Inspired by the art and fashion the Eliases encountered while living in southern Columbia and visiting countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, Kyle said the couple opened Scarlett Begonia in 1981 with a mission to provide an outlet for artisans around the world.
“Every artist and company we visited [in South America] made incredible things by hand, and we wanted to bring a piece of that culture to Nashville,” Kyle Elias said. “So we waited tables and bartended, saved up our money and opened the store in this very location.”
The Eliases are joined by their daughter, Gabriela, who grew up working in the store and is now the shop’s general manager and buyer. Elias said her daughter’s involvement keeps the store’s offerings contemporary and suitable for all ages.
“We pride ourselves on being a good gift destination because what’s available here is something you’re not going to find everywhere else,” Gabriela said.
Elias said the couple travels to South America at least once a year and will return to Ecuador in July. The shop features several items produced by Ecuadorian artists, including clothing, bags and jewelry made from materials harvested from the rainforest.
“A lot of our products have a story behind them, about the artist or where it’s made and what materials are used,” Elias said. “We buy from the artists who make the products, pay them the price they ask for and cut out any in-between.”
When the shop first opened nearly 40 years ago, Scarlett Begonia was 500 square feet. In 1990, the couple took over Amy’s Pub next door and expanded its fair-trade inventory with items from more counties.
“People are a lot more aware of fair trade these days, but that’s something we’ve always done,” Elias said. “We always say we were fair trade before fair trade was a thing.”
2805 West End Ave., Nashville
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 1-5 p.m.