AT HOME WITH MONICA AND PEPE

Mickey and Minnie Mouse have NOTHING on this dynamic duo. Meet Monica and Pepe, brother and sister owners of boutique gift shop, Cacao, located in the newly developed Westheimer Oaks. Each time Team Mad Meg walks in two things happen:

 1. We're in awe of the family's cool-factor
2. We never leave empty handed (cough, shopping problem!).

Get to know the Alonso sibs and say hi at your next shopping trip! 

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Hey Alonso sibs! Thanks for inviting us into your home. How do you start your days before heading into the shop?

Thank you so much for coming! EVERY morning is a different routine! Most days I wake up an hour before work to tidy up my place and get ready, I usually pick my outfits the night before so in the morning I have time to work and not rush, because I have to have my Starbucks!

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Your store has products found from all over the world. What are your top two places you would recommend visiting?

That’s a tough one, only two. We would have to choose Cambodia; that is one of the most magical places we have ever been to. The people there were so nice and welcoming. For our second place: (which is still super hard to choose I love so many places) Japan. It made us want to move there. They have such cool and unique products; you could spend a whole day in a store.

When you’re not jet setting to different countries, what are some of your favorite Houston spots to visit?

We spend most of our time going to the Museum of Natural Science and Fine Arts. Also the Zoo: that’s one of my Pepe's and I's favorite locations. For leisure, iPic. We go at least five times a week.

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What’s the dynamic like to co-own a store with your sibling? 

People always say don’t get involved with working with siblings because it always ends bad. For us, we have been so close our whole lives, there was no way we weren’t going to work together. I think it’s nice because having Pepe as my partner in Cacao has helped me grow as a person. I feel like we give each other advice on how to work harder and how to make our business the best it can be. It's truly a blessing being able to experience this with my best friend.  Were excited for what’s to come!

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A birdie told us you are both huge Disney fans! Monica - we saw that you surprised Jose recently with a spontaneous trip to Disney World. Tell us more!

We are the biggest fans! We are "Dis-nerds" to the max. My brother and I go to Disney at least 2 times a year but everytime we try go for Halloween, the tickets to "Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party" are always sold out. So this year I had a whole plan to surprise him for his birthday - it was so hard to keep the secret for a whole month. But the surprise was incredible and we had an amazing time wearing our matching shirts!

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While finding products for your stores, you’ve met a bunch of artisans with fascinating stories- what are some of your favorites?

One of my favorite stories comes from the artisan that makes our Cambodian sculptures. In Cambodia, there are so many people still struggling with the effects caused by their most recent war. By creating this line of sculptures, boxes and paintings, the artisan was able to open a woman’s shelter and provide women with housing and food. He gives them the opportunity to stay at his shelter and recover in a healthy environment while also giving them the tools to go out and search for a new job or carrier. When we heard this story in Cambodia, we were so touched and inspired by it that we knew then and there that we needed to bring as many of these pieces to our store as possible. To me, they aren’t only beautiful art pieces, they’re a symbol of compassion and love for people and an unconditional want to help others. So, I may not have a single favorite story, but this one is definitely special to me :)

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How did you decide to choose Westheimer Oaks as your location for Cacao?

Houston is making some incredible renovations and upgrades to Westheimer and Post Oak this year. So much so that people are saying that in the next year or two it could be the new Miracle Mile of shopping!!! So while we were looking for the perfect location we came across Westheimer Oaks - we knew right away that this was the future home for Cacao.

It’s a brave new world in the era of retail. What’s your favorite thing about having a brick and mortar store? 

It’s been really interesting seeing how our customers react to our store's dynamic. Most people that come in mention that they love how unique our products are, and I think a lot of that comes from us being able to choose individual items from all around the world that are made in very small quantities. So, something that a larger chain styled stores may not be able to carry due to the small production, we can bring in and have a fantastic selection on hand. But beyond the products, we’re a family owned and operated store, and that allows us to really provide a tailored experience with our customers.

Megan Halpininterviews