We had the good fortune of connecting with Carey Appel and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Carey, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
There are two. I was a working single mom running 3 retail stores for much of their childhood. They occasionally came to work, and witnessed what hard work and perseverence meant. Both of my girls live by this today. So I think I role modeled a good work ethic. Additionally, the other part of my life was a singer songwriter that I started it late in life, but pursued with great passion. I cut 3 albums and performed extensively. I think that taught them that you can achieve your dreams if you want it at any age, and work hard enough. And my youngest is a singer songwriter now in her own right!

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Once Upon a Storybox was born out of my love for miniatures, and love of animals. When I retired and moved to the country 5 years ago the first thing we built was a chicken coop and I selected breeds according to the color eggs they laid. I got the idea of creating miniature coops in cigar boxes, which have morphed into chickens in all different environments, often doing “people” things. As a little girl I played with dollhouses all day; in my stores, my favorite parts were merchandising the displays and composing the newsletters. Now, I love creating mini scenes as I did when I was small. All the components of what I’ve done throughout my life have contributed in part to what I do today. The design, the marketing, the graphics, the art, the stories. WHAT I’VE LEARNED . . . I’ve made mistakes and have about a couple dozen or so designs that my children will probably have to dispose of one day! Because I made what I loved, but not necessarily what would sell. So by trial and error, I’ve found what works. And now I try to design boxes that cater to both. The other thing – there is only one box I make consistently as it is quintessentially Ojai and sells over and over (it is of our pink moment with orange trees). But any other time I’ve re-made a box that sold fast, the second one just sat. So now I vow never to repeat a design exactly. That also ensures that someone is getting something unique that will never be made again. My favorite is creating custom designs to commemorate a special occasion. Almost anything can be re-created in a cigar box!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ojai has beautiful hiking trails with exquisite views. Pratt Trail, Shelf Road, and the Oso trailhead at the Ventura River Shed are a few – but I have a favorite woodland walk near my house in the Arbolata where I visit a neighboring farm with sheep and another with goats that I love to feed. Meditation Mount has reopened since the 2017 fire and has a view of the entire valley. Our best coffee spot is Beacon – their almond milk lattes are legendary. Next door is Cattywampus – a knitting and gift store that is beautifully curated and offers knitting circles and classes. In town I have a few favorites – FIG for gifts, Down Home Furnishings for home accent, and Poppies where my art is sold and that of many other artists. Barbara Bowman is my go-to for tasteful clothes. I never leave empty handed. The Ojai Valley Inn is THE place to stay with several restaurants on property with a spa and golf course and tennis – and a lovely place to go for lunch or dinner. The Rancho Inn is a favorite for younger travelers with their Chief’s Peak bar – the only one open until 10. A wonderful outside casual spot for dinner is Ojai Roti – specializing in roasted chicken and seasoned veggies with incredible bread. For fancier fare we love Nocciola. The Nest offers unique lunches and dinners and Hip Vegan is a fav for vegetarians. LOVE Social Cafe is great for outside breakfast and hanging all day. The Ojai Underground is my favorite music venue. Porch Gallery is the center of our community – offering rotating monthly artist exhibits, a very hip retail store, and Sunday morning coffee on the porch. The Sunday morning fresh market is a favorite for locals made up of local farms and food vendors.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My biggest fan is my husband. He’s the one who encouraged my music and the storyboxes. My best album was the one he oversaw and today I run new storyboxes by him for his creative input. He never fails to offer a suggestion that is actually something I hadn’t thought of, and makes the finished product better. I trust his taste implicitly.

Website: www.onceuponastorybox.com
Instagram: @onceuponastorybox
Linkedin: Carey Appel
Facebook: Once Upon a Storybox

Image Credits
Tracy Albert, Victoria Adam.

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