Kennett Square, Pa.–For jewelry designers, many aspects of their career rest in the hands of others. Designers are dependent on the approval of buyers and retailers, and don’t always have much of a say in how their work is presented.
Alexis Kletjian wasn’t satisfied with this model, or with simply selling her pieces online. She wanted to take the full experience of her fine jewelry into her own hands, and did so by opening her first brick-and-mortar store last September.
“I needed to take a risk and make a change,” Kletjian told National Jeweler. “I just felt like every time I turned around there was somebody else launching something or doing something and I felt like this is my true passion. I needed to invest in myself and do something meaningful for me that fed my soul.”
Here, an assortment of Alexis Kletjian jewelry. Kletjian is inspired by antique and vintage styles, which she carries in addition to her own jewelry at her new store in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
That investment is Alexis Kletjian Fine Jewelry, an approximately 500- to 600-square-foot “charming” storefront in the historic town of Kennett Square in Pennsylvania, home to about 6,000 people.
Kletjian and her family moved to the area a year before she opened the store.
“When we moved here, I said to my husband, ‘I want to open a store,’ and he said, ‘Please don’t,’” Kletjian recalled.
But with her two children in school full-time Kletjian was determined to make it happen. “I said I would give myself exactly a year to learn everything about the area.”
Kletjian wanted to jump into retail, because, despite having found success with her namesake fine jewelry that she launched in 2011, she was dissatisfied with the passiveness of participating in the traditional retail model, instead desiring the autonomy inherent in selling her own line in her own physical space.
“What was I going to do?” Kletjian asked, “Work on my jewelry and hoard it all in the safe, or go to trade shows and try to get people to look at me? That’s not who I am.”
Kletjian stocks her store with her own designs and those of a few of her contemporaries, as well as vintage and antique jewels and trinkets, candles, oils and jewelry boxes.
When an ideal location popped up on the town’s main retail street three weeks prior to the annual Kennett Square Mushroom Festival, which sees the population balloon to 300,000, Kletjian didn’t hesitate.
“I didn’t have any furniture, nothing,” she said. “I woke up at 4 a.m. and went to all of the vintage flea markets down in Amish country (to source antiques). My husband built me a case for my antique jewelry. He hand-fabricated it out of steel–it was a massive effort in the middle of the summer.”
Kletjian managed to open in time for the festival. Besides stocking her own jewelry, which she’s always in the process of making, she now sources antique and vintage jewelry and trinkets, as well as luxury candles, oils and jewelry boxes. Prices at her store range from $40 for a vintage bangle to $30,000 for a custom engagement ring.
She also carries other contemporary jewelry designers such as Rachael Sarc, Emilie Shapiro, The Eden Collective, Judi Powers, Estyn Hulbert and Anne Sportun. “I only choose designers who I feel complement my own aesthetic and (people) who I know have incredible work and work ethic,” Kletjian said.
“Dreaming up and imagining something has never been an issue for me,” said Kletjian. “Opening the store is just really full circle.”
She describes her gallery as “very comfortable, with layers of different eras, textures, flowers and plants—it’s like a home. It’s upscale but very cozy.”
But her favorite thing about the store is that it’s all hers.
“If there’s anything I don’t like that’s in here, it goes,” she explained. “I don’t have to have any designer in here I don’t want, or sell any item I don’t want. Every single thing in here I truly love. That’s pretty freeing.”
So far, having a physical selling point has bolstered Kletjian’s brand. The designer has been surprised by the number of her social media followers who are seeking out her new store, and she’s relishing in the personal connections she’s making.
“People who I didn’t even know were following me are coming in. And the thing that they always say is, ‘Now you’re like a real person,’” she said. “I was always a real person. I had had success even before I opened (the gallery) but it didn’t matter, nobody cared. Now they can come in and touch and see and feel, and that’s what matters to people.
“It gave people more trust; it’s just strange. I had to take this investment in myself. I needed a game-changer and for me this was a game-changer.”