JP CENTER—The venerable Indigena at 42 South Street opened, under new ownership, to rave reviews last month following a makeover by co-proprietors Vincent Bono, 35, and Seja Esancy, 26, who live together in Roslindale.
“We remodeled the store ourselves after buying it from long-time family friend Elizabeth Fixler,” said Bono, founder of Boston Data Centers, which he sold last November. “Her son and I are best friends and when I heard she was looking to close it down we jumped at the chance to take it over.”
Fixler, who is currently on a cross-country trip, was unavailable for comment, but Bono said, “The business was just too much for one person to run, and she had been on the street for almost 25 years. We’re younger and have more energy, so here we are.”
The couple, said Bono, takes care of the finances and books, while Esancy, a supervisor at Starbucks for seven years, is in charge of design, day-to-day operations and advertising.
“Seja is very creative. She does the best window display in JP,” Bono said proudly, adding, “This is also a lot more fun than the corporate work we did before.”
“We had great response at our grand opening [June 9], and nothing but compliments since,” Esancy said. “One man came in and bowed, and others thanked us for bringing new things they liked to the store.”
“We actually had one woman call in and said she was excited to see us open as she passed by in a bus. She said she was going to tell her grandmother, who walks up the street a lot.”
Long-time JP resident Anastasia Lyman said she loves “the eclectic mix of jewelry and software” offered at the store. “It’s a really welcome addition to the business district, filling the gap of much-missed Pluto.
“And I like the new layout,” she added. “It’s easier to access everything. But the store still has the same eye toward quality that made the old shop a gem.
“I’m happy they’re here. I always try to support local businesses,” Lyman said after her purchase.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” declared David White, a JP artist who exhibited his work at Indigena in the past.
Esancy admitted the store used to be a “little cramped,” saying, “I try to showcase everything and create a store that has rare and unique items, from local artists to other fair-trade artist around the world.
“A local artist makes us hand-inked t-shirts. From an artist in Maine we get silver-wrapped semi-precious stone jewelry. I’m working with a man who visits Nairobi and brings back jewelry, figurines, gobbles and bowls, and beautiful cutlery sets. We sell saris from India, clothing from Nepal.
“One of our most popular items is hand-blown glass rings from a woman in Texas. Another is the Laini’s Ladies ornaments. We sell a couple every day.”
Other offerings include a build-a-bath stand with bath salts from Palestine, Jordon and the Himalayas; Pacifica scented candles; cards, starting at $1; grab bags; C.L. Whiting purses; and a line of Kamasutra body oils that Esancy quietly noted were “edible.”
“Right now our stock is mostly for women, but we plan to have things for everyone in the future, including pets,” she said. “We’re already very carriage-friendly and have a bubble bar and chalk for kids to drawn with on the sidewalk.
“I really like being my own boss and trying to make sure customers get what they want. I love working the floor and having some time to talk to everyone,” she said.
“We’re definitely looking forward to being more a part of the community,” said her partner. “We have a community bulletin board…and welcome ideas and suggestions from our customers.”
Bono chuckled a bit and went on to say, “Sometime it feels like we’ve just started dating the neighborhood and we’re all looking to find out what each other likes.”
Indigena is open Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday noon to 7 p.m. and Monday by appointment. For more information call the store at 617-522-5585.