For Isabel Bell, whose Bella & Co. store in Wilton offers fine jewelry and unique gifts, there has to be something special that speaks to her about an item before she carries it in her shop. Whether they’re handmade, one-of-a-kind, fair trade or crafted by a local artisan, the items showcased in her cozy Cannondale boutique—jewelry, accessories, apparel and hostess gifts—are pretty singular.
Since opening the store in 2010, Bell has tried to stay on top of current trends, but even she is surprised how one recent trend has become highly sought out by her loyal customers. Looking around the store, it’s easy to spot items that appeal to spirituality, self-discovery and inspiration.
“The store definitely has a life of its own. It just sort of took on that vibe, and people really responded to it,” she said.
One of the jewelry lines that has been very popular with her customers is Energy Muse, which features stones, gems and charms that are associated with certain properties. Each design is named for a desired outcome, and is meant to empower or inspire the wearer.
“The necklaces and bracelets all have different meanings and names—‘believe,’ ‘receive,’ ‘acceptance,’ ‘compassion,’” Bell explained. “The pieces called ‘transformation,’ ‘grounding,’ and ‘confidence’ are my biggest, biggest sellers. It comes in the store and it goes out. There are times when I’m unpacking it and people show up—I sell it right out of the box. It seems to sell itself.”
Some of the other items Bell carries in the store are directly related to meditation or serenity—among the most popular are votive candles as well as more upscale, scented gift candles and Tibetan singing bowls, which she said were sold out around the December holidays.
"To think, here in Fairfield County, it’s like there’s a lot of closeted spirituality just coming out. People need something, people are searching for something. Maybe it follows the yoga trend, people went for the exercise and found the spirituality,” she said.
Bell also points to recent focus that Oprah Winfrey has put on spirituality: she’s currently doing a 21-day “Meditation Challenge” series with Deepak Chopra, and has featured newer spiritual ‘guides’ of a younger generation on her “Soul Sunday” program, including Gabrielle Bernstein, Mastin Kipp and Marie Forleo.
The celebrity factor is huge. The Energy Muse line can be a little pricey, but Bell said customers seek it out because some famous faces are spotted wearing it.
“If you watch ‘American Idol’ or ‘Taste,’ the Olympic athletes, they all wear the bracelets. The one called ‘musician,’ Jason Mraz helped create it. David Beckham wears one called ‘stamina.’ He wears three of them.”
She carries another line of jewelry called “B.U.”—which stands for “be you”—which skews a little younger and is a little more affordable. “It’s inspirational, artisan jewelry for girls and women, to empower themselves, to believe in yourself that you have the power to create whatever you want in life. They’re personal talismans to give or keep.”
Both lines are popular gifts around graduation time. “One mom, her daughter wears the good fortune bracelet, and won’t take it off—she showers with it, even though they tell you not to. She was afraid she would lose it, so her mom came back and got her another one, just in case.”
Other popular items include a “Gratitude Jar,” a glass canister that comes with paper and pen to jot down memories or thoughts of things that make people grateful. Customers will fill the jars and reopen the notes at the end of the year or at birthdays.
“Instead of griping, people are tuning into being grateful, even for the little things—that you saw a robin or a beautiful sunset, that someone said thank you, it can be anything. It doesn’t have to be that you won the lottery,” Bell explained.
Bella & Co. carries a number of fair trade items from Tibet, South Africa and India, as well as a line of olive oil made by a co-op of Palestinian and Israeli women, as well as items she seeks out specifically made in America. “I have this great line of necklaces and key chains made in Brooklyn called ‘Fortune Keepers,’ you can put your fortune cookie fortunes in there. They give you three fortunes, and another blank one—people take their child’s finger print on it with their birth date, or people write their hopes in it.”
The theme resonates with many of Bell’s customers.
“I guess when times are tough, or someone’s having a hard time, being able to look at something like that helps them get through their day. Sometimes you just need that boost, it’s a literal touchstone.
For that reason, Bell says she tries to stay conscious about having a range of items across all price points. “I don’t mark up the prices, because I just think for someone who needs a boost, or who needs that extra something, I can’t bring myself to charge so much. There are some people who won’t bat an eye and will buy three or four, and then there are others who can only do one small thing but they really need that boost.”
Bella & Co. is located at 32 Cannon Rd., in Wilton.