Old Soul Bazaar was almost three decades in the making.
Or at least it’s been an idea that Fiona Coenen-Winer has had since her daughter, Francesa Coenen-Winer, was born.
After returning from a recent buying trip to her native Cape Town, South Africa, it’s clear that both mother and daughter have a unique set of tastes.
The shop has intricate earrings from Turkey, colorful hand-mirrors from Peru and blown-glass items vessels from Rhode Island and Portland, among other home decor items. There are also pieces from Whidbey such as jewelry made by Twyla Dill and shirts by Frontrow Creative.
The Coenen-Winers came to Whidbey 16 years ago. Fiona Coenen-Winer had just finished a degree in nursing and found a job at Seattle Children’s as a neurosurgery and palliative care nurse. She was looking for a Waldorf school for her daughter and since the Seattle Waldorf school was full at the time, she looked at the Whidbey Island Waldorf School and enrolled her daughter there.
Francesca Coenen-Winer graduated from high school on the island and left for a school on the east coast. After that, she worked at a gallery in Austin, Texas that specialized in Latin American folk art.
“I had barely been home in that three years. I came home for two week and was like ‘Oh crap, Whidbey’s done it again!’” she said. “I made my way back to Texas and packed up my life and came home.”
Old Soul Bazaar opened this past April, but the women had the space for a year before opening.
“It was the right decision at the wrong time.” Fiona Coenen-Winer said. “I had this huge job at [Seattle] Children’s and Francesca was at school and, I think, doing two jobs at that time, and she called me when I was in London.”
“I had heard whispers of a shop space opening on this side of the street and its very rare for a space to open on this side,” Francesca Coenen-Winer said.
“I came home immediately,” Fiona Coenen-Winer said.
After signing the lease, the women had a year-long “incubation” period, Fiona Coenen-Winer said.
They remodeled the inside of the store with new flooring and paint, and the women had cabinets installed that were made from wood sourced on Whidbey. They used the time to develop their design idea and seek out merchandise from around the world.
Besides being a nurse, Fiona Coenen-Winer is also a trained metalsmith. With her own background in metals and her daughter’s background in folk art, and their combined interest in jewelry, they have cultivated a collection of items that reflects a strong attention to details and craft.
The women said they focus their buying decisions on handmade, free-trade items for their shop with an emphasis on jewelry.
“We need to have a personal connection with the maker [and] it needs to be made by a very small collective or made by an individual. It has to be fair trade, all by hand, very small production,” Fiona Coenen-Winer said.
Francesca Coenen-Winer explained that they didn’t want it to be a tourist shop and they didn’t want any of the items to seem “intimidating” to island customers.
“I’m a young adult on the island, I would like my peers to be able to shop here as well as appeal to visitors,” Francesca Coenen-Winer said.
Future plans to showcase some of their own work and get involved with the artwalk are developing but the mom and daughter said they’re still learning, and are happy for the support they’re received so far.
“We bring a very sophisticated aesthetic,” Fiona Coenen-Winer said. “Its been wonderful and its been very exciting and affirming to be able to share this with people.”