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Little shop on the corner makes waves


By Lulu Torbet

Beginning Wednesday, June 6, the internationally known décor emporium, One King’s Lane, will present a dazzling selection of beautiful and unusual items from all over Mexico in a three-day online sale. It all came about when Insh’ala (God Willing in Arabic), Carol Romano’s eclectic, delectable shop on Aldama showed up on One King’s Lane’s radar, and became the first business outside the U.S. that the company chose to feature in one of their coveted “Tastemaker” online sales. The success of Insh’ala’s sale, in September , 2011, brought One King’s Lane co-founder and the vice president to Mexico City in April, to take advantage of Carol’s savvy and insider access to the best of what Mexican artisans, shops, and dealers have to offer. Carol led them on a whirlwind five-day tour of more than 50 top-notch purveyors in Mexico City and San Miguel. One King’s Lane left with a container-load of goods ready to ship (and the potential for ongoing relationships with dozens of local businesses) for their upcoming Mexican Container Sale.

And therein lies a tale—about the way small specialty businesses have become an integral part of San Miguel’s attraction and about how one person and one small shop can have a far-reaching impact that benefits our community. Visitors from all over the world come here not only to see the Parroquia, the colonial architecture and enjoy the proliferating luxury hotels and restaurants; they seek out upscale shops they’ve heard about, like Insh’ala, which enhance their travel experience. This synergy boosts San Miguel’s economy and broadens its visibility.

This tale began very simply, spurred by a love of travel and of beautiful things. Carol first came to San Miguel in 1995, and brought back her Mexican finds to San Francisco (where she had a graphic design studio), and sold them at trunk shows. Her wanderlust took her to Morocco, where she bought carpets to sell at special sales events in San Miguel, and in New York, Denver, San Antonio and San Francisco. The success of these mini import-export ventures inspired a larger vision, and it wasn’t long before she was importing goods from Morocco, Turkey, Syria, and Uzbekistan—by the container-load. In 2001, she officially opened a store, selling out of the front room of her small colonial home at Aldama 30. And so it grew, as did Carol’s search for the deep vein of artisanal products and antiquities on her doorstep. “The origins of the Moorish and Arabic styles with Mexican craftsmen’s mark on them over the generations tell the whole story of what Insh’ala has become,” she says. Insh’ala has tripled in size, and remains every bit the eye-popping upscale bazaar. In recent years, Carol imports in smaller, select quantities, and travels through Mexico, buying from private collectors and through personal connections established over the years. These days, Mexico, Europe, and Asia are all part of the Insh’ala mix.

As the reputation of Insh’ala and San Miguel’s tourist attractions grew side by side, the years of focused work have put her little shop on the map—2011 sales were Insh’ala’s best to date, and 2012 is shaping up to exceed them. Carol is a great booster of San Miguel and of Mexico. She is positive about the future of tourism, and in particular the recognition of the vital contribution made by small businesses like hers. “I’ve seen so many changes in my years here. San Miguel’s economy has taken some heavy hits, but tourism remains the core of our local economy, so I think that it is crucially important that the newly developing cultural and commercial enterprises that attract visitors and international businesses to invest in San Miguel’s future be supported by all of us, including the local, state and national governments. These establishments are an integral part of the town’s patrimony, part of its charms and attractions, and vital to its survival and growth.”

So…here’s your chance to find something special from Mexico, and contribute to the local economy in the process. Just log on to and go to “Mexican Container Sale,” beginning on Wednesday, June 6, for 72 hours only. Check out the fine antiques, local crafts, mid-century furniture, textiles and home accessories collected from insider sources. You don’t even have to leave your house.

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