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ROYAL OAK – When greeting customers in his newly opened home furnishings boutique, ChoZen by BC, interior designer BC Cabangbang first introduces himself and then his mother.
Though she died when he was only 11, her memory lives on in Cabangbang’s heart and she watches over him via a stunning 24×36-inch portrait that hangs behind the counter. The whole store, in fact, is an homage to his mother, for it is from her, Cabangbang says, that he inherited his sense of style.
“She was a beauty queen,” he said. “But she was very intelligent. She had her own travel agency at one time. She traveled the world twice. She would read up on where she was going so she would know the history of every building she visited. Her favorite cities were Rome and New York – and Amsterdam for the tulips.”
Cabangbang wasn’t even a teenager when cancer ravaged her body and began to rob her of her beauty, but he watched with pride as she fought it to the bitter end.
“She had to be strong for her kids,” he said. “I saw how resilient she was and I had a lot of admiration for that.”
Today, the awning of his store is a vivid shade of purple – his mother’s favorite color – and inside are all the types of beautiful furnishings and trinkets she taught him to appreciate. Some may question the wisdom of opening a new store in such a cold economic climate, and especially one full of such high-end extravagant and ornate pieces, but Cabangbang isn’t worried.
“I never have followed trends. I’ve always had this inner voice in me. Losing a parent at 11, you no longer have guidance. I was always a spiritual person but that really made me depend on God even more. I pray a lot and I always pray for discernment. … We all have paths and gifts and talents that God gave us and we’re supposed to use them to improve the world. That’s how I see each of us. We’re all interconnected.”
After nearly two decades designing for Hudson’s, Cabangbang’s inner voice told him it was time to leave.
“There are doors that open and doors that close in your life, and you have to go with those flows,” he said. “You get the first boss that you don’t respect and you’ve been in a company 18 years and every boss you’ve had was wonderful. Then you get two bosses that are clueless, and that was a sign for me.”
After leaving the company, Cabangbang initially thought of moving out of state. But he and his partner, Gary Murphy, share a home here and Cabangbang, a dedicated community activist and a board member of Affirmations, has strong ties to the area. So he considered opening a store, but left the final decision up to God. When the time came to renew the license plate on his car, Cabangbang went to the Secretary of State with a heavy heart. He wanted a license plate with the name of his store on it, and told the clerk, “This is a question to God … if this name is available then I’m supposed to open this store.”
“The lady said, ‘Well, young man, this name is still available so your prayer has been answered,'” Cabangbang recalled. “So I’ve never had any single doubt that this is where I’m supposed to be.”
Finding the right merchandise to feature in the store took months. Cabangbang selected Austrian crystal-studded cocktail sets, leaf shaped silver serving trays, handcrafted bags from Cambodia and a large assortment of stunning lamps, vases and picture frames. There are exquisitely scented candles from Vie Luxe, Compagnie Des Senteurs Et Parfums, INfluence, Home Chic Home and Ferndale’s own Down To Earth. Then there’s Cabangbang’s own fragrance line, Zents, that come in Sun, Petal, Oolong, Water, Ore, Fig, Mandarin and Fresh scents. A perfectionist, Cabangbang even spent two days with a sales rep hand picking each and every greeting card he allowed into the shop.
The result of such attention to detail is a stylish and eclectic assortment that’s sure to bring a little elegance into any home.
“One of my friends said to me, ‘BC, this store is everything for fine living, from your dog dishes to your ear buds which are encrusted with rhinestones for iPods.'”
Open only a matter of days, the response so far has been phenomenal, and the final affirmation that ChoZen by BC is destiny fulfilled.
“When you’re where you’re supposed to be, where God wants you to be, you have no insecurities and no doubts, because God is in control.”