Creating a luxury convenience store
Shoppers may recognize the store name from the “I Love Lucy” show when Desi Arnaz sang the famous “Babalu” song. But co-owner Greg Melvin says it comes from a culmination of worldwide travel experiences, including influential trips to Brazil and Cuba. After Melvin and co-owner Paolo Ambu met in Bali, it took less than four years for the friends to become business partners. Today, they have three storefronts. “We are a luxury convenience store,” Melvin says. “The store is about the experience, not just the product.” Melvin says he manages the buying and merchandising, while Ambu works on the brand and creative aspect. “I’m the shopaholic between us two,” he says.
Rare perfumes and designer toothpaste
From Melvin’s favorite evening perfume, to his good friend Jonathan Adler’s personal store favorites at Babalu, there is always a follow-up story about a product’s label, design or artist at Babalu. Known for its luxury perfume bar, an entire wall at Babalu is devoted to some of the most rare and expensive perfumes in the world. Many of these fragrances contain oudh, an ingredient that is coveted in the perfume industry. The store also carries high-end beauty and travel essentials, from toothpaste to organic facial cream. Babalu is everything that a drugstore is not, he says.
What to buy
Melvin says his scent of choice is Honour Man by Amouage, which is on display at the Babalu perfume bar. Babalu is one of the few U.S. retailers carrying the Amouage brand. Melvin also can’t live without the Rahua line of organic hair products sold at the store. “Rahua has changed my approach to hair care, but I’ll let you be the judge as to whether my hair looks any better,” the owner says. Babalu also carries the work of Palm Beach artists and designers, including Jason Arbuckle’s greeting cards and Del Toro shoes by Matthew Chevallard. “There is pride and joy for us in supporting and promoting local talent,” Melvin says. To navigate the products, check out “babalubuzz,” the store’s blog-zine, which includes staff picks, new products and upcoming sales.
“What has made Babalu a success … is our focus on the details,” Melvin says, adding that each product in the store is hand-selected by the owners. The Babalu walls are decorated with beachy, cabana-style stripes. The boutique’s signature Babalu logo is mounted flat against the ceiling, casting a pink, neon glow throughout the store. When asked about the logo’s color, Melvin rattles off the hue’s swatch number. “We spent a lot of time searching for that color,” he says. “It’s magenta, but you can call it Babalu pink.”
The store sells apparel, pet accessories, jewelry, perfume, candles, apothecary, travel gear, entertainment décor and books, ranging from $6 Italian confections from Leone to fine jewelry collections priced up to $36,000.