EP375: The New Age of Brick and Mortar Retail with Jennifer Gandia
4:29AM Nov 11, 2022
new york city
If you wholesale your jewelry or you've been thinking about opening up a retail store, you are in luck today because I have a retail store veteran on the thrive by design podcast. And you are going to love listening to this interview. Today interview Jennifer Gandia. She is the co owner of granite street jewelers in New York City, one of the premier fine jewelry stores in Manhattan. And I'm very excited to have her on the show today because she's been a friend of mine first of all for a very long time. But also I love her insight she's going to bring on the Whoo, talk about the new age of a retail and what they look for when partnering with designers. So you're gonna get great tips on all facets. And I'm excited to dive into this interview with Jennifer. But before I do, let me introduce myself. I'm Tracy Matthews. I'm the chief visionary officer over here at Flourish & Thrive Academy, and I help jewelry brands launch grow and scale successful businesses from zero to multiple six and seven figures. And beyond using my methodology called The Desired Brand Effect. I even wrote a book about it. So make sure that you check it out over at the desired brand effect.com. And if you're someone who's ready for growth, then make sure you subscribe to this channel. And you like this video. If you've enjoyed it, get posted on all of my upcoming videos and anything else that I share with you about growing your jewelry business. Alright, let's dive into this interview with Jennifer Gandia of granite street jewelers. I am so excited. This has been a long coming interview, I've been trying to get Jennifer Gandia on this show for ages. So Jennifer, thanks so much for being here today.
It's my pleasure. I don't know why it took us so long.
Well, I think a lot of things, but we're gonna get into that. So you are the owner or co owner of granite street jewelers. And I'm so excited to have you talk a little bit about your journey and the store and your passion, all the things that have led you to where you are now, I'm so excited because you just opened a brand new store. So before I kind of dive into some of the questions that I have, tell us a little bit about your journey into owning granite street jewelers,
I'd be happy to I'm gonna try and make it this thing. Because most of the stories that I tell they always have two elements to them. There's like, you know what happened, the way it looks, you know, from one perspective, and then what was sort of happening in the background or underneath that to guide me or project me in a certain direction. You know, I didn't set out to join the family business. This store, for those of you that don't know, was started by my sister Christina and I are parents, Carlin familly in the 70s. And, you know, although my parents had their own business and had a jewelry store, they never, ever approached us to join the family's business. They really encouraged us to sort of follow our own path. And I went to fit, I loved fashion. And I ended up going into fashion marketing and celebrations. And like that was the job that I thought I wanted. No, I'd gotten the job that I always wanted. And once I achieved that goal, and I hit that spot, of course, there was still room to grow. Because I was in my 20s it became really clear to me that I really didn't want to be in the fashion industry. It just, I became really disillusioned. It wasn't speaking to me. And so I left and didn't really know what my next step was going to be. But one thing that I was really interested in was potentially opening up my own door. And I was, you know, had been talking with a friend and we had all these ideas about the kind of business we might want to open in Brooklyn. It was a time when like a lot of boutiques and lifestyle stores for opening in New York, then 911 happened and my parents store was right near the Trade Center. And so I decided to go and work for them for a little while because they had marketing experience. You know, I was another set of hands, they had to, you know, close their original location and reopen another one at a time when things were very difficult in the neighborhood, they decided to stay in that neighborhood. And you know what happened was really interesting. You know, when I got into the store and started to work alongside them, I started to see jewelry differently. You know, I always kind of thought of it as something like you got for special occasions, you know, kind of a specialty item. I myself wore a lot of flea market finds and costume jewelry and that kind of thing and thought that was really like what fashionable jewelry was. But what happened was is that at the time when I joined the business, it was the start of the independent designer movement in in the States. And so I would go out to shows To play with my mother and father and we'd look around, I'd be like, Oh, wow, like this is, there's something really interesting happening here. And so the short story is I never left and, you know, kind of moved into working with them originally to to keep the business sustain the business those first few years after 911, then my sister joined the company. And at that point, it was about, you know, like, really deciding where we wanted to take the business. And because it was such an exciting time in jewelry, that was the first step that we took to evolve our business and to our parents credit, they really, you know, let us take some chances. And we brought on designers like Melissa Joy Manning, and Jamie Joseph and Becky Kelso. And, you know, when started to evolve our business from being what they'd sold, it's, it's mainly a lot of kind of customer because my dad was a master jeweler, and they did a lot of service work and repairs, and then kind of, you know, a lot of gold jewelry, gemstone jewelry, diamond jewelry, but that was not branded. So so that's sort of how, you know, we got into the, into the business, both my sister and I, and in kind of a nutshell,
I love that. I was seeing something that you posted on and you had been working on a collection of your own. So do you guys design jewelry, your own branded jewelry for granite Street? Jewelers?
