FAIRFIELD — In the mid-2000s, sisters Sheila Salkin and Janice Briguglio traveled to Italy, where they would marvel at clothing and other boutique items.

They wondered if they could offer them back in the U.S. A little over a decade later, with one store already in Madison, they have opened their second Ciao Bella store in town.

“It’s exciting, it feels like coming full circle for us,” Salkin said. “We grew up in the area and our aunt lived very close to where the store is. We’re enjoying it.”

An assortment of items from personalized coffee mugs to various types of jackets and coats and even items for recent graduates decorate the walls of the shop. Customers who walk in are greeted by Briguglio. The recently inaugurated locale opened Dec. 6 at 1610 Post Road. The Fairfield University Stag Card and the Sacred Heart University Card are accepted at the Fairfield location.

Briguglio and Salkin got their entrepreneurial start at house parties and fairs where they would be invited or host gatherings to show the products they intended to sell.

“All of these items were things like jewelry, accessory belts, leather good and handbags,” Briguglio said. “We focused on that and started bringing things that we didn’t see here.”

As word of mouth spread, the sisters generated more contacts and relationships with their customers. By 2005, when Briguglio found out the company she worked for was going to be sold and she was going to be possibly relocated, she opted to go all in.

“That’s when we found a space and opened up our first store in Madison that summer,” Briguglio said. “It was as if one door had closed and another had opened and here we are, 13 years later with our second store and the one in Madison still open.”

The change from house parties to having their own store was a remarkable jump for the Ciao Bella sisters, and something they hope shows their belief in what local and personalized shopping can achieve.

“It was like a leap of faith,” Briguglio said about opening the first store in 2005. “We weren’t in retail, we were universal shoppers and we liked to find new things, and there’s so much more to it like the marketing of the website, the social media and other things.”

At a time when many local businesses and retailers are feeling the pressure of ever-growing online companies like Amazon, the Ciao Bella co-owners firmly believe having a direct relationship with the customer and trying on things at the shop will always trump receiving something in a package that may or may not fit perfectly.

“We pride ourselves in getting to know our customers, they’ve become our friends,” Salkin said. “They’ll call us and ask us to put something together for this person or that person, and we’re hoping to become the same thing in Fairfield.”

Salkin, who is planning to be at the Fairfield store on weekends, said she feels the local community has welcomed them with open arms. Briguglio, too, said it feels like a homecoming and has seen many of her former customers from Madison at the Fairfield location.

“That’s why we make Ciao Bella a welcoming environment. You can find things here, you can ask us. ... It’s being that personal shopper for people,” Briguglio said. “If people only shopped online, what would this main street be? That’s something to think about.”

humberto.juarez

@hearstmediact.com