Style File: Because Nice Matters with Carol Kinkela

By Matthew Hacke | Photographs by Michael Fornataro

When walking into Carabella, customers are immediately greeted at the door by a small wooden sign with the saying, ‘Because Nice Matters,’ written in bold letters. For over 20 years, this women’s boutique on Allegheny River Boulevard has welcomed many faces into the store — and kept them coming back — not only because of the impeccable merchandise, but also the hospitable staff of 14. Known affectionately as “Bella Sisters,” the women who work at the store exude service and kindness that is contagious — all of which can easily be attributed to the founder and owner of the successful shop, Carol Kinkela. “You just don’t know what kind of day someone is having when they walk through this door. If you’re having a bad day when you walk into this store, you will at least be happy when you walk out,” says Kinkela. Her colorful personality shines through the offerings at the store — a store that has been centered around community. “We meet someone new who comes into the store every day,” Kinkela says. “I truly have been blessed from day one and have been lucky to do what I love for over 20 years.” Carabella, 328 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont. 412.828.2187. carabellaoakmont.com.


Q&A

How do you decide what to stock in the store?
My target market is 25 to 90-year-old women because I’ve always tried to cater to a wide age range. In terms of clothing, I like to find designers who aren’t in a department store, which is really difficult. I choose designers who are up-and-coming if I can — designers who don’t really have a presence on the web, which is really challenging now. I work those showrooms and floors, and I just pull individual items rather than entire collections. I love color, texture, and design because they just give you a sense of energy. Being a store owner, it’s never just about what I like. I have to keep a balance and listen to my customers.

How would you describe your personal style?
Tailored with a twist. I tend to be drawn to vivid colors in classic silhouettes. My lifestyle, like most of the world these days, is casual. Although, I only own — but never wear — one pair of jeans!

Do you have any style icons?
I would say Natalie Morales [of NBC News’ “TODAY”]. She has a great sense of classic style. She’s beautiful. Tamron Hall [previously of NBC News’ “TODAY”] as well. She isn’t afraid to express herself through her clothing. I mostly just do my own thing.

Where did your passion for fashion stem from?
Playing with my Barbie dolls [laughs]. My mom was my main inspiration for getting into fashion. I’ve always loved color and clothing. I went to school for fashion merchandising. I always knew from the time I was 16 that I wanted to do this. I’ve worked in retail from a young age, and then I finally had the opportunity to throw my hat into the ring and open my own store. My original plan was to open a store before I turned 40 and then close before 50 and go to the beach, but that didn’t happen. Do the math [laughs]. But I’m still having fun!

Who are some of your favorite designers?
I try to find and wear American-made brands. I like Bailey44, Donna Degnan, and Suzi Roher. I’m also a huge fan of jackets and coats, particularly by Cinzia Rocca.

How do you keep the store involved in the community so well?
We love to support the Pittsburgh community through charitable giving. In particular, we are most proud of the work we have done to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Most recently, Carabella partnered with the Massaro family to host the Longest Table, a charity event to raise funds for the Joseph A. Massaro Alzheimer’s Research Fund! Our next Longest Table event will occur June 23, so mark your calendars!


A FEW OF HER FAVORITE THINGS

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