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Meet Paula Han of Handle in South Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Paula Han.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My true passion since childhood has been home decor. However, I ended up becoming a lawyer and practicing law for eight years. Even then, the idea of opening a store was always in the back of my mind, but I did not think it was feasible. Then I met a boutique owner through a mutual friend, and in short, she made it sound like opening a store like Handle was actually quite doable from a financial and operational standpoint. So once I felt that I had saved enough money, I left my last job and moved back to Los Angeles (where I had lived off-and-on since law school). Eventually, I started looking for a retail space to lease and found my current space pretty early on.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest thing that we have had to adapt to is stocking the store with items that work for this community here in South Pasadena. This has actually been an enjoyable process based on feedback from customers and what people ask for. We have had to eschew some fancier pieces for more practical items at accessible price points. Based on customer requests, we also started selling bulk refill items (e.g., soaps, lotion) where people can bring in their own containers to be filled.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Handle – what should we know?
Handle is a store in the gift and home genre, and our biggest sellers are greeting cards and candles. However, we carry a bit of everything–including gifts for men and babies. We are proud to support independent artisans and designers, and the shop reflects that whether it be our handmade jewelry, handmade ceramics, or small-batch apothecary products. In addition, we always have some South Pasadena-branded items on hand, such as mugs and tote bags.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think that providing excellent service as much as possible has been key in retaining customers and gaining loyal “regulars” who come back again. This means everything from trying to be helpful with customer inquiries, making suggestions, tracking down products, or offering gift wrapping. During the pandemic, we have also provided extra services such as free local deliveries.

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