The peapod first came to Ronna Lugosch as a happy coincidence. The jewelry artist was experimenting with different sculptural forms for casting metals, and made an empty podlike shape that a coworker suggested she fill with pearls to create a peapod. Twenty years later, that simple design is the basis for her entire coastal Maine-based company, Peapod Jewelry.
Lugosch originally owned a wholesale business, but became so “burnt out” in 2000 after traveling the country for trade shows and sales that she started her own gallery, Natural Expressions. Though the logo was a peapod, it would be five years until she realized how to leverage her quirky design into a recognizable brand, and three more until she changed the gallery name to reflect what she was best known for, pulling her image together for a cohesive retail experience.
While making a pendant for a customer in 2005, Lugosch came up with a design that resembled her trademark peapod mixed with a fiddlehead fern, an early spring Maine delicacy. “I realized—what else could I do as hybrids?” she says. “So I started focusing on this hybrid idea, these peapods mixed with other things. It’s kind of whimsical and very unique. I just had fun with it.”
Lugosch created peapod hybrids that resembled other Maine-related items, like lobsters, codfish, lighthouses, and pine trees, and gave them clever names. Her necklaces all have peapod clasps—even the non-peapod designs.
The name change was the final step in shaping Lugosch’s peapod line, and she says her well-rounded, carefully planned brand has pushed her business to new levels. “This is all about branding,” Lugosch says. “We’ve got that [peapod] logo on everything—all custom boxes, the signage, our business cards. Natural Expressions was vague to people.”
Lugosch says that in the past, customers came in expecting a hair salon, and once a person asked if they sold condoms. But now, the message is more “direct.”
“The signage is more definitive,” she says. “People driving along the road are stopping by because they are just so curious about it. I think [the name change] made a big difference. People are intrigued by it. People were calling it the peapod jewelry store anyway. And now after people have been there, [they go home and] search peapod jewelry.”
Because the store is situated on a rural back road outside the village of Round Pond, Lugosch says Peapod Jewelry needs to stand out so people will remember and return. “We’re off the beaten track,” Lugosch says. “If you don’t have an image or a brand that’s memorable, no one’s going to come back and see you.”
The branding has been so successful that customers have started to give Lugosch peapod-related regalia, which she displays in a “museum.” While Lugosch says her husband worried people would only know her for peapods and overlook her non-peapod jewelry, she isn’t concerned. She says people frequently stop by because they recognize the peapods, but leave with completely different pieces. “In this world of millions of products, what we want to be is memorable,” she says. “Once we capture their attention and intrigue people, we’re in. We can show them everything.”