Beau Staley’s jewelry–slash–sculpture gallery knows its sweet spot
Diamond rings and luxury tableware have been bedfellows in fine jewelry stores for decades. But sterling place settings aren’t the only artful objets that blend with upscale baubles. The elegant merchandise mix at Dolce in Telluride, Colo., includes gems from the likes of Atelier Minyon and Buddha Mama, along with one-of-a-kind sculpture. Owner Beau Staley began collaborating with sculptors after his mentor, ex–jewelry designer James Vilona, began sculpting. Vilona, whose work is featured prominently at Dolce, gave Staley his start. Vilona offered Staley a summer job in jewelry manufacturing 20-plus years ago, and “it all just kind of stuck,” recalls the 40-year-old retailer.
How did Dolce, which started as a fine jewelry store, come to carry sculpture?
I opened in 2001; one of the lines I was carrying was [James Vilona’s]. James decided he wanted to be a sculptor and started making large chairs and other pieces of functional art. He even incorporated natural materials like geodes and gems. It felt like the same process of [fabricating] jewelry, only on a much bigger scale.
How did the concept take off from there?
I started meeting other sculptors I thought were doing cool things. I realized sculpture could be a really good complement to jewelry. And it keeps the men interested; it gives them something to look at. Right now we carry around 70 percent jewelry and 30 percent sculpture. Some years sculpture has even outsold jewelry. It goes in waves, what sells more.
What jewelry styles are most popular?
Designer silver lines and collector-type gemstones. We focus on color. We don’t sell a lot of diamonds. We sell mainly designers who are doing really interesting things—like Pamela Froman, who does a lot of pink gold fading into white gold.
What do you stock as far as sculpture?
We have benches made of wood with steel, chairs made of bronze, a lot of functional pieces. Right now we have James Vilona and Kevin Box, who does originals out of paper, then casts those in bronze and steel. So everything has an origami look. Most pieces are in the $10,000 to $15,000 range. The sweet spot for jewelry is around there, too.
How is the Telluride market unique?
We’re in a community full of second and fifth homes. Our customers are from New York City and Miami. We have a lot of Texans here all summer. We deal in a little bit of scaled-down flash, because people aren’t so flashy when they’re here. People love matte-finish metals. But still, we’re in a resort community. Ninety percent of what we sell doesn’t stay in Telluride. A lot of people say they don’t have time to “shop like this” when they’re home.
Do people buy jewelry and sculpture together?
More often than not it’s one or the other. It’s the same customer who has bought jewelry from us who’s buying a sculpture piece, but not in that same sitting. Houses here are pretty gigantic, and they’re looking for interesting things to fill their homes, or they have a sculpture garden to fill. Customers rationalize buying the sculpture a lot differently than they do the jewelry. They need it—it’s for their house. Or they have a spot they need to fill, as opposed to getting another pair of earrings.
How do you train your staff to sell both categories?
A lot of the training in the sculpture is training on the manufacturing processes, which are similar to what you’d find in jewelry. It’s all molds and patinas and stone setting. There’s a lot that crosses over.
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