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Business of the Week: Marisa's Mixed Bag

Marisa Balzafiore invites you to visit "the store with a heart."

Marisa's Mixed Bag is quite possibly the most appropriate name for the new Lower Nazareth Township store.

The store, which was once located on Main Street in downtown Nazareth, has so much going on that it’s a wonder how owner Marisa Balzafiore manages to keep up with it all. But she does.

The store was formerly known as Marisa’s Boutique, before the recent move to Nazareth Pike. New merchandise has been added, more space has been delegated, and the store has taken on a new and rare approach to people; not customers, but people.

At first glance, the store appears to sell jewelry, clothing and accessories. European scarves are a specialty, thanks to the store’s “European Accessory Stylist” Mari Hampton, as well as a selection of hats, earrings, necklaces and hand bags.

Hampton’s job, as well as her passion, is to teach women how to be stylish, how to get the most out of their accessories and their money.

“You’re not going to have to spend a lot,” said Balzafiore. “I want to help women look good.”

Deeper exploration into the store unveils a children’s section, which includes dolls, planes and trains, stuffed horses, puppets, coloring books, greeting cards and children’s clothes. The toy selection came largely from "The Toy Stop," a former Nazareth store.

Even further into Marisa’s is a room replete with accessories and supplies for teachers. They include workbooks for all subjects and age ranges, pencil boxes and other organizational supplies, and fun activities for kids.

On the other side of the store (because there is another side), Balzafiore keeps rack upon rack of used clothing. Once upon a time, the store was going to become a consignment shop, but Marisa’s Mixed Bag decided to approach used clothing in a slightly different manner.

“I call them ‘love contributions,’” Balzafiore explained. “Because you used to love your clothes, and now you’ve outgrown them or don’t like them as much. So now someone else can love them.”

How  do "love contributions" work?  Balzafiore gives store credit for donations of well-kept (and often name-brand) clothing. In turn, sales of the donated clothes go to a local charity, which Balzafiore chooses monthly.

In addition to the money from the "love contributions," Balzafiore donates 10 percent of the entire store’s profits to a monthly charity. Chosen charities then get posted to her “Wall of Compassion,” a decorative façade that separates the used clothing side from the boutique side.

Balzafiore, a member of the , describes Mixed Bag as “part store, part ministry.” It is her goal to help women in need, through her fellow parishioners as well as through her commerce.

Balzafiore told the story of an unnamed woman who was recently diagnosed with cancer, who went from a size 20 to a size 0 due to her illness; Marisa’s Mixed Bag donated clothes to help her with the transition. Balzafiore aids in counseling women (in life and in fashion) who suffer from severe depression, deaths in the family, and other difficult issues.

In her spare time, Balzafiore is an inspirational speaker and writer. She has had three stories published in the popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

Marisa’s Mixed Bag is open since its move on March 1, although the grand opening event will be held later this month.

“It’s a miracle store,” Balzafiore admitted. She describes how things came together perfectly right when it was needed the most; a bigger store, the selection of toys, even the racks for the used clothing and "love contributions," which came cheap from a Fashion Bug that was going out of business.

Marisa’s Mixed Bag is located at 216 Nazareth Pike, next to Prizm Day Spa and Guitar Villa. The store is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday from noon to 8 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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