“Follow your bliss” is more than a well-worn adage for Debra Schultz and Penn Fix, co-owners of Dodson’s Jewelers in Spokane, Wash. It’s the reason the husband-and-wife retailers turned the walls of their 125-year-old fine jewelry store into a booming gallery. “We don’t have an art background, but we’ve always loved art,” says Schultz. When the town’s sole fine art gallery closed its doors a few years ago, the duo decided to transform their 4,000-square-foot shop into a hybrid jewelry store/art gallery. They have since built up a small cache of artists whose works sell strongly and complement the jewelry inventory (anchored by large bridal and estate selections). Though Schultz says with a laugh that she’s “glad we don’t make a living selling art,” the tandem business has been profitable. Best of all, the endeavor erases the ever-present issue of how to keep a store looking fresh. “We used to have decorative art on the walls,” says Schultz. “Now that we have fine art that’s always rotating, it always looks so cool.”
How does your store lend itself to an art gallery concept?
Dodson’s is the oldest family-owned retail business in Spokane and it’s the oldest jeweler in the entire Pacific Northwest. We have these bays in our store that used to be shelved with tabletop items. We took all that shelving out, and in these bays, we hang art. We also have what we call our “mini gallery”—a little storage area where we also have art hanging.
How do you publicize the art?
In Spokane, on the first Friday of every month there’s an art walk. We don’t have an arts district; the wine and brew pubs have started hanging art on the walls. It’s very successful for us. But interestingly, the first time we participated, we sold more jewelry than art. Our [sweet spot] is from around $800 to $2,000 for art, but we’ve sold pieces from $125 to $7,000.
How do you book artwork?
In October and November, we spotlight specific artists and keep at least five pieces from certain artists we are successful with. In December, we hang little [groupings] of work from our main artists, and we keep that show up through January. Right now, we have over 100 pieces up, including works from a glass artist, Steve Adams; acrylic paintings from Patty Simpson Ward; and oil landscapes from Charles Palmer.
Do you buy jewelry that complements the art?
We’ve found a few jewelry folks who do original work. It’s not the art fair kind of stuff—it’s very high quality and beautiful. Designer Catherine Hysell’s pieces have sold in galleries and we’ve been successful carrying her line.
What advice would you give to jewelers considering adding art to their store?
Create relationships with the artists you’re selling and pay attention to what fits with your business. For us, this also has been an entree into a new client base. We’re reinventing ourselves—you have to.