Scent of leather comes to downtown

A new boutique has sprouted up in downtown Rochester, and it smells like leather.

Poppi Italian Leatheropened its doors last week on the main level of the Kahler Grand Hotel, across the hallway from Starbucks Coffee.

Named after Italy's national flower, it carries high-end imported leather handbags, briefcases, wallets and other leather items created by Italian designers. Look for imported jewelry and scarves to also be on display.

Rebecca Calhounand her son Michael Calhounhave been discovering Italian leather designers and bringing their work to the United States since 2006. Their Winona-based company, Bellezza Imports, sells through its website.

However, Rochester fans of Italian leather are very familiar with seeing their finds on the local shelves. A downtown import store, Sopra Sotto, carried them for years and introduced local shoppers and visitors to their bags and other items. When Sopra Sotto closed last year, the Calhouns started looking for a place to open their own store in the heart of Rochester.


"This was the next step in our business plan. This is our flagship store, the first of many we hope to open," says Rebecca Calhoun of the shop in the recently renovated space last occupied by Sherwood's.

She explains that the business began when she and her son were traveling through Italy and were impressed by the quality of the leather there.

"They use a natural tanning process," Calhoun says.

The chemicals that many use for tanning clogs the pores of the leather and kills its distinctive scent.

"People love that smell of leather," she says. "And leather treated by the secret Italian process just has more vibrant color and ages better."

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