Of the Baker City Herald

Does art, whimsy and a sense of place help customers enjoy their shopping experience more?

With help from North Powder artist and rancher Patty Freeman-Martin, Bella owner Beverly Calder will find out next month. That's when she'll open her new, bigger and eye-catching store location, at 2023 Main St.

Freeman-Martin has worked so hard on painting a 4-by-30 foot mural depicting a Paris rooftop scene that she sports bandages on each finger of her right hand.

Part of the reason for the raw fingertips comes from the Venetian plaster that Calder's brother, Derek David, has applied to the walls. But part comes from Freeman-Martin's sheer enthusiasm for the project.

andquot;It's fun to paint something so big,andquot; she said. andquot;It's also great to be able to do art that's available to everyone in Baker County.andquot;

The mural depicts Freeman-Martin's memory of a rooftop scene from Paris' Right Bank near Mont Parnasse. She and Calder took the trip together, and the scene has stuck with her since.

The stylized rooftops reaching for the sky are a little reminiscent of the memorable scene from the Disney film andquot;Mary Poppins,andquot; in which Dick Van Dyke and his fellow chimney sweeps celebrate their profession with a dance from rooftop to rooftop above London.

But in Freeman-Martin's mural, it's flying women instead of leaping, soot-covered men. Four ethereal female spirits flank three women who represent reality, Freeman-Martin said.

andquot;The women in the center are the street life of a city,andquot; she said. andquot;Here they're shopping in Paris, but it could be anywhere.andquot;

What's transferable to Baker City from the City of Lights is the sense of self-sufficient neighborhoods one can find all over Paris, Calder said.

In their little section of Paris were shops that housed butchers, bakers, the bounty of the sea, wine, candy andquot;just about anything you'd need,andquot; Calder said.

She wants her new store to bring part of that action to downtown Baker City. Food, wine, dishes, cutlery, kitchen gadgets it'll take a lot of new merchandise to fill almost 4,000 square feet of retail space.

The former president of the board of directors of Historic Baker City, Inc., Calder recognizes the importance of her new building, built nearly 90 years ago. It's been home to the Osborn Furniture Store, Bohn's Clothing, Leonard's Idea Shop, Carter's Natural Foods and, most recently, the Pine Creek craft store.

A white tin ceiling is now more visible without banks of fluorescent lights. Calder has also added smaller paintings of her own, drawn from wine labels from especially memorable bottles from Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

She'll be marketing Baker County-grown beef and lamb, eggs, and maybe milk after she opens in mid-June.

All under the watchful eyes of Freeman-Martin's seven Parisienne women.

andquot;It's kind of fun to be able to send your uncle to Bella and tell him to check out the art while he's there,andquot; she said.