Everything Old Is New Again at Washington, DC’s Legendary Beast

Legendary Beast

Washington, D.C.


What makes your store special?

It specializes and it’s very specific. I sell vintage jewelry. It’s gorgeous and it’s made better than new jewelry—and you have the opportunity to buy something not everyone has. The area on U Street in D.C. where I am is very young and hip suddenly; there are lots of people in their 20s around. They come to me because they’re looking for something for an event typically. When [President Barack] Obama was elected in 2008, it was a big year of change—a whole bunch of younger, different, more diverse people moved into the area and were going to these balls, and they come in to get special pieces. I also do a lot of bridal, and I’m lucky to be featured pretty regularly in Washingtonian and other magazines for bridal.


Describe your favorite type of customer.

People who are into unusual stuff, who aren’t looking for the next big trend, but who have an esoteric vision for themselves. I get this a lot from Howard University students—they’re into mystical stuff, they want to know the meaning of stones and things. I like people who like history. In D.C. we have a lot of museums, and people who work in the museum gift shops—who have an art history background and such—have sent me lots of business. I used to travel a lot to find inventory, but every time I get covered [in print or online], I get tons of calls from people saying, “I’ve been holding on to this jewelry from my mother’s collection.” I’ve been lucky that way.


What has been your most memorable sale?

[Former Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright. She came in after she was out of office and right when her book about brooches [Read My Pins: Stories From a Diplomat’s Jewel Box] came out. She sat in this big chair and she looked at every brooch I had. My entire front case is full of brooches and she looked at them all, and ended up buying quite a bit. She was in a good mood, and it was a fun sale.


How do you approach e-commerce?

I opened this store in 2006, but I own the building and used to have a vintage clothing store downstairs. And around me on the street were other vintage retailers and we shared the business. Now it’s all hair salons up and down the street, so my business gradually started going down. I opened my Etsy store and have gradually put most of my higher-end things online—leaving lower-priced items for the young clientele that comes into the store. It’s worked pretty well—I ship pieces all over the world.


What’s the secret of your success?

I’m telling you, when Obama went into office, suddenly all these young idealists and different types of people moved to town. And there are always the nonprofit people in D.C., who tend to like vintage jewelry. But really, Obama made D.C. a little hipper—compared, at least, to the Bushes, whom you wouldn’t call style mavens.

Photograph by Jay Westcott

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