Jewelry retailer and designer Katherine Jetter, owner of 3-year-old retail boutique the Vault in Nantucket, Mass., had been planning to open a second store this year in downtown Boston. But the spread of COVID-19, and its insidious impact on U.S. retail, compelled her to rethink—but not cancel—her plans for a retail space in the city.
Instead of opening a traditional, ground-floor retail store, the retailer has debuted a beautiful, by-appointment-only atelier in a light-filled penthouse space that overlooks the city’s bustling downtown.
The Vault Boston showcases Jetter’s eponymous brand, plus a stable of beloved fine jewelry brands she partners with in Nantucket: Cadar, Victor Velyan, Hoorsenbuhs, Silvia Furmanovich, Feral, Bea Bongiasca, Jane Taylor, Ark, and Octavia Elizabeth.
“Thankfully I didn’t open a [traditional] retail space at this time—that would have been painful,” Jetter says, but adds that the pandemic has “allowed me to think very differently and in innovative ways about how to continue to do business and drive sales. It’s been an interesting pivoting exercise!”
The 1,500-square-foot atelier is tucked inside a luxury penthouse apartment in a downtown building called Millennium Place, located just a quick walk from Boston Commons. It features soaring ceilings and a sizable balcony space where Jetter plans to host a rotating lineup of events. The first, scheduled for Oct. 28, will see the Vault Boston partner with lifestyle brand Francis Valentine for an outdoor, by-appointment-only event that will institute COVID-19 social precautions.
Jetter moved to Boston full-time recently so her daughter can attend school there. Her support of people she loves—her family, friends, and the designers she partners with—often dictates her moves in business.
Jetter takes on a few new, up-and-coming designers every year and offers them one-on-one mentorship, in addition to space in the Vault’s cases. “The Vault Nantucket is not a normal retail store,” she explains. “You have a couture jeweler standing in front of the store, doing the educating. I think [education and knowledge] are what people connect with me on, and I want to create that environment in Boston and continue to support the designers I love.”
In Nantucket, an iconic vacation spot off the coast of Cape Cod, Jetter says she’s been compelled to “spread joy” during this scary, shaky time in the United States. She tapped into her huge wells of creativity this summer to liven things up at the beach: “We created little popsicle stands and lemonade stands and we did private showings, had curbside pickup, and six-person dinners. I also did a bunch of virtual appointments with clients who weren’t able to visit us.” She and her team also put together “pick boxes”—clients would have a video conferment with Jetter and pick out between five and 10 pieces to try on at home. “I created an insurance package just for the pick boxes, and they could pick out what they wanted and we would send the pieces.”
Her efforts have paid off. Jetter says sales have been solid, if not blockbuster, and that spending in general has been good. Ultimately, “it was a tremendous amount of work…but my whole mindset was about making it a joyful experience. All those little things make a big difference.”
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