Curated Shopping

Photos by Kamala Kirk

After working as an attorney for several years, Paula Han decided that she was ready to leave the courtroom and do something more creative with her career. This ultimately led her to move to South Pasadena, where she opened a gift and home wares shop last August.

“I had always been interested in décor ever since I was a kid, and thought it would be great to go into that field,” Han pointed out. “Even though I had set myself on a different professional path, in the back of my mind I always thought about doing something more creative with my career. I finally reached a point where I felt like I had worked enough in my prior field. I wanted to switch gears and pursue something I was more passionate about. After talking to a friend of a friend who owned a small shop in San Francisco, I decided that I was ready to go for it.”

The name “Handle” is a double entendre—it includes Han’s last name and is also a play on the type of command that she would receive from her former bosses when she was a lawyer, because they would always tell her to “please handle, thanks” anytime they needed her to complete a task.

The store sells a variety of gifts and home décor, and some of the most popular items are greeting cards and candles. The retail offerings also include skin care products, coffee table books and cookbooks, handmade ceramics, decorative throw pillows, handmade jewelry and gifts for infants and toddlers. Customers frequently come in to purchase gifts for various occasions such as housewarming parties, birthdays and baby showers.

“A lot of the brands I carry are from small mom-and-pop businesses, and I support a lot of local entrepreneurs as well,” Han pointed out. “I carry lines by South Pasadena companies such as Further, and I sell handmade pouches that are made by a woman who lives here in town.”

One of the things that customers enjoy when they visit Handle is the way that she has organized everything in the store to make shopping easy.

“People like coming in here because they feel that it’s really calming to be in an environment that is well-organized,” said Han. “It’s not overrun with too many items, so it’s a very relaxing way to peruse products. I’ve had people tell me that I carry things you wouldn’t just find anywhere, like some of the smaller brands that people don’t know about. This is all curated around my taste and the stuff I like.”

Han, who is a member of the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, has participated in Art Crawls and hosted live music entertainment in her store during the events. She is also looking at other ways to use the space, such as workshops and pop-ups in the future. At the moment, Han is focused on continuing to provide great gifts and service to the community while enjoying meeting everyone who walks through the door.

“I encourage everyone who walks by to come in and look around,” said Han. “I have things at a range of price points. There’s no pressure to buy anything—I’m just happy if people remember that I’m here the next time they need to buy a gift. I really enjoy interacting with the customers and am open to their feedback. The store is an extension of myself, and I want people to have a good experience when they come into my store—that’s more important than just making a sale.”

Handle is located at 1030 Mission St. in South Pasadena. It is open Mon., Wed., Fri. and Sat. from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Tuesdays. For more information, call (626) 399-8907 or visit

Handle Business Spotlight appeared in the print edition of the South Pasadena Review on 3.15.19. Support Local Business.