With a recent storefront move to Oak Park Avenue, we stopped by Gem Jewelry Boutique and got to know Laura a little better. There is something magical about picking up a unique piece of jewelry that not only lasts a long time, but has a story. Do yourself a favor and find some time to pop into Gem and get yourself a fabulous piece of jewelry - for Ladies AND Gents!
(Psst..you still have time to get there before Mother's Day!)
Friends, get to know Gem! We sat down for a little chat with Laura.
Who: Laura Kitsos, owner of Gem in Oak Park
Where: Gem Jewelry Boutique
Tell me about you, and how you’ve come to love jewelry.
I have always had a love for jewelry. When I was 7, I received a rock tumbling kit for Christmas and loved making a turquoise ring with it (even though it was quite hideous!). Later, my grandmother and I created a special bond over her jewelry boxes. She had traveled to many places, my grandfather was a pilot and flew all over the place. She had jewelry from everywhere. This is how my grandmother remembered a place - with jewelry.
She’d show me her Mississippi pearl pendant that she got when she went down south. The incredible charm bracelet she had with charms from all her life experiences and the places she went, including Germany from when she visited after I was born.:)
It was always a story; always a delight. At the end, she’d usually hand a piece over to me and say “For you.”
I still have much of it and cherish it all to this day. As a young adult, I started making jewelry and selling jewelry to stores. I eventually opened up my own shop, mainly featuring my hand made creations.
How do you select pieces for your collection?
I am always looking for new designers. Instagram makes it so much easier than it used to be, but I have also been attending trade shows in New York, Paris, Las Vegas and other places to keep up with the jewelry world. I may circle a new designer for a few years before I decide to buy. It’s an investment. I want to be sure that it is not only a good fit for the shop and my clients, but also something I truly appreciate and love. I don’t sell jewelry that I would not wear myself!
Why did you choose to open your business in Oak Park?
It was random. I live here. I was driving around and saw a “For Rent” sign in the window of my first shop 14 years ago and called the number. Two days later, I had a lease and was working on a business plan. It wasn’t in 'the plan'. It was impulsive and naive but I’m so glad I followed my heart.
What has been the best downside?
Is there a downside? I mean. I am lucky. I get to do what I love and that’s the best part. No job is perfect but I can not imagine myself doing anything else and that’s pretty great.
What advice would you give someone who would want to open a small business in Oak Park?
Stop listening to all the nay sayers who say it’s hard to open a business here - it’s really not. Although I didn’t need a liquor license or anything too difficult to build, it's always been a very welcoming community for me. It was much more difficult for me to convince the historic committee that I wanted to build a wrap around porch onto my 135 year old house (I lost that one ). The people of Oak Park are amazing and diverse and I keep meeting new people all the time. A lot of the clients I had in Bucktown 7 years ago are now parents and have migrated here. It’s a great thing to see the couple you may have sold an engagement ring to then is now on their second child and looking for a Mother’s Day gift.
It’s all about the people when you’re in retail.