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Aging Gracefully 

Homeowners, designers, renovators or anyone who loves European antiques will find a range of items to browse through at the 3-year-old La Belle Nouvelle Orleans (2112 Magazine St., 581-3733;

Operated by Fernando Promoslovsky and his wife, Natalia, the 10,000-square-foot store is packed with dining sets, armoires, chairs and couches, tableware, lighting, art, bedroom sets and decorative accessories as well as architectural items such as gates, wrought-iron railings, doors, windows, columns and more.

If you don't find what you want the first time, wait a few weeks and try again as the couple constantly adds to the inventory. "We get in new containers almost every two months," says Fernando Promoslovsky, who two years ago moved the business from a warehouse on Tchoupitoulas Street to its present location on upper Magazine Street. He focuses on European antiques, mostly Italian and French in a range of styles from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

"Mainly I try to choose what I think I would like to use in my house, or things that are appealing to my eyes," he says. "And the market tells you what kind of things you need to have in your store."

His family, who is in the antiques business in Argentina and Spain, do a lot of scouting for him in Italy and France, sending him photos of what is available so he can hand-select the best items for his shop.

"We try to have a wide variety. We have some art deco, some French furniture, mostly 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, and we work a lot with architectural items. All these things work well in New Orleans."

A Wink and Nod to Fashion

The philosophy behind the 5-year-old Winky's (2038 Magazine St., 568-1020) was to make fashion fun, eclectic and individual without giving up style. It has proved a sound business decision for owner Noel Barras, who opened Winky's a few years after achieving success with her Big Life Toys shop for children and later another aimed at adults. A couple of years ago, Barras expanded her business to include Big Life Gifts, which offers some of the same items as the adult toy store it replaced as well as a range of hip home decorating and gift items.

"Noel opened Big Life Toys nine years ago, and that [led to] Big Life for adults, and Winky's evolved from that," says store manager Rachel Nelson, who says the idea behind the store was to present fashionable items with a sense of humor, a sense of fun and a unique perspective.

"We always try to do something for today's young family -- have something they all can wear," says Nelson, who adds both she and Barras were expecting babies when they first opened Winky's, and wanted to include clothes for babies along with adult apparel.

"When we opened we only had a couple of lines," she says. "It's really expanded as we saw how people responded. It's style without being trendy. ... New Orleans is so much into music and art, and we try to be uniquely New Orleans and appeal to people who like those things."

To accomplish that, Winky's offers clothes by makers not common in other stores including Stop Staring, Voxx, E.C. Star, Rock Steady, The People Have Spoken, Interracial Designs and Paper Doll Products for the little ones, and BC Ethic, Lucky 13 and Hot Steps for men. The store is stocked with clothing, belts, hats, sunglasses, other fashion accessories and shoes and handbags by names such as John Fluevog, Far Nine, Tredair, Impulse, Joe's Garb, N.Y.L.A. and others.

"The reason [Barras is] so successful that that the store is so cosmopolitan," Nelson says. "It feels big city ... but it's so New Orleans at the same time."

The upstairs floor at Winky's is dedicated to the eclectic art of Mark Kirk and Heather MacFarlane, who as Unique Products Inc. recycle everyday items such as Mardi Gras beads and laundry bottles into chandeliers, clocks, sculptures and jewelry.

In Memory of Mr. Bingle

New Orleans native Sean Patrick Doles, a journalist who now works in Austin, Texas, has created the Oscar Isentrout Memorial Fund to raise money for a headstone and memorial plaque for the puppeteer and voice of the city's iconic Mr. Bingle.

Doles, who once researched and wrote for Gambit Weekly, discovered last year that when Isentrout died in 1985 he was buried in an unmarked grave. Doles wrote a fictional novella, Saving Mr. Bingle (New Orleans Stories, $9.95), depicting Isentrout's story and has dedicated a portion of the proceeds from the book to the memorial fund. He hopes not only to purchase a gravestone for Isentrout, who for years brought the Mr. Bingle puppet to life and gave him a voice, but also to buy a plaque to be placed outside the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, which previously was the Maison Blanche store where Mr. Bingle performed during the winter holidays. For more information about how to contribute to the Oscar Isentrout Memorial Fund, log onto The book, Saving Mr. Bingle, is available in area bookstores.

click to enlarge Owner Fernando Promoslovsky stands amid an 1890s Italian inlaid burl walnut dining set with a matching sideboard and china cabinet with emerald onyx tops at his store, La Belle Nouvelle Orleans.
  • Owner Fernando Promoslovsky stands amid an 1890s Italian inlaid burl walnut dining set with a matching sideboard and china cabinet with emerald onyx tops at his store, La Belle Nouvelle Orleans.


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