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Gemvara has battled the cookie-cutter designs of mainstream fine jewelry for years now with its custom e-commerce business model and focus on high quality colored stones. This holiday season, the retailer has entered the world of brick-and-mortar for the first time ever with a pop-up shop at 129 Newbury, conveniently above another color-conscious brand, Jonathan Adler.
The space feels more like a gallery than a jewelry store, with orange walls, large gem ornaments suspended from the ceiling in the front windows, and white jewelry cases. Staffed by Gemvara employees (the CEO included), "The Gemvara Experience" allows customers to explore the company's selection of nine precious metals and 29 different gemstones firsthand. Shoppers are also encouraged to take a guided walk through several vignettes representing Gemvara's mission and design process, illustrated through artist installations and jewelry cases around the store. Rings are certainly a focus point, as well as a gemstone case changing monthly (November is citrine), and a collaborated collection with Redbook is also on display.
We spoke with CEO Janet Holian about the brand's decision to take on brick-and-mortar and whether they plan to create a permanent location:
What was the impetus for Gemvara's first brick-and-mortar operation?
JH: Well, we launched a showroom at our headquarters about a month ago. I personally have spent a lot of time with the Warby Parker folks, trying to understand the evolution from a showroom in their offices. Our issue at the office is that you can't just walk in; we have to schedule you. So we starting talking to Warby about their first pop-up experience. Should we consider pop-up events? A traveling show? We just want to learn from customers: How much do they need to see the jewelry? How much do they want to pick it up and touch it? We decided to see what we could get for space and looked here in Boston and in New York. With this space, we just kind of knew.
Is this a test for a more permanent brick-and-mortar presence?
JH: Yes, there are a couple things we're testing: Do we need a physical presence long term? Is it the kind of thing we can pop-up during holiday seasons? Is it that we need it long term but that we don't need a standalone—maybe get shared space, approach retailers? We're not really testing that concept out now but if we feel like we need the physical presence and can't afford the full retail experience then maybe we'd go pop-up or try to partner with someone else. For example, Warby has been finding these boutique shops and partnering with them.
How does "The Gemvara Experience" in-person differ from that of the website?
JH: The theme is "Do You Dream in Color?" We're all about color stones and walking customers through the customization experience. Anyone who walks in needs to walk out understanding our unique value proposition. We can't do that all the time on the site so we need to make sure we do it here in the store. How can we recreate the store on the site? We're trying to do the reverse now! We want people to learn and we want to learn about our customers as well.
The Newbury Street space is open through February 15, where visitors can both buy a custom design on the spot and create a wishlist to shop online later. As if the prospect of trying on dozens of jewels isn't tempting enough, Gemvara is also offering a complimentary set of stud earrings in several stone colors with every purchase. If you'd like to attend tonight's grand opening celebration, head over to Facebook.
· Gemvara [Official Site]