Yeah, so that happened a few years back. So it was probably the year before COVID. And she that's the 19 that we just decided to start developing our own collections. And one of the things that happened, I would say in like, maybe like around 2009 2010 Is that you know, first it was independent designer jewelry brands that we started with as like an evolution for the store. And then we decided to really grow our wedding and bridal business. So we did that we set a goal to grow that part of the business. And we became, you know, it became such a big part of our business. At one point, it was like 65 to 70% of our business, that we really learned a lot about what the customer was looking for. And so we decided 2018 or 2019 to create our own engagement ring or wedding band collection and to start and we started off very modestly with a few styles things that we people kept asking us for that we had a hard time finding there was the designers that we were working with that we kept having to custom order a special order, or have our jewelers make. And we thought well, you know, we should really start offering some of these things. And that has since grown into quite a large collection of engagement rings and wedding band styles and all inspired and named after downtown streets that were in our New York neighborhood. And inspired by the architecture that we downtown New York, if you haven't ever been to New York, it's one of the oldest areas of the city. And so you can walk around town and find yourself like, you know, on a cobblestone street looking up at, you know, a building from the early 1900s, late 1800s. So there's some really fun and unique architectural elements around that really inspired us. And then you know, within the past couple of years, we've expanded that to include a collection called Chroma which just color gemstone jewelry that we source and create ourselves. And that's all fair market gems as well as we just started. We became their mind certified last year. So yeah, so we've been working with fair minds within our Chroma collection, we have a line of gilded which is like classic diamond fashion. And then during 2020 I designed a line called Astra, which is the Zodiac collection that really came out of I love. I love astrology and tarot and you know, lots of modalities like that and spent a lot of time during quarantine, upstate looking up at the stars. And I had this idea come to me about you know, having an enamel Zodiac collection. And so that's what Astra is, it's like, looks like a hand painted an anvil night sky with your zodiac sign set in with little diamonds. So that's a really special collection to me.
It's so beautiful. I'm still gonna I'm gonna buy myself one of those pieces one day. Bye find them know exactly where to find them. I want to ask you, you know, like, you've been doing this for a while you kind of came into a family business. And I'm sure you know, you hear all the time like people who come into family businesses like they're doing it to carry on the family tradition, but like, what kept you there? Like what was the inspiration and the motivation and the why that you've like you decided to stay and now that keeps you going all this time because you just you opened up this brand new store. It's beautiful. And like the brand is really volleying.
So there's two things, I would say. The first thing that I would say is, I did not anticipate how meaningful and just kind of like a spiritual experience it was to work with people, especially at times in their life, when they're sort of at their most vulnerable, and open and really trying to create a moment for themselves or with themselves and another person, and having jewelry be a part of that. And helping to facilitate that connection was something that I didn't anticipate and that I fell in love with immediately. It's very, very powerful for me. And so really understanding jewelry as a medium that gives us such an opportunity for connection with people. And to be a facilitator of that connection keeps me going. The other thing is, you know, I'm really inspired, I'm inspired by the artists that we get to work with. And that doesn't end, you know, there's consistently new things to be interested in and inspired by and, you know, new artists, to me ways to grow in business, which is inspiring as well. But it's not also it's not for the faint hearted. It's really, really hard work.
It is really hard work. Yeah. And I think that a lot of times people they realize, oh, I want to design some jewelry, and they don't realize like, how hard it is, like, in general to get to the caliber, or the level where a store like yours is actually going to pick them up. I'm not here to discourage anyone. Obviously, I'm podcasts like mentoring people, helping them run successful businesses. And this is why I always say, there's so many ways to build a successful brand. You don't have to go one route or the other. I mean, we're really lucky in that these days. But I love what you said about the inspiration and how you're inspired by the designers. So I just have, I'm gonna throw you a curveball question right now, like, which designers are inspiring you the most right now,
it's interesting that you should ask that, because we have just started doing trunk shows, again, you know, we've got, like you said, we have a new store that we recently opened. And you know, coming out of the pandemic, where we, you know, weren't doing a lot of events, we've now rolled into a half a year, we opened the store in June, where it's just like, you know, event after event after event. And we're having a trunk show right now with a collection that we've carried for quite a long time called single stone. And you know, when you work with a designer for a long time, and you get to see them grow, also, and you see how their collections evolve, and how they continually or you know, being inspired to create new things. You know, if that's inspiring, right, like they're not, you know, the brands that are not kind of doing the same thing, and kind of resting on the laurels of something that might have been really successful for them. But they are, you know, continuing to innovate and push and offer the client, their customer, our customer, something unique is incredibly inspiring. So and just getting to see our brands in person interacting with the customers, and what's come out of the past two years, for them to write like, this has really been it, I know that we're still in a pandemic. So please don't think that I'm trying to minimize you know, that fact. But you know, we've come out of this, like creative crucible, right? And so just looking at what people are, how that sort of translated into their work. It has been really inspiring for me right now.
