741 N. Wells St., Chicago
Strolling the gallery district in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, customers stepping into Elements find a bright, stylish sanctuary from the city noise. The sleek, 4,000-square-foot emporium doesn’t cram merchandise in every nook, but offers an open, smooth flow for browsing sophisticated jewelry, hip fashion accessories, and chic home decor at a relaxed pace. And if you need to perk up, you’re likely to be offered an espresso from the in-house coffee bar. Veteran jewelry buyer and co-owner Toby Glickman (pictured, seated, with Elements co-owner Jeannine Dal Pra) says discovering new designers for her fashion-forward, well-heeled clientele is a constant thrill.
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES
One wall of Elements is painted silver with bold white hash marks, a look incorporated into the store to mark a big milestone. “Last year was our 25th anniversary,” Glickman explains. “We had this big shindig, catered, and I brought in designers that I’ve worked with for years to meet the clients.” She fondly remembers the early work of one featured designer, Martin Bernstein: “I’ve been doing business with him for 26 years. He started with found objects, and I used to say, ‘Start upping your game.’ Now he does Tahitian pearls, diamonds, citrine.” (His work is priced $900–$14,000.)
MAKING IT BIG
Elements first opened across the street in a modest space. Now, says Glickman, “we have more on one shelf than we had in that whole store!” Within a year, the owners relocated to an 1,800-square-foot shop on Oak Street to serve Magnificent Mile shoppers. Then, five years ago, a desire to expand yet again led the partners right back to North Wells Street. As the business has grown, loyal customers have followed. “They love the space,” Glickman says. “We’ve had…charitable events, birthday parties here. [People] love to come in and have a cup of coffee and sit and chat. They bring their dogs in. It’s just a very comfortable atmosphere.” And that’s how she describes working with Dal Pra: comfortable. “It’s been like a married relationship. I mean, we argue all the time!” she laughs. But Glickman trusts her partner implicitly—and, more important, she says of Dal Pra, “she has incredible taste.”
When scouting designers from Chicago to New York City to Paris, Glickman relies on her esteemed taste and her eye for what works for her customer. “I never like to be told what I should buy,” she says. “I look for smaller people, not just big companies, for something I believe in. I also don’t buy the whole line. I always cherry-pick.… I want my own vision. That’s how I’ve always been.” Hot sellers this year include cool chalcedony and moonstone by Graziela Gems ($495–$2,200); labradorite and sapphire pieces from Phillips House ($1,900–$3,500); and new bug- and spider-festooned bracelets and rings, in sterling silver and gold with diamonds, by Anna Ruth Henriques ($215–$2,250). “I love jewelry that’s different,” says Glickman.
Throughout the store, finery from around the world dazzles, from Thierry Lasry sunglasses from France ($395) to soft metal Goti cuffs from Italy ($540) to slender Mizuki hoops from New York ($615). But Glickman—who arrived in Chicago at age 5 from Europe, where she was born to Holocaust survivors—makes a point to champion local designers as well. “Gillion Carrara teaches at the Art Institute of Chicago,” Glickman notes, pointing out exquisite oversize rings with gorgeous sterling silver liners ($400–$1,200). “Samantha Goldberg does drusy pendants so magnificently,” she adds, showing off the One of One line ($400–$800) sparkling in a black case. Glickman, whose career before jewelry was teaching, knows the key to longevity is loving the work: “You have to be passionate about what you do.”
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