Growing up, Nicole Carrillo spent every Sunday afternoon of her childhood eating “the best meal of the week” at her Grandma Mabel’s table. Grandma Mabel encouraged Nicole to cook nutritious meals for her own family, and eventually inspired Mabel’s on 4th, a kitchen boutique that will “make your kitchen smile,” says Carrillo.
Mabel’s on 4th wasn’t always a quaint kitchen boutique located in the middle of Fourth Avenue. Until October 2016, it existed clear across the country in Savannah, Georgia, where Nicole and her husband, Johnny, lived while he served in the Marine Corps. There, the store was known as Kitchen on the Square and served the large number of tourists that visit Savannah each year. As Johnny’s retirement approached, the couple set their sights on moving to Texas. However, when Nicole came to Tucson to visit a friend in early 2016, she began to reconsider their plans.
“This place is freaking beautiful,” she said. Nicole liked it so much that she planned a trip to return in June. Untroubled by the summer heat that prevented her departing plane from taking off, she convinced Johnny to return with her for the third time in August. On the last day of their trip, Nicole insisted on taking Johnny to Fourth Avenue because “the Pop-Cycle girls are just darling and I fell in love with them.” As they walked down the shop-lined street, they noticed a vacant storefront for rent. As fate would have it, the owner was there and gave them a tour of the shop and attached art studio that would allow Johnny, an illustrator, to work alongside Nicole.
It was at that point that Johnny asked, “Why are we even going to Texas?” So they signed the lease on the building that now houses Mabel’s on 4th and moved to Tucson. “When you move your store across the country, it puts some hairs on you,” Nicole said. Yet, the move has more than paid off for the Carrillos and their family-run kitchen boutique. “The attitude of the people in Tucson is so kind and welcoming … the complete opposite of a small town in the South.” Nicole said. “Tucson makes me want to be a good citizen,” Johnny added. Now that their customer base doesn’t consist of tourists, Mabel’s on 4th is beginning to develop a group of loyal customers who return week after week.
“Everybody has a kitchen, and you can always justify buying something for [it],” Nicole said. She sources her products everywhere from large manufacturers to grandmas who crochet in their homes. Johnny designs all of the tea towels, which are illustrated and emblazoned with phrases such as, “My dog would make a better president.” Free of packaging, the wide array of spoons, citrus peelers, and shelving encourage customers to interact with everything in the store. Each purchase comes with a vintage, hand-written recipe card. “It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to do,” Nicole said.
Mabel’s on 4th. 419 N. Fourth Ave. 520.304.1029. Mabelson4th.com.