Frangipani Masters Minimalist Eclecticism
by brett graff
In the independent spirit of Wynwood, Frangipani brings just the right eclectic mix of creative gifts and home goods.
Owner Jennifer Frehling’s strong eye for interior design is evident in the artful merchandise.
The Wynwood Walls, the warehouses that serve as giant canvases for street art, are successfully luring pedestrians to the burgeoning arts district. But if you keep your eyes locked only on the striking exteriors, you just might miss some of the imaginative goods on the inside of those buildings.
Nestled in between the winding warehouse paths and Joey’s restaurant, Frangipani (pronounced franju-pan-ee) blends into the city blocks so well that the store, which offers a chic and artistic array of items from coffee table books to impossibly modern yoga wear, might be missed by a distracted browser. In the oversize front window, the shop’s merchandise is not represented by any of the exotic trinkets found within but rather a single vintage Vespa from 1964 that’s restored in both body and motor. With an original 150cc, it can travel at 70 miles per hour. Compare that, says shop owner Jennifer Frehling, to a typical 50cc Vespa, which rides at only about 40 miles per hour. “People see them and go crazy,” she says, pointing to the $5,600 model currently on display. “I’ve sold four.”
The Wynwood store has a vintage Vespa in the window. “People see them and go crazy,” she says.
That notion of “special” pervades the store and is all part of the proprietor’s vision. Frehling—who, along with her boyfriend, Alain Guillen, also owns the recently opened Flavorish Market on Biscayne Boulevard—has filled Frangipani with vibrant global merchandise set against a pure white backdrop. Sprawling white tables exhibit glossy books, Hopscotch Kids nail color, handpainted bike helmets, messenger bags stitched from exotic tapestries, clutch purses made from Berber carpets, and black ice buckets made from thick resin. Here, you can also find iPhone cases adorned with imagery from works of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. “We sell a lot of these,” says Frehling. “We saw quickly people were interested in art-related cases—the things we have here you can’t find at the Apple Store.”
Off to one side is a thoughtfully curated collection of items with a strong sense of design, smarts, and whimsy: colorful kids’ bathroom soap holders, chunky wood jewelry, a bamboo rice bowl with a pair of chopsticks that was imported from Vietnam, and an array of goat milk soy candles, which are considered more ecological and cleaner-burning than their waxy counterparts. There are vintage plates stamped with a British artist’s sketches of skulls and birdcages. One table takes center stage with its two-deep wells that are topped with glass and filled with jewelry crafted from crystal, leather, fabric, and a dozen mines’ worth of metals. “I try to make one big trip every year to bring back products and source new artists,” she says. “Last year, I went to Paris; before that, it was Vietnam. This year, who knows?”
Some of the unusual items at Frangipani include a Russian Criminal Tattoo book ($33), petrified wood bookends ($225), and handmade nesting olive wood bowls ($275 for a set of 7).
Other highlights include local photographer Andrew Kaufman’s images of Wynwood and a collection of ceramic hearts that are more creative than cute. “I order shallow in all products so there’s a constant change of goods,” says Frehling. “I try to stay away from the items carried in other Miami stores.”
Frehling herself grew up in a retail family: Her parents owned Nessa Gaulois in Bal Harbour for over 30 years and today operate Oggetti, a manufacturer and importer of furniture, lighting, and home accessories with a showroom in the Design District that’s owned by her brother, Greg. After earning her master’s degree in architecture from the University of Virginia, Frehling interned at the Smithsonian Institution’s historic preservation office and then worked extensively in interior design before opening Frangipani nearly two years ago. The boutique is named for the sweet-scented blossoming tree she would smell as a little girl waiting for the school bus in Miami Beach.
However, Frehling is certain it’s Wynwood that is the perfect location for her retail vision; after all, Frangipani was profitable from the first month, she says, and sales are up 25 percent this year. “That could credit the neighborhood as much as the store,” she says, humbly. “Wynwood has been written up in The New York Times, a ton of tourists are coming to look at the walls and the graffiti, and I can’t wait for the other retail stores to open.” But as any retail analyst would agree, foot-traffic alone is not a recipe for retail success. That might have something to do with what she’s collected inside the walls. 2516 NW Second Ave., Miami, 305-573-1480
photography by mary beth koeth