It all started with a notice pinned to a bulletin board.
It was 1966 and 19-year-old Cheryl Stark was finishing up her second year studying jewelry and silversmithing at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The notice that caught her eye was for a jewelry teaching position in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. The aspiring jewelry designer, and child of the 60s, hopped on a bus and took over a position that had been vacated by a man bound for Vietnam.
This summer, Stark, together with her business and life partner, Margery Meltzer, are celebrating CB Stark Jewelry’s 45th anniversary with special events, promotions, and parties that have seen lines of loyal customers form around the block. “We are so happy and touched,” Stark tells JCK. “It means our hard work, ethics, quality, and customer service have been on the mark!”
CB Stark is now the premiere destination for jewelry on Martha’s Vineyard. It is consistently voted “Best Jewelry Store” by Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, and is sought after by both tourists and residents who can’t get enough of the store’s custom jewelry designs. “It’s very exciting, and we’re very grateful each year,” says Stark. “We work hard to keep it up.”
CB Stark Jewelry now has two stores on the island; one remains in the original location of Vineyard Haven and the other is in Edgartown. The Edgartown store, which is only open during the summer, is bright, airy, and more upscale, while the Vineyard Haven store is warmer, with dark mahogany wood, and handcrafted display cases.
While the pair make the business look easy, they both took a circuitous path to get where they are today. After graduating, Stark returned to her home in New York City in 1968 with plenty of knowledge about how to make beautiful designs, but no real plan. “My parents told me I had to start making some kind of living from this,” she says.
Stark did just that by becoming one of the first women to set up a booth in New York City’s historic Diamond District on 47th Street. “They really didn’t know what to make of me,” she says. “They told me I should be in Greenwich Village.” She soon proved her worth by landing clients for her custom silver designs, including Cartier and Georg Jensen, all the while soaking up advice from her fellow district denizens.
Every summer she would return to the little shop she had opened in Martha’s Vineyard, where she sold handmade silver “peace” jewelry, along with silver pieces like the ones that had launched her career in New York City. Finally, in 1970, Stark settled on the island permanently, supplementing her income in the slow, winter months by scalloping, waitressing, doing carpentry work, and house painting.
Two years later, Meltzer entered Stark’s life as an apprentice. From that moment on, the pair has balanced a committed relationship and a successful business. Meltzer admits that keeping that balance could be tricky, but that they’re both serious about the same goals and have a lot of fun at the same time. “We both have the same integrity, the same values,” says Stark. “We’ve grown so much together personally and professionally. We both want to be proud of who we are and what we do.”
Over the years, the pair has introduced hundreds of new designs to their adoring clients. Customers continually come back to CB Stark Jewelry to buy the latest bead Stark and Meltzer have designed, repair their old jewelry, and simply to enjoy the familiar, easygoing vibe of the store. “When people go on vacation, they get used to certain things,” says Stark. “Our customers want something that represents Martha’s Vineyard, and they know the integrity and quality of our work.”
The couple says the true reward for all their hard work has been interacting with the community they’ve settled down in and with the customers who’ve made their store successful. They are now creating friendships with the grandchildren of some of the store’s original customers, as well as meeting new faces, some of them famous. “We have great customers,” says Stark. “As you can imagine, you never know who you’re going to see in Martha’s Vineyard.”
During the store’s anniversary celebration, Stark and Meltzer asked their longtime customers to come back and share their old jewelry. People came from all over loaded down with charms, bracelets, and other baubles that they had bought from the store over the years. One woman in particular caught Stark’s attention.
“When I came over, she pointed to a thin gold bracelet on her wrist,” she says. “She said ‘I bought this for my first paycheck, and I’ve never taken it off.’” Stark said the woman told her the bracelet had seen the birth of her three children yet never once needed repair. “It may have been a little thing, but to her it was meaningful.”