By Arianna Costanzo, Point Park News Service:
Carol Kinkela, owner of Carabella in Oakmont, has a quaint little store with few employees who she has known for quite some time. Kinkela said she loves the small town and the close vibes she has with her employees and her customers. Being in the business for 18 years, she still loves every minute of it and can’t wait for the rest of the years that are ahead of her. She also passed on her fashion knowledge to her sons, founding owners of Shop 412, a clothing store at SouthSide Works. But, first, where did it all start?
Q: When you were younger, was this the dream you had or did you have something else in mind?
A: I was always on the fast track since I was 16. I knew it was always the direction I wanted to go in.
Q: Did you work any other jobs other than fashion, or in fashion, that made you want to be a part of it?
A: Always! Back in the day, I was in Monroeville Mall at Ormond’s (retail store) and then I just went from selling to managing in different places. Then I moved back to Pittsburgh and started with a store in Shadyside, which pretty much gave me my foothold into the city (for) developing my customer base. It pretty much grew from there.
Q: How did you start the business?
A: I went into another line of work briefly in business sales, and the side of business that I worked on got sold. I had to work for the man who bought it, which was horrific, and then I started looking to get into this fashion business again. In 1996, I found this little spot, and it’s just been a dream.
Q: What was the inspiration behind it and what drove you to be in this line of work?
A: Customer service. I’m definitely a people person/pleaser, and the thing I like about the fashion industry is that it’s always changing. I always have to keep changing it up and there is no better platform than this.
Q: What is your favorite article of clothing you own or is in the store at the moment?
A: Coats! Coats and color!
Q: Do you have a favorite trend you have loved the most over the time you have had your business?
A: I kind of like tailored with a twist. I’m pretty focused on that. I don’t go for the fads. I mean we tweak things a little by taking a trend and making it our own.
Q: What do you think about Pittsburgh’s fashion scene? Do you think it’s going to get better? Do you see Pittsburgh becoming a fashion city?
A: (Long pause) I don’t look at Pittsburgh as a fashion city. I mean, I think there is a lot of fashion in the city. There are a lot of independent retailers who are trying to place their mark and there’s enough space for everyone because you know everyone has a look, and everyone has a price point, so there is enough people in the city to support that. I mean it is disappointing that Downtown can’t support a major retailer and that was always my biggest disappointment that Nordstrom didn’t anchor in town. I know my kids are looking to get back into town, and there is a nice city vibe now, but would I ever own a business Downtown? No. I love the small town, local vibe. A lot of companies from all over the country support local business in a small town like Oakmont, so it’s nice.
Q: Have you gone anywhere special that inspires you and that had an impact on you for your store?
A: Everywhere I go! Whether I’m at the beach or whether I’m at the mountains, I get ideas. My mind is free to roam and walk and see how I can tweak it and apply it to the business is pretty much what I do.