My first foothold in the jewelry world came in 2005, when one of my metalsmithing instructors shot me a note that his old employer in Birmingham, Michigan was hiring. He put me in touch with Richard Grinstein of Grinstein Jewelry & Design and I landed the interview for my first jewelry job.
My only experience with jewelry making had come from college courses. Richard really took a chance on me. He hired me for some Saturday help on the bench (I needed lots of practice... I was so under qualified!) and within a few years I moved on to become his full time studio manager.
Since that time, Richard Grinstein has been a mentor to me. He taught me that fine jewelry could still be creative. I learned that you can create works of art that are practical and wearable (something I shockingly did not learn in art school.) It was my first experience with jewelry sales and his incredible clientele taught me so much.
When I expressed the desire to move to San Francisco, Richard was on board. He called his contacts to find me a lead on another job in the jewelry industry. He's always done what he can to help me succeed. To this day he still does by selling my jewelry collection in his store.
It's fitting that Grinstein Jewelry has offered to host my first ever trunk show in Metro Detroit on Saturday, June 16th.
For today's retailer spotlight, I asked Richard to share a little more about his shop, which has been located in Birmingham for 4 decades. It was an inspiring and formative place for me. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about it.
You have been in business for over 40 years. How have things evolved for you in that time?
I opened my first store in downtown Birmingham, Michigan in 1976, in a mixed use building right across the hall from a wonderful restaurant, one of the first Nouvelle Cuisine restaurants in Michigan. After a successful run at that location, we moved to a freestanding building right “on the main drag”. This proved to be an excellent move- the increased visibility attracted a whole new set of clients, including many out of town clients who stay at the hotel right around the corner from us. Over the years our town has gone through many changes, starting out as a typical small town and finally establishing an identity as a destination for shoppers looking for unique, small shops such as ours.
We have been fortunate over the years to have had many wonderful employees, including Corey Egan, who very capably ran the business operations for several years. We are proud to welcome her back as a designer whose work is exceptionally well conceived and executed.
What compelled you to first open the store?
I started out in the early 1970s as a bit of a rebel- Inspired by my love of jewelry that goes back to my childhood, I began making simple jewelry out of silver and gold-filled wire. I suppose that I was DIY before there was a name for it. But I pursued my love of jewelry, acquiring new skills and techniques, and opened my first store in 1976. I have grown to have a well-established clientele- many of our clients are third generation of working with us. I am currently making a ring for a couple that loves the woman’s parent’s rings that I made about 30 years ago. It was fun making a new version of an old design!
Describe the customer who frequents your shop. What are they on the hunt for?
We have a wide range of clients- from young couples searching for unusual settings and stones for engagement rings, to women buying for themselves, to men shopping for that special gift. We are often asked to encourage spouses to pick from a list begun by their significant others. Our customers are generally people drawn to our approach to design- a unique combination of Art Nouveau and Modernism.
What requests or trends are you sensing right now?
We have been getting more requests for unique settings and stones for engagement rings. I think clients are realizing you don’t NEED to have a diamond in your engagement ring if you want to!
How many designers do you carry?
We carry estate jewelry, Dean Webb, Corey Egan, and our own designs, as well as Zanna Metcalf.
What is interesting about your neighborhood?
Birmingham is a wonderful community. Very walkable, our downtown is currently getting a complete makeover. While the construction has been quite dramatic, the results promise to be stunning. All new sidewalks, streets, trees- just about everything is being redone. Birmingham has a long history of interest in jewelry as an art form. Partly because of its proximity to Cranbrook Academy of Art, there have been jewelry galleries in town since the early 1960s.
Do you have a favorite place for a meal or coffee nearby?
Birmingham is a great place to eat, have a coffee, meet friends, or just people-watch. My favorite spots include Market North (fabulous fried chicken!), Elie’s Mediterranean Cuisine, Toast (great for brunch), and Bella Piatti. There are really too many great places to list!
Is your store a part of any local organizations or charities?
Our store has long been involved in a scholarship program for high school jewelry students. Begun as a project by the Jewelers of Birmingham (of which I was president for 10 years), it is now the Grinstein Jewelry & Design Scholarship Competition. Open to all high school juniors and seniors in Oakland County Michigan, we offer awards of $500 for First Place, $250 for Second, and $100 for Third, as well as three Honorable Mentions. This year we are proud to have the Michigan Silversmiths Guild as a co-sponsor of the event. All entries are shown at the store for 3 days; the winners’ pieces are shown for an additional 2 weeks. This year’s entries, from 6 area schools, were quite amazing for their creativity, design, and craftsmanship.
For this fall, we are introducing a line of acorn and oak leaf designs; 20% of sales of those items will go to a local organization, Greening of Detroit. Established in 1989, this wonderful group plants trees in the city, and trains people to work in the field of landscaping and urban forestry.