Retailer Carrie McBride—who celebrates the 20th anniversary of her Freeport, Maine, jewelry boutique, Earrings & Co., this summer—credits the shop’s longevity to shrewd merchandising that speaks directly to her loyal clientele.
The 57-year-old retailer buys heavily from two buckets: small brands made in the United States (collections made in Maine is her ultimate goal); and trendy, price-sensitive sterling silver lines that appeal to a diverse cross section of shoppers.
Earrings & Co. in Freeport, Maine (photo courtesy of the company)
Though she stocks semiprecious and sterling pieces, nothing in the 800-square-foot shop is priced over $500. “Remaining very affordable has been very important,” says McBride. “A buyer can get something for everyone.”
Working with local jewelry designer, she adds, “is a give-back-and-pay-forward thing. We’re a small business in an outlet town, so we want to personalize the experience and bring it to a local level. It’s made us unique.”
McBride is hopeful that she’s one of a growing cadre of retailers prioritizing jewelry made in the United States. “I think it’s a huge movement and we’ve been very ahead of the curve on it,” she says.
Future plans for the shop include a potential store renovation, and deeper buys for locally fabricated products. “I’m continuing to source more and more from the U.S. to try to replace some of the imported merchandise, but that’s a challenge,” she says. For overseas-made collections, she explains, “the price point is still so good.”
Bedrock silver brands for the store include Chamilia beaded bracelets and Patricia Locke pieces featuring semiprecious stones.
Recent orders from local artisans have included sand-dollar necklaces set with gemstones and birch-bark earrings and necklaces looped onto gold-fillled and sterling silver posts and chains.
The intimate store, located within a strip of retail shops in Freeport, has attracted a devoted following over the years. “I just helped a mother and a daughter who come in every year,” says the retailer. “People are creatures of habit, and will come in and stock up on earrings for the year in one visit.”
No-pressure customer service, adds McBride, is another lure: “We don’t shadow our customers, we let them breathe. But we’re there when they need us to help. My staff is really what brings people in. They just go the extra mile.”