October 30, 2002 - Cleveland Plain Dealer: Colombia RPCV Paloma Grasso opens Galeria Quetzal in Cleveland

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 10 October 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: October 30, 2002 - Cleveland Plain Dealer: Colombia RPCV Paloma Grasso opens Galeria Quetzal in Cleveland

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, November 12, 2002 - 7:27 am: Edit Post

Colombia RPCV Paloma Grasso opens Galeria Quetzal in Cleveland

Read and comment on this story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Colombia RPCV Paloma Grasso who opened the Galeria Quetzal in Cleveland.

The Galleria is a cultural center and art gallery where shoppers drop by to see owner Paloma Grasso's ever-changing displays of handmade clothing and gifts from South and Central America. They can view paintings on display by local artists with Hispanic roots or take part in celebrations of Hispanic culture. Read the story at:

Spanish shop thrives in Little Italy*

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Spanish shop thrives in Little Italy


Stephanie Ricca

Special to The Plain Dealer

Amid Mayfield Road's pasta restaurants and Italian bakeries sits a little piece of South and Central American culture - Galeria Quetzal, a shop and gallery featuring Hispanic folk and fine art, jewelry and clothing.

Galeria Quetzal is a cultural center and art gallery, too. Shoppers drop by to see owner Paloma Grasso's ever-changing displays of handmade clothing and gifts from South and Central America. They can view paintings on display by local artists with Hispanic roots or take part in celebrations of Hispanic culture.

Everything is for sale, and everything has a story. That's how Grasso envisioned her store when she first opened last year on Murray Hill Road. (She later moved the shop to a larger and more visible space on Mayfield Road.)

The shop exudes the cozy warmth of a family home, with colorful Guatemalan and Haitian wall hangings, tables heaped with handmade sweaters and cases of jewelry made with bright stones.

It represents Grasso's lifelong appreciation of Hispanic culture, which started on family trips to Mexico as a child.

"I fell in love with Spanish and Mexican culture then," she says.

After college, she developed those interests as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, where she married her first husband and had five children.

Returning to her native Cleveland in the 1980s, Grasso kept her interests alive by earning master's degrees in Spanish education and literature and civilization. For 13 years, she taught Spanish in the Cleveland Heights schools (her name then was Lene Vidal; she later changed her first name to the Spanish name Paloma, because of her love for that culture, and with a new marriage, her last name became Grasso), but she was always thinking about opening a store to showcase and to sell the handmade items she had collected over the years.

"I had been going back to Colombia at least once a year," she says. "I would buy things and bring them home and sort of put them away."

She finally decided to take the plunge and open a combination store and gallery with a friend, Jean Shaver-Finizza.

"Things started happening fast," she says. "We took a quick trip to Mexico to build inventory.

"We walked across the border and came back looking like bag ladies. It was nonstop shopping for three days."

Grasso, 61, who lives in Ashtabula County, near Geneva, with her second husband, Nick Grasso, moved into her new location in June. After Shaver-Finizza decided to leave the business, Grasso's daughter, Andrea Echeverria-Stout, became her new co-owner. Both love sharing the culture and stories of the shop's items with visitors.

While the store features items from all over South and Central America, her current display, "Inca and Maya - Past and Present," shows off Peruvian and Guatemalan art, clothing and jewelry.

Grasso has beautiful, warm ponchos and capes woven from Peruvian alpaca fur with fine detailing. Her hand-knitted children's sweaters from Peru have whimsical yellow suns and blue skies knitted into the design.

Brightly colored Guatemalan necklaces feature intricate beading. Every piece is handmade, and her rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings range in price from $8 to $200.

"People always say, You have the best jewelry,' " Grasso says. She carries rings carved from coconuts and delicate Peruvian earrings made from bits of gourd and tiny feathers.

Handmade percussion instruments sit in another corner of the shop, and handmade pottery and wood carvings in traditional designs fill up the front window.

"I'm always bringing in new things," she says. "If you stay stagnant, you don't get visitors."

Neighborhood art walks and festivals constantly bring new visitors in, as do Grasso's changing exhibits. Guatemalan Day of the Dead celebrations traditionally are celebrated on this Friday and Saturday. Grasso plans to celebrate the South American tradition of welcoming back the spirits of departed loved ones with bright flowers, decorations and traditional food.

The celebration coincides with the one-year anniversary of Galeria Quetzal, named for the sacred bird of Mayan culture.

"There is such a wealth of Hispanic art from so many regions," she says. "I love sharing the art and giving people a chance to see what they otherwise might not."

Galeria Quetzal is located at 12404 Mayfield Road, Cleveland. Hours are noon-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2-5 p.m. Sunday. You also may visit www.galeriaquetzal.com or call the store at 216-421-8223.

Ricca is a free-lance writer living in Westlake.

© 2002 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.

Visit the web site for Galeria Quetzal at:

Galeria Quetzal

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