This Indy jewelry store–slash–speakeasy masters the seductive vibe
The first time Nick Blum walked into the building he recently bought to relocate his fine jewelry store, BlumLux, he recalls thinking, Man, I could really make an investment with this one. The roughly 14,000-square-foot, four-story building in downtown Indianapolis—home to four retail spaces and a number of residential units—was definitely more store than Blum had bargained for. But after doing business for two years in a less bustling part of town, the retailer was determined to move to a central location—and to own a space with room to grow. “The business was really outgrowing the store,” recalls Blum, who opened BlumLux in 2013 while he was still in his 20s. The warehouse space would also prove to be a perfect fit for the lounge-style decor Blum had begun experimenting with in his first store. “We’re all about a dark atmosphere—no windows, dim lighting, a speakeasy vibe,” he notes. “People love it.”
What factors played into your buying a large, multiuse building for BlumLux?
The idea of the lounge setting was really catching on, and I wanted to expand on it. At the same time, we wanted a place with more parking and wanted to be more downtown and, in general, be in a better area. A realtor friend presented the building to me, after showing me 10 different places that weren’t quite right. When I walked in, I kind of knew [it was right]. There are two basement commercial spaces and two on the first floor—which is where BlumLux is. The second and third floors have five residential loft spaces. And on the third floor there are two penthouses. I’m not sure if I’m going to live in one, but I do have the option to!
You’re in the midst of building out the new store—how will it differ from the original shop?
The new boutique is roughly 2,000 square feet, which is almost three times the size of the other space. It’s going to have that loft, high-ceilinged look and feel. The building used to be a paint warehouse in the early 1900s, and we’ve recovered some of the old paint cans from that company on eBay and will probably showcase them somehow in the shop. I love history like that.
How will you be organizing the new store?
We will have a 400-square-foot area just for walk-in traffic with lots of [fashion] merchandise and some bridal. For big-ticket items, we’ll do the lounge experience—we’re building in a secret door, much like a speakeasy would have. We will keep it really dark in there. The speakeasy vibe is about getting back to American roots and being authentic. I’m a millennial, and millennials really like history and comfort and authenticity. But I also have a ton of older customers who love it too.
I know you’re not a fan of the glass jewelry case. How will jewelry be merchandised?
Since I bought the building, I’ve had so many retail designers contact me. They all say the same stuff—“We did Nordstrom, we did Saks.” I’m like, “I don’t want any of that—that look is dead to me.” I’m doing this store completely differently. I have one display case, and I don’t even know if I want that.
What products will you be focusing on?
Mainly bridal. I’d say 90 percent of clients are looking for an engagement ring. Another big thing for us will be watches. I want to start making my own watches. I’m putting a workshop in the back—a very visible one—so if anyone wanted to watch me work, they could. The watch idea seems very ambitious, I know. But I’m tired of mass manufacturing. There’s no fun in it. Yeah, it makes money, but it also takes the life out of you sometimes. I went to GIA when I was 19. No one in my family is in the industry. My interest in all this came from a passion for designing watches. I’m going to buy myself a CNC machine and start producing cases. We’ll see where it goes.
Photograph by Jonathan Willis