Alex El Badewi’s new Cedar Gallery offers an immersive Tunisian experience

200915 C3773 1020
From hand-blown glass bowls with hammered metal to olive wood serving bowls and platters, the distinctive wares inside Cedar Gallery provide out-of-the-ordinary appeal. (Photography: Benjamin Margalit)

By Laura Briedis

Epitomizing the true definition of a boutique, Cedar Gallery is quaint, fashionable and undeniably one-of-a-kind.

Wafa “Alex” El Badewi opened her store in May to share her passion for her homeland. Born in France and schooled in Dubai, she spent most of her life in Tunisia until she met her husband, a Canton native, and moved to the United States.

Her husband always encouraged her to share the beauty of her homeland with others, and they started to display items in a renovated garage next to his dental practice. But after he passed away unexpectedly, Alex turned her focus to opening a store in Fairlawn.

“Tunisia is on the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea,” she says, as she eagerly points out her homeland on a map. “The craftsmen there let nature dictate their craft, as they can make just about anything from olive wood and are skilled in hand-painted ceramics and hand-loomed wool rugs and cotton throws.

What do all of these items have in common? Everything is one-of-a-kind and has a story behind it.

Colorful handwoven textiles offered at Cedar Gallery include blankets, ‘fouta’ towels and rugs.

“The oldest olive tree in Tunisia is 2,900 years old and is still producing fruit,” notes Alex. “The wood grain is so unique that you will never find two similar pieces. The wood from olive trees is very dense and perfect for bowls, serving platters and other accessories. We have some olive wood accent tables in our store that we can’t keep in stock.”

Both decorative and practical, olive wood products are ideal for food preparation because the natural oil content in olive wood can kill bacteria.

On the store shelves and tables are hundreds of ceramics, including bowls for dips, serving platters and covered soup bowls.

The intricate pattern on each piece of handmade ceramics, influenced by the Andalusian style, has a story behind it that Alex shares with customers. Many of the stunning blue-and-white pieces are inspired by the city of Sidi Bou Said, evoking the feel of the sea’s vibrant azure waters and the white village houses.

Alex El Badewi stocks her Fairlawn boutique, Cedar Gallery, with exotic handmade items.

There also is a wall of lovely hand-blown glass vases, candy dishes and accessories that are perfect for gifting that something different.

“All the items I carry in the store are fashionable but useful,” says Alex. “They are a work of art but something you can use. The ceramics are microwavable and some of them, like pie dishes, are ovenproof.”

In addition to ceramics, hand-blown glass and olive wood, Cedar Gallery has colorful textiles. From handmade towels to blankets, bed throws, tablecloths and rugs, they are all handcrafted using traditional looming techniques.

“I import ‘fouta,’ which is a cotton or linen fabric used in many Mediterranean countries to wrap around the body while at a hamman or public spa,” says Alex. “These towels are lightweight, absorbent and machine washable.”

You’ll also find wool rugs in all different shapes and sizes, leather poufs, coral jewelry, wall mosaics and other accessories.

Each piece of ceramic—like these hamsa-shaped dipping bowls and trays—decorating the shelves inside Cedar Gallery tells a story.

“I opened the store in May in middle of the pandemic but have been thankful that so many in the community are making an effort to shop local to support small business,” smiles Alex. “I invite everyone to come in and browse and get an early start to the holiday gift-giving season.”

Cedar Gallery is located at 121 Ghent Road in Fairlawn. Hours are Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call 330-649-1907. Check out new merchandise arrivals on Facebook or Instagram.