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Clothes Encounters 

When the need -- or the yen -- for something new to wear arises, Bellini (474 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-2021) prides itself on having something to satisfy everyone, from teenagers and college girls to hip moms and career women. It also endeavors to be a relaxed, one-stop shopping experience where, in addition to dressing themselves, they also can dress their homes with a select assortment of furniture and decorative accessories. All of this in a shop that's easily accessible, has its own parking and emphasizes friendly customer service.

Opening a Metairie store with a combination of trendy yet sophisticated fashion and home wares was a natural outgrowth of owner Rebecca Champagne's own style and experience. After graduating with a degree in interior design from LSU, the Houma native learned the ropes of fashion retail from her sister, who has a clothing store in Baton Rouge. Now a Metairie resident, Champagne signed a lease for her Metairie Road space in January of this year and was able to open the doors to the public in just three months by combining her merchandise orders with her sister's.

Bellini specializes in fashion-forward lines including jeans by Seven, Citizens of Humanity, AG and Paper Denim, casual wear by BCBG, ABS, and Parameter, T-shirts by Michael Stars and C & C California, and dresses by Robin Jordan, Ruth, Milly and Dress. To complete the looks it offers, Bellini also carries new and vintage jewelry, fashion watches, purses, belts, scarves and wraps (the clutch bracelet bags by Jewels and the vintage tie belts by Nikki Chu are the shop's best-selling accessories du jour).

On the other side of the shop, there are gifts designed to pamper and unique furnishings chosen to highlight the home. Customers also will find baby gifts, tables made from vintage iron, handmade ceramic serving pieces from Italy, and Edgar Berebi's luxury wine glasses, which feature such materials as faceted Swarovski crystals, silver plate, 24-karat gold plate, and mother of pearl.

"It's a convenience factor," Champagne says of Bellini's one-stop approach. "You can come in and get an outfit for a party as well as a cute gift. Metairie Road is a good location because it is central; it's easy to get to from all areas of Metairie, it's five minutes from Lakeview, downtown and Uptown, and it has tons to offer -- salons, boutiques, interiors stores, coffee shops and shopping centers."

Creating a shopping experience that's easy and pleasant is essential to Champagne's philosophy. "We know our customers by name, and we know what they like to wear," she says.

A Christmas-and-more Store

Donna Plaia and Tricia Porteous' decision to open Das Schulerhaus (701 Dante St., suite C, 864-1201) was born out of a love for the fragile beauty and timeless collectibility of German glass Christmas ornaments.

Plaia began amassing a collection of the delicate treasures in 1998 while visiting her son in Germany. She expanded it a year later when she and her husband, a lieutenant colonel in the army, were stationed in Holland. But a year and a half after the shop first opened for business, locals are discovering that Das Schulerhaus is not just a Christmas store, but rather a Christmas and gift shop in one, a destination where locals and tourists alike can find a variety of gifts any time of the year.

"Recently we've been doing twice the amount of business we were doing last year at this time," says Plaia. "People are beginning to find us and to know that we're a homegrown business with fair and competitive prices and that we're not just for Christmas."

Plaia and Porteous' extensive Christmas inventory includes such ornament lines as Krebs Glas Lauscha, Old World Christmas, Varsovia, Polonaise, Christopher Radko, Christborn, and Casa, as well as nutcrackers and smokers (incense-burning nutcrackers) by Steinbach, wreaths, lights, tree skirts, stockings and exclusive, locally-themed signature ornaments including a Mardi Gras nutcracker and a saxophone Santa. Special-occasion pieces, such as wedding ornaments and ornaments for Saints, Tulane and LSU fans also are part of the regular mix; other items such as Halloween ornaments and candy gift baskets for such special calendar dates as Valentine's Day are available seasonally. The business partners also will create custom gift baskets with products of your choosing.

One of the store's best-selling items is the Lampe Berger line of French fragrance lamps created more than a century ago and available today in numerous styles and scents. Shoppers also will find pewter and ceramic tableware, scented candles, candlesticks, indoor-outdoor terracotta angels, and baby gifts.

"We're here year 'round for your special ornament needs," says Plaia. "But we're so much more than a Christmas store -- with unique gifts, great candles and decorating ideas."

Worth the Wait

A minor fire has delayed the opening of this area's first DeAngelos Italian restaurant (111 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Heritage Plaza, Metairie, 833-7331;, but only by three days.

Owner Eric Brechtel says he pushed back the scheduled opening from Tuesday (Dec. 16) to Friday (Dec. 19) to allow adequate time for repairs and staff training. "Our standards are so high that we would never settle for anything less than perfect," he says.

DeAngelos, which already operates successful restaurants in Lafayette and Baton Rouge, will offer diners a range of pizza and Italian dishes in a casual but upscale atmosphere. It will be open for lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and also offers a full bar. -- Kandace Power Graves

click to enlarge Sales associate Meredith Hickerson and store owner - Rebecca Champagne match accessories to a fur- - lined denim jacket at Bellini.
  • Sales associate Meredith Hickerson and store owner Rebecca Champagne match accessories to a fur- lined denim jacket at Bellini.


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