Comptoir Sud Pacifique).
An old-fashioned washtub and ironing board painted mint green are the perfect corner for La Bouquetiere scented laundry powders, which coordinate with French body lotions and perfumes.
Cocoa lovers can go to chocolate heaven with Cheeky Chimp’s milk, white-chocolate and orange-chocolate scented soaps, lotions and shower gels.
Fortunato left a medical secretary’s position that she had held for 12 years in an intensive care unit to open Lilly’s Place in 1995.
“I had this creative energy that was stalled and dormant,” she says.
She had learned about make-up and beauty care from her mother, Liliana, a model and actress from Warsaw, Poland. Lilly’s Place, named after her, offered shoppers unique and hard-to-find products, many imported from Europe.
“You read about products in magazines like In Style or Allure, but nobody knew where to find them,” Fortunato says.
“At first I’d import directly from France, but now many manufacturers have U.S. distribution centers or companies that approach me directly to carry their new lines.
“Now our West Side customers can find unique products without having to traipse across town.”
Fortunato believes that body and soul go hand in hand.
“This store is not about masking what society says is a flaw or blemish,” she says. “It is about feeding your soul.
“It needs to be nurtured, and when your soul is happy your inner beauty is enhanced and released.”
Lilly’s Beauty & Soul and Urban Home & Garden, 20033 Detroit Road, Rocky River, Ohio are open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The phone number for Lilly’s is 440-333-9430. Urban Home’s is 440-895-4663. Lilly’s Place, La Place, 2101 Richmond Road, Beachwood, Ohio is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is 216-831-6120.
©Dani Marinucci, Special to The Plain Dealer