260 S. 16th St., Philadelphia
For Philadelphia, our nation’s birthplace, history may be the ultimate accessory—but jewelry’s a close second. Its Jewelers Row, which dates from the 1820s, houses more than 300 sellers and craftsmen, plus the oldest diamond district in America. Now mod pioneers Kate Egan and Cort Day are forging their own legacy just 15 blocks (but worlds away) from the Row’s hard-core hagglers. The couple opened Egan Day in 2008 in a crumbling Civil War townhouse off Rittenhouse Square, the city’s elite shopping district. They’ve studded the 300-square-foot parlor with exquisite pieces from the likes of Ted Muehling, Gabriella Kiss, and Darcy Miro. In every nook and crevice, you’ll spot found-on-the- street rocks, some under bell jars. “Cort and I are into geology,” Kate says. “Maybe that’s too fancy a word. We’re…,” she pauses. “Rocky.” Hey, Philadelphians: Did someone say “Rocky”?
Rhode Island School of Design alum Kate and Cort, a published poet with an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, swooned over Philly while Kate was getting her own M.F.A. in photography at the University of Pennsylvania. They had lived in Los Angeles and New York City, where Kate worked for Ted Muehling, ran her own art gallery, and was art director at SoHo shoe emporium Sigerson Morrison. But they knew their store belonged in Philadelphia. “The feeling’s exactly right,” Kate says. “The old of the city mixed with the new, the slower pace but exploding arts scene. And we couldn’t have done it without Ted Muehling’s support.” Egan Day is Philly’s exclusive Muehling purveyor.
The Good Earth
While Egan Day reflects the couple’s artistry, Kate caters to the customers and Cort tends to the website and business matters. (His poetry seeps through, however; the bell jars are pure Sylvia Plath, and Kate calls the rose-thorn-motif pieces “what Emily Dickinson would make.”) Nothing in the store—from the gems to the pine flooring—has been treated, stained, or colorized. The interior is a triumph of wood (Patrick Townshend’s splendid cases) and marble (the brownstone’s original fireplace). The pieces tend toward earthy shapes—suggesting fish, florals, branches. All are one-of-a-kind and handcrafted, and range from $145 for a man’s bracelet from the snazzy collective tenthousandthings to $3,000 for a Muehling pearl necklace to $9,000 for galleon-shaped earrings dripping in sapphires. Still higher-priced items stay downstairs, at the bottom of a narrow spiral staircase typical of old Philadelphia townhomes. “We have only a third of our collection on display on any given day,” she says. “I change it according to my mood.”
Egan Day Trippers
The fun of the store lies in its unconventional layout. “I’d like to think it creates a sense of adventure,” Kate says. Cases and bell jars sit at varying elevations, so browsers gradually notice racks of treasures that may have been overlooked. Shoppers—young women buying their first nice piece, brides-to-be, Hermès-toting grandmothers—often stay as long as two hours. Yet many clients never even walk in. Kate is the ultimate phone friend: “We’ve shipped as far as Morocco.”
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