Tucked away on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park is "Ciao Bella!" boutique, a specialty store that sells a wide variety of handmade items: from handbags to clothes to chandeliers. "We're really noted for our handbags and jewelry," said Gail Torman, who co-owns the store.
Torman and Lisa Novak bought the business called The Painted Lady, formerly operating in the space and re-opened it as Ciao Bella! in November 2003.
Torman said they had to be creative in finding ways to make their store unique, but keep the re-decorating from costing a lot.
"We had to think of alternative ways without using that much money," said Torman.
Torman said the women went through hundreds of names before deciding on "Ciao Bella!."
"My husband always says [Ciao Bella] on the phone," Torman said.
Torman said "Ciao Bella" means "hello" and "goodbye", and also "beautiful", in Italian. She said the name just seemed to fit.
After deciding on the name, the two designed and made the store's sign on their own.
Torman said nearly everything in the store is for sale and that the store receives new items every week.
"We have a lot of people come back," said Torman. "We have a lot of repeat customers."
Many of the items in the store are handmade, and Torman said she makes some of the jewelry and handbags.
"There's really something for everybody here," said Novak. "Our prices are probably better than department stores."
Torman said "Ciao Bella!" also specializes in children's and pets items. (If you want to dress your dog, this is the place to go).
Torman said the store also does home parties and private shopping parties.
She said a group of friends can come to the store after closing, where they can shop and enjoy wine and cheese provided by "Ciao Bella!". If you host a party, 10 percent of the total sales goes toward the purchase of an item in the store.
Torman said "Ciao Bella!" will also bring the store's items to a customer's home so they can have a private shopping party in their own house.
Torman said the store is also giving some of the profits of the sale of butterfly tee-shirts to the "Core of Hope", a non profit organization of artists who want to revitalize the Asbury Park community.
"It's really a community here," said Torman. "All the store owners help each other out."
Novak said she believes "Ciao Bella!" can be part of Asbury Park's revitalization.
She said of the decision to open the store there, "We saw opportunity.
"It's Asbury Park," said Novak. "It's just got to come back. We've got to be a part of it."
The store is open Wednesday-Friday 12-5 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 12-5 p.m. The store is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.