By Kathy Henderson
Two new businesses celebrated grand openings in the St. Anthony Park business district on Oct. 7, both espousing that Milton Square is a magical place to be located and working there is heavenly — particularly apt attitudes from people opening places named Almost Heaven and Practically Magical.
This shop was opened by Abby MacFarlane, who was an independent vendor at the popular Thistles, a long-time Milton Square outlet that offered shared space merchandizing opportunities.
When Thistles closed, MacFarlane stayed in Milton Square, opening Practically Magical in a street-level location at 2238 Carter Ave. She brought along many of Thistles’ former vendors and added a few new ones.
“Everyone gets a sense of discovery when they come in here,” said MacFarlane, as she and others rearranged their display areas, brought in merchandise or dressed fashion mannequins in preparation of the grand opening. “It’s that awe factor that led to the name Practically Magical. You feel magical when you come in here.”
“Anyone can find something here!” MacFarlane enthusiastically added, noting the curated merchandise is switched out as soon as something sells.
The variety of merchandise —
objects, books, fashions, furniture, jewelry and food items; vintage, repurposed or new — along with the spaciousness of the shop’s design and the way items are set out on tables, arranged in decorative cabinets, or spilled forth from an open desk drawer, distinguish Practically Magical from a typical antique or thrift store.
“We’re a supportive collection of merchants, many who live in the area,” is how MacFarlane describes the vendors whose individual booths circle and wind through the shop floor. Each merchant brings a unique style and particular interests to the property. Currently, there are 13 vendors, with space for more.
“We love interacting with the community, hearing their stories, helping them find something unique. Sometimes they even bring in photos to show us how they are using what they discovered here,” MacFarlane said.
This decorative nail studio is owned by nail artist Isa Pizano. Located in a lower-level Milton Square courtyard suite at 2230 Carter Ave., this is the first solo venture for Pizano, who previously had spaces in other salons.
For Pizano, owning a nail salon was never a childhood dream. (She wanted to be a photographer.) Nor was it anything she imagined doing as a University of Minnesota student completing a double major in visual arts and graphic design.
But she fell into the decorative nail trade by serendipity.
“I graduated from the U in 2020, in the midst of the Covid pandemic.,” Pizano said. “I felt lost and uncertain due to all the immense changes happening to us collectively and individually. I always wanted to be an artist — I decided to buy a nail kit and give DIY nails a try.
“I fell in love immediately,” she continued. “In my opinion, nail art is simply another medium, like clay and paint, only I use nail products.”
Like MacFarlane, Pizano considers Milton Square a unique setting. “I chose this location because upon arrival, Milton Square felt like a magical world. The energy felt right, and I trusted my gut.”
Settling into her shop, Pizano discovered that she enjoys taking walks during breaks. “The neighborhood is beautiful. I stumbled across sculptures made of birch trees the other day.”
Having her own location has also given Pizano the opportunity to mentor Shivani M, who is currently attending nail school. Upon program completion and licensure in the late winter, Shivani M plans to join the Almost Heaven team.
Meanwhile, the opportunity to give feedback to her future nail technician has spurred Pizano to start offering nail art classes to licensed professionals and nail enthusiasts.
Currently, Pizano typically sees three to four clients a day. “I enjoy chatting with my clients and making them feel amazing!” she said.
When it comes to nail trends, Pizano said, “People are obsessed with chrome, airbrush art and 3D nail art.”
And in case you’re curious, Pizano does her own nails. Both hands!
Kathy Henderson lives in St. Paul and is a freelance writer for the Bugle.