The liveliness and rich history of Toluca Lake have always been in Paulanna Cuccinello’s DNA. Her grandfather planted roots here — literally — in the 1930s, landscaping several homes, including Bing Crosby’s residence on Forman Avenue, while her parents owned Flowers by Anthony Rose in the heart of Toluca Lake Village for 48 years.
So, naturally, when her parents retired in 1995, Paulanna (she prefers to be known by her first name) carried on her family’s legacy in Toluca Lake by expanding her boutique, Pergolina, from a small space in front of her parents’ flower shop into the one-of-a-kind store that has captivated residents for decades.
“Toluca Lake has always been home,” says Paulanna, who fondly remembers riding her bicycle to Chapman’s Ice Cream as a teenager, stopping at the record shop next door and ending the day at Bob’s Big Boy for a cherry Coke. “It’s a village with a huge heart and a community of people that truly care about each other.”
Paulanna’s love for the community has been exemplified by the countless projects, events and volunteer opportunities she’s hosted and been a part of through the years. Her five years as chair of the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce’s annual Holiday Open House event and the annual Martini Party, which is hosted by Pergolina and neighboring businesses, are some of many that come to mind. Paulanna also holds events at Pergolina, which range from teaching Italian language classes to hosting art shows, children’s crafts and painting classes.
But Paulanna’s proudest contribution to the community came when she played a crucial role in Toluca Lake’s median beautification project in 2018, which improved the median on Riverside Drive at Placidia Avenue. “I would drive by it every day and just imagine a row of trees, with grass spilling over the curb,” she says. “I was asked to join the Toluca Lake Beautification Partners and proposed the first order of business be the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce median. It ended up being redesigned and it was glorious.”
The love and passion Paulanna shares with the Toluca Lake community is amplified even more inside her pride and joy, Pergolina. “A haven for the creative and quirky thinker,” as she describes it, the well-curated collection of gifts and curiosities is a product of and tribute to her upbringing.
“I come from a very artistic family, with my father being a floral designer and my mother being an interior designer,” she says. “As a result, I never heard the word ‘no’ when it came to making art. I needed a place where I could express, experiment and create. A place where I could own my own triumphs and failures. My imagination will always thrive and grow with Pergolina.” She adds that, over the years, both her greatest challenge and her greatest reward have been “trusting my instinct.”
While customers come for the boutique’s unique pieces from local and international artists, designers and craftspeople, they’ve stayed for the amazing relationships fostered by Paulanna along with her husband of 51 years, Steve (“my silent partner and right hand”), and Pergolina’s dedicated team members.
“It doesn’t matter if you are the local UPS person, our mailwoman or a famous celebrity, we feel like a family here, as cliché as that may sound,” Paulanna says. “You know everyone and their dog and their children. Young men I’ve known from birth come here to buy their first girlfriend a gift and little ones come here to ‘play shop.’”
Because Pergolina is all about fun, spirit and family, “I have one major rule, and that’s no gossiping!” Paulanna cautions. “Our family of Tolucans know that Pergolina is a safe place to cry and laugh together. Stories told here are shared secrets.”
Paulanna wants Pergolina’s loyal followers, many of whom have been there since the beginning, to know that they are the ones who have helped make this journey possible. “Peek into the windows at night and Pergolina comes alive — Pinocchio sings and my dolls dance,” she says. “Opening my doors has brought me joy, friendship and a feeling of belonging to my happiest place on earth.”