SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

January 20, 2013

Drop-dead gorgeous bags

Drop-dead gorgeous handbags

In Mount Vernon, shop sells cute ways to carry


MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — Her customers don’t always understand what she’s selling.

One woman complained that she didn’t recognize any of the brand names on the purses. No Gucci? No Marc Jacobs? Another mistook “concealment” for “consignment” and marveled at how new these secondhand bags looked.

  • Nikki Artus has to explain. Beneath the studs and jewels, behind the buttery leather and cute little chain straps, the purses in her shop are designed for ladies who pack heat. Each one has a compartment designed to both stash a firearm and allow its owner to quickly yank it out. One of the labels she carries is “Gun Tote’n Mamas.”

Concealment Unlimited is Artus’ company — tagline: “The Fashionable Way to Carry Concealed” — and while the rest of the country is locked up in debate over gun ownership, she’s selling the heck out of pink camouflage range bags.

Artus, 42, opened her shop in the heart of this Knox County city almost three months ago. It’s an unassuming little boutique on Vine Street, a store that smells of leather and is loaded with the kind of handbags you’d see on the arms of women anywhere. Except things are a little different here.


ABOVE: Nikki Artus began Concealment Unlimited as an online business before opening the store.

LEFT: All of the bags Artus sells are built to carry weapons.

Some of the purses have piano wire in the straps, designed to foil the knife of a would-be thief. All of them are built for weapons. On the counter sits a bucket of fake guns, which Artus uses to demonstrate how a holster fits into the Velcro-lined pocket of an unassuming handbag.

“Most of my clients, if they open up their purse, they don’t want people to see they have a gun in there,” she said.

Artus might be the last person one would expect to be a gun-rights advocate. A gun took the life of her mother, who had caught the affection of a longtime family friend. When the married mother of three spurned his advances, he returned the next day and shot her in the back. Then in the head. She died in the kitchen.

Artus was 15. When their mother was gunned down, she and her siblings were at Disney World with their father.

“I’m sure people think I’m a walking oxymoron,” Artus said. But “that put me on the path I’m on.”

Guns have become a source of comfort for Artus, not of fear. She can protect herself the way her mother couldn’t. That became an urgent need about four years ago, after a motorcyclist tried to kick out her car windows during a road-rage incident. Artus went home and told her husband, Brien: We’re getting our concealed-carry permits.

  • “I’m taking back my life, and I refuse to be afraid anymore,” she said.

Not long afterward, she gave birth to the couple’s son and quit her job as a mutual fund analyst to take care of the boy, who’d been born with several health problems. The transition wasn’t easy.

“I was going bonkers,” she said. “You go from using your brain all the time to sitting there with a screaming baby.”

  • So she and Brien started Concealment Unlimited as an online business, selling fashionable gun satchels to women around the country. When some began asking if they could stop by her house to try out the inventory, Artus decided it was time to set up shop.

She now has four employees. She’s started to add menswear to the store, where purses cost from $60 to $350, and is designing her own line of handbags and holsters. She does custom pieces already — she’s working on a case that will allow a woman to store both her gun and her iPad.

“Everybody’s been very supportive,” said employee Jennifer Casner, describing the reception the store has gotten in town.

In fact, no one has brought the gun debate inside Artus’ store. She’s actually been surprised by the number of people who have come to the store to shop — women she never expected were carrying. But if someone wants to talk bans and rights, Artus wouldn’t be shy.

“It’s an inanimate hunk of metal,” she said. “It’s what you do with it” that matters.


(I’m fascinated by this story and her courage to fight back and do what she needed to do.  Good for her.   Could this be more timely?    Probably not.  I’m not against guns – never have been.  Bought one when I arrived in Columbus in 1994, having left my precious Rottweiler behind in California.  She was only about 5 – 6 months old and smart as a whip and I had spent a bit of time with her training (you have to with a breed like that),  I was so proud of her – she was so beautiful, fun and loving and so well trained that I got back every penny I had spent on her  (but it nearly wrung my guts out to give her up).  Couldn’t drive across country with a Rotty and a Persian.     

So now I have this gun (that I am afraid of),  I took some lessons on how to handle, clean and shoot, but it just wasn’t me.   It and I didn’t have anything in common – we were never going to be happy together, so after much thought,  ran an ad and sold it for probably pretty much what I paid for it.  Never missed it and I won’t do that again.   But I still, really appreciate Nikki’s story and what she’s about.  I like strong, willful, but sensitive people.  

She had a need – something new to do, so she did what she knew and liked and hey – I love it when people do stuff like that.  Go get successful – doing what they love!.   Go girl!  

None of this or this story has anything to do whatever with this spate of shootings we are all still trembling from.  Gun ownership is part of our history and its legal.   What is wrong is some of the crazies holding those guns and their screwed-up intent, . .  .  . but hopefully, our President will be able to bring this fiasco to a successful conclusion.  All we need is intelligent regulation regarding what type of artillery is allowed and what is insanity in the minds of most Americans (including mine). There is no question that ownership should be tied to responsibility which can be proven. 

As to the mental health thing – – how we gonna do that?  Can we demand certified responsibility instead?  When we are maiming 1 out of 6 kids (with mandatory vaccinations) who are going to grow larger but not necessarily wiser, (widom comes from a growing intelligence combined with experience)  from which a honed judgement can flow – – do we have a King Salomon here to advise on the right and correct path?  I ask again,  how we gonna do that?  

How and why did Connecticut happen?  They were the mother’s guns – she was an avid collector.  She was already planning to relocate for the sake of her son so that he could get special care.  She knew her son’s problems and most certainly didn’t believe for a moment that she was going to be murdered by her own son! So who is to know when another is about to snap?    Can’t we all see how sticky this wicket can be?  I’m hoping for the best, but there are so many variables to this “mentally disturbed” classification.  So who is to blame?    My vote goes to the ENTIRE MEDICAL COMPLEX, doctors, AMA, BIG PhRMA, and Uncle Sam for allowing it all to continue.     Well, I don’t necessarily feel any better, but I sure dropped a load.   Jan )



  1. I am really loving the theme/design of your blog. Do you
    ever run into any web browser compatibility problems?

    A few of my blog visitors have complained about my site
    not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome.

    Do you have any suggestions to help fix this issue?

    Comment by — January 26, 2013 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

    • William, glad you like the theme – design. WordPress has a million to choose from. I’ve been happy here

      As a matter of fact I did have a person speak of a problem with my words running off the page and asked if it was my plog or her ISP. I could not answer her question, but told her that I had never had a problem like this at any time. . . so I am still not knowledgeable about the problem and can’t advise.

      I do use Mozilla Firefox and have for decade or more – satisfactorily. Also have Chrome – it is speedy and excellent. Guess, I’m just used to Firefox for most of what I do. Sorry that I couldn’t enlighten you. Jan

      Comment by Jan Turner — January 26, 2013 @ 5:09 pm | Reply

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