That's so exciting. That kind of leads me into another question. You know, like, when you're like, looking at designers and trying in, people are pitching you, and maybe you think it's not a good fit. Like, I'm gonna ask this question in kind of, in a roundabout way, like, what's your best piece of advice for a designer who's starting out who really wants to go big or go home and get into stores like Greenwich Street jewelers, and some of the bigger names out there that really make them a brand name? Like what are you looking for in designers like that? Or what would you recommend that they do in order to set themselves apart?
So I'm gonna reflect back on our journey for a second. And, you know, we didn't become the store that we are overnight. We are a 46 year old business, and I've been in the business now for 20 years. And when I joined the business, it was still a very humble door. And it took step by step by step year by year initiative by an Should have failure by failure to get to where we are now. You know, I don't believe in a quick shooting star. And oftentimes when I, when that happens when I see a designer, you know, kind of take off like that, I watched them, and a lot of times they burn out. So my advice would be, if you're in it, and you're in it, to win it, you have to be consistent and committed, and have that drive to continue to work, you know, work through what you need to to become a brand, that stores you know, that sort of top caliber stores want to carry. And you need time, you need time to develop your quality, your prices, your marketing, your production, all of these things, because these are the things that our buyers are going to be asking you about when they meet with you. And they're seriously considering you, you know, like, we want to know, how are you running your business, because your business is going to be affecting my business, we're going to be in partnership. So you know, there have been many times when I seen a designer who was just starting out, and I thought their product looked really great. But I didn't touch them for years, because I wanted to see are they going to be able to stick around, that's just me, I know that there are stores that like to jump on the quickest thing, the next hot thing. And that sort of they have a business built around that. And that's great. It works for them. It's not generally how we work. So So yes, so you know, the other thing that I think is really important is originality. And that can be an elusive thing. You know, I mentor a lot of and talk to a lot of young designers. And I always encourage them, like, go out there and look at what others are doing and make sure that you're like there's a lot of, I'm going to be kind and say there's a lot of design died. Right, that happened. And as a result, jewelry collections can look very derivative. And you can look like you're doing something that someone else has done or you know, has been doing and they should be really careful about that. But originality and original idea executed well, you know, with someone who is ambitious and driven. And you know, I think I think has a has a real chance of catching the eye of a door that is looking for that like are that unique aesthetic.
Yeah. I love that you said the ambition and drive because I think that is something that's really important, especially in this day and age and competing in the retail environment. Because there's such limited space in the stores. And people don't get that. And I have people come to me all the time. Like, you know, Tracy, I sent out like 100 pitches, I didn't hear back from any store. And I'm like, I'm not surprised it takes time these days. I mean, when I was starting out 25 years ago, I could reach out to a store they'd like the majority of them would get back in at least with a yes or no, you know what I mean? And saying like, yes, let's make an appointment to take a look or No, it's not the right fit for my store or whatever it is. But now you might not hear anything. And so I think that it's important to know that like, you have to, you really have to create this point of view for yourself, if you're going to be even considered in the big space. And if that's not something you want to do, or you feel necessarily driven to do, then there's a lot of other ways to get your work out in the world to.
