When Yellow Bird Antiques owner Joann Carmel waves her elegant, graceful fingers across the glass encasing a spectacular jeweled brooch, it’s easy to imagine her reigning over cocktail parties during the glamorous glory days of ’50s-era Manhattan, when Carmel and her husband, New York couturier Morris Carmel, mingled with celebrities and fashionistas.
International jaunts were common, she recalls, and "traveling was fun, because everyone dressed." Over the years, she amassed a trove of extravagant souvenirs from her travels, from Napoleon’s medals and Italian leather tapestries, to handmade silk scarves, many of them personal gifts from friends like Yves St. Laurent, Coco Chanel and Ungaro.
When Carmel brought her blissfully baroque fashion and antiques to St. Armands Circle, landlords predicted she wouldn’t last three months. She stayed 26 years. Today she presides over her collection at the Sarasota Arts and Antique Center downtown and laments the lost art of living, and by extension, of browsing. "It’s not necessary to buy," says Carmel. "Just come and enjoy my beautiful things."