Kisa Boutique owner Emily Johnson Kisa first envisioned selling the Turkish jewelry she now offers in her store while living in Istanbul in 2007. At the time, the San Diego State University art and design major had the opportunity to study abroad in Turkey. “The people were very kind, very gracious, hospitable people,” Johnson Kisa says. “The country is just so beautiful … with the blend of the modern and the ancient.”
Johnson Kisa met her husband, Caglar, while in Turkey, and the couple lived there for five years before relocating to the U.S. and making their home in Wayzata. The pair opened the first Kisa Boutique in Uptown four years ago and expanded to other locations around the Twin Cities (including a now-closed shop in Minnetonka). A recent relocation finds this retail gem in the Gaviidae Common in downtown Minneapolis.
“We continue to source a majority of our product from Turkey,” Johnson Kisa says. “So we have a lot of unique pieces.” The Minneapolis storefront is stocked with everything from handmade Turkish necklaces, earrings, bracelets, dresses and stylish work wear to their signature handwoven Turkish towels.
The Kisas are also taking a new direction with the business by branding their Turkish towels and handmade jewelry separately, under the Kisa & Co. name. Shoppers will be able to order these items online and find Kisa’s pieces at several other stores.
The intricately fashioned earrings, bracelets and necklaces are made by designers from both Turkey and Minnesota. “We have this special line of jewelry crocheted by women in Turkey, so it’s amazing handwork,” Johnson Kisa says. “Traditionally, [the necklaces] were trim on the edges of their headscarf, but you can wrap it around your neck or integrate it with a scarf,” she explains.
Additional handmade jewelry includes rose gold, gold and silver necklaces with differing pendants. One in particular, called the Small Evil Eye, is meant to protect the wearer from harm. Other local designers’ work includes beautifully crafted necklaces fashioned from jasper and pyrite stones, or a cool gray faceted labradorite stone necklace.
“It’s very high fashion, so our store is very couture, very modern,” Johnson Kisa says. “But then it’s fun to add in the traditional crafts, too, and integrate them in a modern way.”
Turkish towels, another boutique bestseller, are all handwoven and were traditionally used in bathhouses in Turkey. The generously sized towels with tasseled edges are 100 percent cotton and come in plenty of stylish striped blues, tans, reds, yellows, gray tones and neutrals. One of the best parts about the towels is “they become more absorbent and softer the more you wash them, and they dry easier as well,” Johnson Kisa says.
The boutique owner and entrepreneur also points out the illustrated card accompanying each purchase, demonstrating its multiple uses. Friends and clients use the lightweight, functional pieces for travel, as a yoga mat, as a nursing cover, or even as a beautiful wedding or housewarming gift. “You can use it as a beach towel, or it makes a really great picnic blanket,” Johnson Kisa says. “It’s a scarf, it’s a shawl, or a great throw for your couch.”
Locally, Kisa & Co. fans can find their towels, robes and swim cover-ups at Big Island Swim and Surf in Excelsior and at Merilou Boutique in Wayzata. “I think these items are amazing,” Johnson Kisa says of the handcrafted goods. “They are so easily giftable.”