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Serving a Large Neighborhood 

Acquistapace's Covington Super Market (125 E. 21st Ave., Covington, 985-893-0593) has always been a neighborhood grocery store particularly well known for its quality meats. When it comes to the store's offering of fine wines and spirits, however, the neighborhood it serves extends over several states.

It's not just the selection -- Acquistapace's carries more than 4,100 labels of wines and spirits -- it's also the prices that draw customers from all over to the store in downtown Covington.

"We try to have the lowest prices you can find anywhere," says Adam Acquistapace, who runs the store with his father, Steve. On the finer labels, he says the price can be as much as $5 a bottle less than other vendors. In addition to offering economic value, the Acquistapaces also are a font of knowledge about wines, and willingly share what they know with even the most inexperienced wine drinkers. If you visit the store, you'll likely see one of the family members -- Steve's younger son, Erik, also works there -- talking with a customer to match their taste with just the right wine, whether it is modestly priced or one of the finer vintages. Wine prices here vary from $3.99 to $300 a bottle.

"We have a lot of knowledge about wine, so we try to help out," says Adam, who soon will travel to Europe to study French wines. His sister, Rhonda, currently is in Italy learning about that's country's wines. "There's so much (wine) out there, it's hard for people to keep up with it." The store also stocks hard-to-find labels and will special-order wines for customers.

Although it's becoming better known for its selection, prices and expertise in wines and spirits, the 20-year-old Acquistapace's also remains a full-service grocery that stocks all the items its customers want and need for their dining pleasures. When it comes to food, it's best known for its meats, which all are fresh cut by the store's nine butchers. Acquistapace's also has three meat smokers and offers Cajun-fried turkeys. "We were known for our meats long before wine," Adam says. "We're a neighborhood grocery when it comes down to it, but we get people from as far away as Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas who come here to buy wine."

More Than a Store

Patrice Senac wants her home decor, entertaining and gift shop Arabella Fine Gifts (3902 Hwy. 22, Mandeville, 985-727-9787) to be much more than a place to buy things. She has designed the shop and its customer-oriented attitude to provide a sanctuary from the stresses of the day and the mundane.

"One of the things I find is that Arabella really is not a retail store. Well, it is, but it isn't," says Senac, who owns the year and a half-old shop. "It's a place people will come for a little respite, get a glass of wine and look around at what is new. It's really what I wanted it to be: a nice, quiet atmosphere where people like to come in and visit."

To promote that, she hosts in-store events in which customers can meet local artists or nationally known personalities such as Ann Morhauser, whose Annieglass lines of handcrafted sculptural glass dinnerware, serving pieces, drinking glasses and accessories are popular all over the country. Morhauser will visit Arabella this fall.

"We've done these throughout the year with different local artists," Senac says. "We usually combine it with a wine tasting from one of the wine cellars nearby." She also plans to stage several casual informational sessions on topics such as tablescapes, flower arranging and other subjects.

Arabella also offers personal-shopper services and will advise customers about how to freshen up their home environments. Senac, who holds a degree in interior design, will go to your home for a free, one-hour consultation and also is available to help execute the ideas. "I've been doing a lot more of that," she says, "going to people's houses, helping them accessorize, pick out colors, and do space planning. It can be anything.

"They feel comfortable. They don't feel intimidated, like I'm going to make them get rid of everything they have. I like to work with what they have."

The store itself has merchandise that runs the gamut from Faberge functional glass lines to unusual gifts as low as $10, all emphasizing the home. "It's everything to make your home feel good and comfortable, and everything you need to entertain, from casual to very formal."

Arabella has a children's section for people looking for gifts they won't find elsewhere, and an outdoor section that features a range of items from trellises, fire-burners and torchieres to bronze fountains. "We try to have something for everyone and in every price range," Senac says. "The message we're trying to convey to residents is ... you don't necessarily have to cross that (Causeway) bridge. What you need is right here."

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