The Venetian masks, the Milan pewter, the jewelry made by Italian artisans: Behind the red front door of Pergolina are the images of Paulanna Cuccinello's heritage.
For 20 years, Cuccinello has owned the sophisticated, one-of-a-kind home, gift and garden boutique. It's the same venue where her Italian-born parents, Anthony and Rose Chimo, ran the Flowers by Anthony Rose shop for 45 years. "My store is European. The vibe, the undertone is Italy," Cuccinello says. "Because I am first generation, it's who I am."
Cuccinello, who worked for 15 years as a floral designer and artist, opened the boutique in a small space at the front of her parents' flower shop. She named her store Pergolina, a reference to a pergola or arbor. When the Chimos retired in 1995, Cuccinello expanded into their space and made it her own. As she says, "Pergolina grew up."
And the artist turned the boutique into her lively and ever-changing canvas. Gold alphabet letters create a whimsical display on a raspberry-colored wall, opposite one adorned with dozens of Venetian masks. The masks are handcrafted by Venetian painter Sergio Boldrin, a family friend who also created masks for the 1999 movie "Eyes Wide Shut."
In back of the shop, Cuccinello crafts dolls at her dad's old work table. Some are transformed into angels, others into Venetian royalty. One customer orders a doll that reminds her of her grandmother. "It's such a blast," Cuccinello says. "I get to make art every day."
With every turn in the shop, shoppers are bound to find something that they simply must pick up and examine with glee. A bird bath holds hundreds of metal tokens engraved with heartfelt messages, such as "Luck for thee" and "I will cover you with 1,000 kisses." Fragrant soaps from Maine, Italy and France are displayed near exotic candles and decorated coffee mugs. Eye-catching door charms made in India are covered in tiny, colorful hens. There's even a feline bingo game tucked in a corner. "I want the customer to experience something fun," Cuccinello says. "But it has to happen in five seconds."
For those looking for elegant items for the home, there are pewter serving pieces created by Milan-based Match, and lead crystal champagne flutes and carafes. There are also personal gifts, such as beaded bracelets created from precious stones and a silk collar stitched with mother of pearl and turquoise beads.
As she does with her dolls, Cuccinello makes accommodations when customers ask for a custom jewelry item. It's a practice that has served Cuccinello's family well for more than a half-century. "My mother said, 'Every thing you do, someone else can do.' But the service you give makes you stand out in business.'"