That's right. That's right. And one of the other things that just came to mind that I was talking about with someone recently, and this is why I kind of went back and started to tell our story from the from the beginning and to say that we had started out with humble beginnings. It's because we worked with certain designers at that time, that we you know, might not be a fit for our store today. And so my I would encourage designers to go out and look for those stores that are just starting out or, you know, looking really hungry for unique emerging designers. There are so many outlets out there. I mean, just like there's lots of jewelry designers like there are a lot of outlets, there are jewelry stores, there are lifestyle stores, there are clothing stores that sell jewelry now. So, you know, I think a lot of people get fixated on certain stores. And they are kind of you know, if you're just starting out, you know, they're looking so many steps ahead. And they might be ignoring or, or or maybe you know, not looking at a sort of layer of store or outlet that could be great for them that could help really kickstart their business that is just you know, maybe less well known nationally or even within their market,
interesting thing is like some of the best accounts I ever had when I was wholesaling back in the day, or sometimes just like local stores that were like highly trafficked by, like, people who lived in the area. Like, it's not like these pizza stores necessarily with I mean, those stores are great, too. I had some great accounts, as well. But at the same time, you know, it's like, it's competitive in a good way. And this is like, where we get to push our limits as like makers, designers, artists, to like really push the limits of our creativity, because that's, that's where the brilliance is, right? Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So I want to talk a little bit about your store. It's beautiful. By the way, I'm so sad that I wasn't able to come in to see it in person a couple weeks ago, but I will, I will be back. And so what was that process like? And I'd love to just dig into like, what it's like running a retail store, because New York City is expensive, like rent and staffing and all that stuff. So let's get into that.
Yeah, I mean, like, there was two questions in that I'm going to try and do one at a time. So you know, opening the process of opening, this is really for my sister and I as owners opening our first store, right? Even though we had a store before this, we sort of came into that store, while our parents were still in the business. And so this really was, for us, an incredible learning experience is a huge undertaking. But it's also really exciting, you know, when you get to the point where you are able to, you know, opened up a brick and mortar, which I hope that many people have that experience, I would love to see, you know, more jewelry stores opening and closing, you know, you're so much about within the trade about stores closing that have been open for so long. And it gives me hope that there are new people, yeah, hopefully, what we are wanting to step into the retail space. So it's very exciting. And it's very sensitive, you know, running a retail store, you have a lot to think about, right. And like one of those things at its baseline is finances and operating costs. Like you said, it's expensive, you have to think about rents. And if you're opening a new space, you have to think about design. Just think about buying right inventory, and there's marketing, and you know, photography, and you know, there's all the things you know, it's definitely not for the faint hearted. I always say like, it's not for the faint hearted, like you got some, you know, plaque to go into retail, I'm not sure that I don't think I actually knew what we were getting ourselves into, at all. But one of the things that we did over the years, which I think really speaks a lot to what you do, and what you offer is that we made sure to seek out coaches and mentors, and spaces where we could learn about how to do all of those things we didn't, we didn't know how to do them. You know, like, we didn't know how to create a budget or stick to a budget or, you know, there's so many things like how to hire, how to fire, how to create a marketing plan, how to train people. So we really had to find people in organizations where we could get that education, and then be able to bring it into our business. And I think that that is so important. I can't stress it enough. We still to this day work with coaches and trainers to help us to continue to grow as leaders because we continually have to learn new things to be able to grow a business. Yeah, that's, you know, that's, that's a really helpful thing that I would encourage any business person designer, entrepreneur to do, is to invest in themselves in that way. Because it is an investment.
It's an investment. And I think it's so important. I mean, I like I don't really regret not doing it because I learned so much from not doing it. But I had so many opportunities as a young designer, to get mentorship and all I was looking at was the price tag, not the value of how that would have shortcutted me and helped me not make mistakes. And it wasn't until things were that I actually really needed. This the consultant, the coach, you know, the whole thing that actually hired them, I was like, Oh my gosh, why? Why did I wait so long? This is like the best thing because like, when all of us have so many blind spots we can't see. And we also have things, ways that we self sabotage ourselves and they can call it out and like help you see like, see around corners.
Absolutely. Yeah. And like and community is another thing, too, like when you're a retailer, an independent retailer or a single store independent retail or you don't always have that community. So making sure to put ourselves into spaces where we could meet other store owners, maybe non competing cities, and make friends means that we can call and talk to about their business and how they were doing things with questions that we might have being that sounding board for others as well, is really important. And, you know, I think today community is something that's talked about so much more. And there are spaces for designers, for example, to come together. I don't know, I feel like maybe it might be a little easier. I don't I don't know if that's the case, still for retailers, but whatever, whatever it is, like, you know, make sure that you can find some sort of community where you can, you know, get that kind of feedback that you're talking about, also, from your peers.
