By CELESTE GRACEY
Renton Reporter Staff Writer
May 14 2010, 5:16 PM · UPDATED
All roads lead to Poggibonsi, or at least that’s what it appeared when one Renton business owner was lost in Tuscany more than 10 years ago.
And so Keli DeRitis convinced friend Michelle Codd that the name Poggi Bonsi, split for tongue-tied Americans, would be perfect for a European-style kitchen store.
The import-savvy business is among 20 other companies in the United States to take part in the Made in Italy national promotion this week.
Along with free events, the storefront is packed with special Italian wares through May 22, Codd said. “We’re just celebrating Italy.”
In December Poggi Bonsi was one of the first retail stores to open near The Landing theater, the Regal Cinemas.
While they don’t limit their sales to special imports, their pottery is hand-picked and hand-painted for their stores.
The women discovered most of their painters and carvers as they traveled through Europe.
“We thought olive wood would be easy to find, and it’s not,” Codd said.
They happened upon a town with an olive wood carver, but he wasn’t at the shop. Waiting three days in town, they finally heard the sound of a lathe in the back. (Read our blog post about Our Quest for Olive Wood.)
They knocked on the door to find the owner’s father, who didn’t speak E)nglish, at work. Luckily, the son was around, and about 10 years later they’re still selling his products.
“We fight with him all the time,” Codd said with a laugh. “The Italians are volatile.”
While the crafters rather deal with men and often try to cheat the two women, they stand their ground, Codd said.
Along with what the women import, they also sell popular brands such as Le Creuset, known for cast-iron French ovens.
Poggi Bonsi started as an online store selling from a Burien warehouse. It opened a small storefront a year later, after Burien went through a downtown revitalization.
Unlike Burien, the Renton location has more kitchenware.
Inside the Renton store, colorful fabrics, classy European cheese boards and a clutter of must-have impulse items catch the eye from every direction.
Window shoppers will see shelves loaded with ceramics, many painted with lemons and blue swirls.
Poggi Bonsi is one of the few importers with black in their designs, a popular color for those with dark granite counter tops. To the Italians, black is ugly.
Although Poggi Bonsi opened a second store, it’s not immune to the economy.
They were originally planning to open in 2008, but the economy tanked and they decided to hold out and see what happened.
“We didn’t want to be the first ones, but then we heard how well the restaurants were doing,” Codd said.
They opened in a partnership with C’est La Vie, a neighboring gift store.
However, the economy has had its benefits.
“We’re losing competition,” Codd said.
Their spot at The Landing puts them across the street from the movie theater.
“In a normal economy, this probably wouldn’t be available,” Codd said. “They wanted us, because they wanted more stores like us.”