Mixing it Up
Carmichael couple step in to save Midtown gem
By Caitlin McCulloch
When Linda Novi heard that Mixed Bag, a Midtown shopping fixture for 38 years, was closing, she knew she had to step in.
“It’s like Christmas every day!” says Novi, referring to her favorite store’s abundance of cool and creative merchandise.
Novi and her husband Tom, who live in Carmichael, purchased Mixed Bag, located at the corner of 24th and K streets, earlier this year from original owner Susan Larson who was ready to retire.
“I worked with Susan as a sales rep for Mixed Bag,” explains Novi, who has been a sales representative for 35 years. “She always had so many fun, unique items. I’d put them away until the occasion arose to bring them out. I used to call it my treasure chest.”
Mixed Bag is not your ordinary gift shop. Aside from its customer service (“there’s an intimacy that you don’t have in mall stores or in big chains,” Novi says) and ample parking in the store’s private lot (a rare find in bustling Midtown), there truly is something for everyone.
One of Novi’s favorite items is a mini fan that can be clipped to a phone for those sweltering Sacramento days. For the avid golfer, pick up some light reading with the comical book “50 Reasons to Hate Golf and Why You Should Never Stop Playing!”
A 1,000-piece puzzle is sure to keep the family busy as an alternative to movie night. Get decorating for fall with an outdoor flag, some glitter pumpkins and fancy paper napkins decorated with autumn leaves and turkeys for a no-fuss way to liven up the Thanksgiving table.
Need a gift for a product junkie? A Jack Black shave kit or some heavenly scented soaps from Wavertree & London should do the trick. All this shopping can work up an appetite, so treat yourself to some peanut brittle while supporting local Roseville company Better than Brittle.
“There are tons of little things, but they’re not junk like you may think,” Novi says. “Everything is high-end. This is something we want to maintain.”
Much of the original staff, including manager Wendy Gray, agreed to stay on when the Carmichael couple decided to buy the store. “This has made the transition so much easier,” Novi points out. “Our backgrounds of wholesale and retail coming together work well.”
For Gray, the decision to stay at Mixed Bag when the Novis took over in July was a no-brainer.
“I’ve worked in retail my whole life, with seven years at Mixed Bag,” she says. “I know what customer service is, and I think that we take really good care of our customers here.
“We have a lot of repeat customers, many who don’t even live in Midtown, that we know by name. Going above and beyond to make people feel happy and feel good about shopping here is what keeps people coming back over logging on to Amazon.”
Though Novi appreciates Mixed Bag for what it is and wants to keep the vibe going, shoppers can look forward to a few new changes that will not affect the store’s charm.
“We’ll be bringing in even more merchandise and will keep it contemporary with the times,” Novi says. “The layout is lighter, brighter and a little less crowded. New lettering for the storefront brings a new life to the place, too.”
Aside from Mixed Bag, the Novis have a deep appreciation for many areas and aspects of Sacramento.
“I moved up here to go to college many, many, many years ago,” Novi says with a chuckle. “I never left. Even though it’s the state capital and a big city, it carries a small-town feel. I really love the trees, how green everything is, and that there’s lots to do.”
Novi also has plenty of favorite farm-to-fork dining haunts. “One of my favorites is Evan’s Kitchen along the 57th Street antique row,” she says. “Tres Hermanas is conveniently located across the street from Mixed Bag. Paesano’s is another great place.”
The next time you find yourself in Midtown, pop into Mixed Bag for a gift, a smile and old-school customer service. You won’t regret it.
Caitlin McCulloch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.