How did you create that for yourself? Was there like a group that you went in for retailers? Or was it that you just like, found some friends and like, created your own group,
a little bit of both. So we, for a time, we're within a consultancy, that paired up with other retailers around the country and non competing areas. So that way, we had a built in group, and also like, going to trade shows, going to education sessions, you know, introducing myself to other stores that I knew kind of like ours, and saying, like, Let's have breakfast, or like, what are you doing? Can we have a drink later? And just kind of like trying to break through that barrier of competition that people sort of feel like there is because like, Oh, you got this, or I'm, I've got that sorted like, well, you know, like, but what we're doing is, you know, we're all doing the same thing. There's no business for everybody. And you're in like, whatever, Minneapolis, you know, and I'm in New York City, like we should, we should be connected. You know, actually, my dad used to have a jeweler right in our neighborhood. And they would talk all the time, you know, and they were competitors. And they would talk about what was going on, and how was business. And so that really taught me that even within your own backyard, there really isn't enough business for everybody, you know, your customers are going to find you, they're going to come to you because they want what you are offering what you're giving them. It's an experience. I'm sure you know, there are times when it's product related, sometimes somebody is just looking for price, I mean, all of those things exists. But I just I really do feel like we live in a very abundant universe. And I don't have to worry, you know that there's not going to be enough for me,
there is always enough. But I think it starts with the mindset of that, right? Like, if you're closed off to that, it's so fascinating that you said this, because this is the whole reason why I started Flourish, & Thrive Academy. Like really, because I was talking I don't know if I've ever told you the story. But like I was talking at a trade show, to a friend of mine, like a good friend, like a friend, we would go out to dinner at the shows, we lived in the same Bay Area, same vicinity. And I was like, Hey, where'd you get those hangtags. And I was like, you know, we were designing handmade jewelry at the time. It wasn't expensive stuff. It was, you know, the 50 to $300 range kind of thing. And she wouldn't give me her supplier, I'm like, the little oval hangtags that you stick on the back of a necklace. I'm like, there's like a million people that sell those. It's not, like, that's not like proprietary information. I'm asking you like, how did you invent your stone setting special thing? And they wouldn't tell me and I was like, This is so strange to me, because I would share any of my resources, like I wouldn't care. Because the designs come from here, not from from the heart, like they don't come from, like, a supplier selling findings. You know, and so,
I think, you know, like, without getting into like a whole side conversation, but you know, sometimes you really have to interrogate our belief systems, right, like and how we grew up and what we learned what we learned about money, what we learned about scarcity, we have to really reflect on these things and think about like, whether or not they're true, because those belief systems can be something that will hold us back. And the fact is, is that in some cases, there is scarcity, right? It is not as easy for certain people, we know that especially now, right? For black and brown people, indigenous people to get this didn't have the same access that other people have. So we can't say, oh, it's just a mindset, there is a systemic and structural issue that does need to be addressed. So I just want to acknowledge that and also say that with, you know, even within those constraints, you know, we still to personally grow, do you need to, you know, interrogate our belief systems, and whether or not they hold true and hold fast for us, as adults, as creators, as entrepreneurs, as passionate people who are here to change the world.
Yep. Bring on the woo with Jennifer Gandia. This has been such a great conversation. Jennifer, thank you so much for being here today. Do you have any like fun You know, pieces of advice for retailers, or designers or final words that you'd like to say,
I really loved what you said about designs coming from the heart. And I think that this is any more work for me, but just, you know, as we are setting out to grow our businesses and to make money and, you know, become successful and be driven and be ambitious, like never to forget the interior parts of what we do and how important like love is, and passion is, and those interior in connection, all of these kind of softer skills that really do aid all of those ambitions and dreams that we have, you know, just don't forget those. Don't leave them till later. Don't push them aside. They're just as important. And people will really be able to feel that in your work, whatever your work is, and it will make a difference. It will
make a huge difference. Jennifer, where can everyone find you?
If you want to learn more about our business, you can find that granite street jewelers.com And we saw that Greenwich s t we don't right up the street. In New York City, everything is just us t we're also on Instagram, we're on Tik Tok Facebook. So we're really kind of everywhere you are Pinterest. You know, our marketing is a big part of what we do and a lot of effort behind it. So like, follow us everywhere. And watch that we change what we do for the audience that we are responding to, and hopefully it can inspire you. That's where you can find us. You know, come visit us in New York City. We would love to have a visit by any listener go
into the store. It's amazing. I know. It's amazing. I haven't been there yet, but it's amazing. I've seen the pictures. I know the area. It is a beautiful, beautiful location. So thank you, Jennifer.
Thank you so much for having me. incredible honor. It's so much fun.
Bye. Bye. Thank you so much for watching this video today. Once again if you'd liked the video, make sure that you like it. Share your key takeaway in the comments below. And if you're someone who would like some help standing out in a saturated market with a timeless jewelry brand, here's your official invite to pick up my book The Desired Brand Effect standout in a saturated market with a timeless jewelry brand over at desire brand effect.com Ciao for now