When shoppers enter Isabella's Gallery (1901 Manhattan Blvd., Suite B101, Harvey, 304-4861; 3331 Severn Ave., Suite 105, Metairie, 779-3202; www.isabellasgallery.com), they're greeted with a plethora of colorful, handcrafted objects. Isabella's combines the utility of a gift shop with the character of a boutique and the artistry of a gallery.
"It's not a typical ... gift shop where you get the same thing at several different stores," says Denise Flynn, manager of the West Bank location.
Kelly Torres and her husband Oscar "OT" Torres started Isabella's three years ago. Named after their 10-year-old daughter, Isabella's specializes in handcrafted jewelry, home decor and gifts.
"Everything in the store is usable art, handmade by artists from all over the country," Flynn says.
Isabella's novel mix of merchandise includes practical products like decorative pigskin glass plates, crafted from recycled window glass, water-based paint, foil, screen mesh and leather, and whimsical items such as glow-in-the-dark gilded barstools and toilet seat covers.
"Kelly has this eye for stuff that does great," Flynn says. "And sure enough people come in and they're like, 'Toilet seat covers? What an awesome idea!'"
Items in Isabella's unique jewelry collection range from hand-decorated watches that are individually numbered like fine art prints, to Trollbeads, which are limited-edition glass, gemstone and silver charms.
With her innate sense for design, Torres, who is also a jewelry designer, can sense what will surprise and satisfy her customers. "You see something different every time you come in," Flynn says. "Everybody says, 'Wow, I've never seen this stuff at other places,' and that's what Kelly goes for."