A passion for artistry, uniqueness and world travel-inspired local store Art Gecko to open its door on State Street 20 years ago.

Co-owners Marcel Colbert and Nosheen Ajmal officially began offering Madison their unique goods then, but the story of Art Gecko began a few years before that.

Ajmal and Colbert started traveling the globe in their 20s and loved what the items they found in their travels on both a spiritual and physical level. The two would often buy these items from vendors abroad and sell them to stores in the states.

Katie Cooney/The Badger Herald

This still rings true today, as many of Art Gecko’s current items come from Nepal, Indonesia and India, tracing back to some of the original connections the two made years prior. These places, particularly Indonesia and the traditional Gamelan music that is played there, had a strong influence on the store, including its name.

“The places that we go to, it’s the land of the gecko,” Ajmal said. “The music of the Gamelan reflects a lot of sounds of the rice fields and of the environment, so a lot of it sounds like a gecko.”

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Having authentic and fair trade items is extremely important to Art Gecko’s overall philosophy. Ajmal said any item up for retail is something she would feel good about wearing or putting in her house. Every item comes directly from a person who the owners and customers can put a face on.

With such a close relationship to the artist also comes the individuality and uniqueness the store is known for. Many, otherwise similar items found in the store can vary from one another based off of environmental factors from the place they were made.

Adding to this uniqueness, Art Gecko also features a new stone of the week every week. Choosing the stone can vary based of a birth stone for the month or simply just by season. Every time a stone is chosen, products made with it are 20 percent off for that week.

This worldly component that manifests itself in the store’s operation is also designed to influence the customer. Colbert and Ajmal want their merchandise to inspire others to travel and learn more about different parts of the world.

“We want to give customers a warm welcome, as if they’ve been transported into another world such as India or Bali,” Ajmal says. “I also like to bring the vibe of the people there. From the places that I’ve gone to the people are really warm and friendly.”

After reorganizing and refreshing the layout of their store, Art Gecko is now located on the sunny side of State Street, opposite of their original location. In 2005 they also opened another location on Monroe Street, having more room for furniture displays.

In all, what makes Art Gecko leap out from other shops is not just their passion for their customers but their relationships with the artists. Both owners traveled and lived in the places their merchandise comes from and continue to do so.

“It’s working with artists and seeing what they’re excited about, what they have just created,” Ajmal says. “I like seeing how I can incorporate that into something people in Madison would like.”