Florida Keys Business
Sunday, January 20, 2013
A little bit of everything....
....a lot of nothing

From penny candy to greeting cards, picture frames to pet supplies, home decor to hilarious action figures, the newest addition to Caroline Street's shopping district has just about everything for locals, tourists, boaters and anyone else who stops in to poke around among the shop's delightful collection.

The Little Red is located in the old Flagler Station railroad museum at 901 Caroline St., where Juan Pisani and Val Marmillion have recreated an old-world style mercantile and general store, "with a kick."

"We like to say it's a little bit of everything and a lot of nothing," said Pisani.

He and Marmillion own a similar shop in Provincetown, Mass., where they spend their summers. Their winters now are spent on a boat in Key West, where they hope to re-establish the historic connection between "P-town" and Key West.

"As boaters and like many islanders, we were sad to see Fast Buck Freddie's and Waterfront Market in the seaport area close," Marmillion said. "It struck us that we had a little of both in The Little Red, and we found a great location in Flagler Station. We're not trying to be Fast Bucks, but we're trying to bring a little of that funky creativity back."

Each aisle is filled with unexpected and creative gifts, as well as essentials, in price ranges that are accessible to everyone.

"Things go from 50 cents to $150," said Pisani, a native of Argentina, who is also a professional photographer and former model.

The shop features edgy greeting cards and sarcastic decorative signs, like the one that declares, "Nothing good ever comes from hitting Reply All." There is a full aisle of gourmet salad dressings, olives, marinades, locally grown honey and gourmet soups that come with all the dry, measured ingredients in a packet.

"You just add water, milk or chicken broth," he said.

Pisani and Marmillion also are assembling a display of gourmet meats, cheeses and wines, and the courtyard in the back will include tables and chairs where patrons can sample their wine and cheeses while surrounded by orchids, plants, bird houses, landscaping decorations and other gardening items.

The pair just returned from the legendary Atlanta Gift Show convention, where they bought colorful beaded jewelry "that looks really expensive, but is really, really affordable," Pisani said.

A hilarious assortment of Halloween and Fantasy Fest masks is already in place, and will obviously expand when the festival season arrives, Pisani said.

The Little Red includes housewares, kitchen items, boat cleaning products, T-shirts, elegant picture frames and writing journals, flip flops, kites, toys and locally made pet products. The shop also carries the up-and-coming "Poo-pourri" products that eliminate bathroom odors with a single spritz. A greeting card features "Cher Guevarra," and a corner filled with action figures shows Oscar Wilde as well as a traditional "lunch lady" that everyone remembers from middle school. There are also rubber chickens, cow clocks, purse made of candy wrappers, handmade scarves from Vietnam, you name it.

"With its 'No Big Box" sign on the front counter, the partners talk about how their shopping concept runs counter to the bigger and stronger mentality of chain operations, which have all but eliminated the wonder of a shopping experience.

"We are all about not knowing what to expect when one walks through our door," Marmillion said.

And Pisani emphasized that much of their buying comes from listening to what their customers want and like.

"We figure it's better to go wide than deep," he said. "That way everyone can find something they like. We really listen to what people want."

The Little Red, 901 Caroline St., will host a grand opening party from 6-8 p.m. tonight with everything in the store 20 percent off.

mmiles@keysnews.com

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