You’ll hear JCK editor-in-chief Victoria Gomelsky and news director Rob Bates talk to Paul Schneider, co-owner of Twist, an independent jewelry store based in Portland, Ore., known for being an incubator for cutting-edge design talent. Paul talks about how he and his wife started in the crafts movement, how they made their way into the jewelry industry, and how they showcase designers.
01:50 Guest intro, Paul Schneider
03:20 Paul talks about his background as a craftsman
04:20 When jewelry entered the conversation
08:40 Growing and shaping the business
14:10 Lab-grown diamonds
16:20 Paul talks video content
20:50 Advice for overcoming challenges
Paul and his wife, Lauren Eulau, met in college and were part of the crafts movement. He was a potter and she was a weaver. Paul and Lauren aren’t big planners. Their careers have grown by going with the flow. He tells an anecdote about an accountant who asked what their goals were. They decided they needed a different accountant. New doors open up because they never had a commitment to any one path.
The couple, however, was committed “to beautiful objects.” They met someone who made porcelain earrings. They put them in their store because they were ceramic. They sold amazingly well. This underlined that people bought jewelry because it had deeper meaning—it was more personal. They researched and branched out to other materials. Their evolution was very slow, but it allowed them to learn as they went.
Branching Out and Narrowing Down
They branched out from Eugene, Ore., to Portland, as they needed to go to a bigger city. Twist is known for being an incubator for cutting-edge, coveted designers. Paul’s tastes are very different than Lauren’s, but they respect each other’s tastes. They have such good communication skills that it doesn’t take a lot of discussion for them to make those choices.
Pacific Northwest Identity
Is Paul’s business uniquely suited for Portland or could it work elsewhere? Paul feels his type of business could work somewhere else, but the kind of products they sell are a result of the Pacific Northwest lifestyle, which is not showy. There’s an appreciation for craftsmanship and quality. Their particular pieces might not work in other places, but their approach does.
They are always looking for new designers and pieces. Paul doesn’t often sell items that come in unsolicited, but he does address every inquiry. They support people who are doing things that are beautiful and do not have access to the marketplace. They are looking for originators, not second generation.
They offered lab-grown diamonds a few years ago when it was a new development. They have plans to do a collection based on that with a specific lab-grown diamond producer. Paul thinks it’s a clear direction the industry is moving in. The line will be ready soon.
Bringing Designers to the Consumer
Victoria asks about the videos they do, which feature designers and their stories. The videos, made by their daughter, add to the impact and experience. You can understand what’s going on in the pieces. Twist also has QR codes in the cases that bring up the video.
Through the videos, their daughter has gotten more involved in the jewelry world. Now she works at a jewelry consultant in New York City. Is it hard to “turn off” a family business? Paul finds that it clarifies and simplifies family relationships. They are all on the same team, whether it’s family or work.
Twist is hiring and has been getting a higher quality of applicants recently. Paul thinks the hiring market is starting to calm down. Twist employs 25 people, five of whom work on its website. They consider online its own store. All three stores (including online) were very close in sales this year, which says a lot about their online business.
Any advice for other independent jewelers? Things are changing quickly in life, and jewelry is no different. The values in the industry were based on rich family history and deep relationships with communities. That’s changing—competing with a global market. Embrace technology and communication, he advises. Keep an open mind about what’s going on. Twist was always quick to adapt, without being weighed down by tradition.
Paul loves hearing about small businesses. And he likes that we are giving a voice to independent creators on the podcast. Everyone is alone when they have a small business. Platforms that give them a voice can help.Follow JCK on Instagram: @jckmagazine
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