An incredible journey of fear and excitement that causes growth. Not what Webster would say about the word circa, but for Fondren shop owner Michele Escude’, it’s the definition that characterizes her last year. Her and husband Craig’s circa. URBAN ARTISAN LIVING celebrates it’s first anniversary tonight and the New Orleans native says she has been overwhelmed by the response. “Craig said the other day ‘our customers have become our friends’, and it’s true” she says on the eve of Fondren Unwrapped. Escude’ says year one hasn’t been easy but, along with the artists they represent (hand picked and numbering over 200), their business has grown. “We’re tweaking but we’re on the right track”, she tells us. “We’re not trying to be everything to everyone, but we’re filling a niche no one else has”.

The 45 year old mother of two says she had her securities in place and this store was not in the cards – at least not for now. “I look around and think, ‘oh my gosh, how did this happen’, but it did, and it’s good. To sit back and look at what we have created with the artists and community – I’m just blown away”. Both Michele and Craig are hands-on and he has recently been awarded by Niche Magazine for his social media promotion of the business.

The philosophy at circa. is a simple one: tell a story. Escude’ says their boutique is an extension of their lifestyle. “We’ve lived like this for over 20 years. My home has antiques but it also has modern elements. It’s about balance. It keeps it fresh”. She encourages her patrons, even her employees to be artisans themselves. “I could tell you how to do this or that, but I want to foster the creative spirit. Everyone has that spirit within them”.

Escude’, along with her dedicated employees – whom she considers family – invites you to visit tonight for food, libations, live jazz from Pam Confer and over $2,000 in giveaways. “I want people to know the artists themselves have donated everything we will award tonight. For them to believe in what we are doing, to give a piece of themselves is amazing”. Those drawings will happen at 6, 7 and 8pm, and the grand prizes will be drawn at 8:30pm following Craig’s debut of the circa. holiday song.

circa. Is located at 2771 Old Canton Road in Fondren.