LAKE FOERST — North Shore retailer Yasmin Mekki has lived in Lake Forest for the last 13 years, has always wanted a store on Market Square and serendipity is bringing her home.
When Mekki opened Kenzy Gifts & Décor in Highland Park seven years ago, a Lake Forest location was not on her horizon. The same was true when she opened her second shop in Vernon Hills nearly four years ago.
Mekki will open the newest edition of Kenzy by the end of July on the north side of Market Square in downtown Lake Forest. Kenzy sells gifts, table top decor, jewelry and more.
“We sell things that go in a room or fit on a table,” said Audrey Ohanesian during a DailyNorthShore.com interview as she helped get the new space ready July 7. She has lived in Lake Forest for 24 years and worked at Kenzy since it opened.
Mekki said she had plenty of customers from Lake Forest come to her stores in both Highland Park and Vernon Hills. The day she recently decided she was ready to close the Highland Park store, she got a call from a representative of Market Square.
“She said, ‘I have the perfect spot for you in Market Square. You need to be in Lake Forest,’” said Mekki as she worked to prepare the store to open. “I felt like it was meant to be. I’ve always wanted to be in Lake Forest. My 13-year-old can walk here after school.”
One thing Kenzy already has is a customer base in Lake Forest. Mekki said she has been seeing her friends and neighbors come into both stores since each opened. She said she believes shoppers from Highland Park and beyond will venture to Lake Forest.
Along with an online bridal registry and a full website established for internet shopping, Kenzy offers a wide variety of gifts and decorative items. Prices range from $3 to more than $5,000. For $3 customers can purchase stones with a message written on them.
“They say peace or I love you or be brave,” said Mekki.
“Some even say mazel tov,” added Barbara Stern as she moved boxes around the store. Stern, a Highland Park resident, has also worked at Kenzy since day one. “If you can’t find a gift here or something for yourself, you can’t find it anywhere.”
Pointing to a mirror surrounded by detailed metal work, Mekki said she has specially ordered mirrors handcrafted in Morocco. They can run $5,000. She designs them herself and sends directions to artisans overseas. She also conceives her own jewelry and gets it produced that way.
“There is no middle man,” Mekki said. “That helps me keep the prices down.”
Morocco has a special place in Mekki’s life. There are numerous Moroccan designs in the store, and she said her home has Moroccan touches. She traveled there in her youth and the good impression stuck.
“I was really blown away,” said Mekki. “I was just in awe of how they do things there.”
The name of the store was Moroccan inspired.
“It means ‘my treasures’,” said Mekki. “That’s how they say it in Morocco.”
When Mekki plans events, she often uses items from Kenzy to make the room and tables more festive. She said that may become another part of her business in the future.
Mekki has a simple rule when merchandising her store: “There is nothing here I would not put in my own house or on my table,” she said.