Three years ago, designer-turned retailer Ryan Ryan decided it was time to settle down, “I wanted to settle down in the desert, and I wanted to expand myself beyond my point of view,” he explains of his decision to open The Jewelry Bar in Palm Desert, CA. “I’m so intrigued with other people’s work, I admire other people’s talent so much, so I decided to take all of that interest and love and open up a gallery of wearable art.”
A conversation with Ryan inevitably veers towards his overwhelming (and contagious!) sense of joy and gratitude. Not only is he thrilled at the success he’s built in the past three years, he is genuinely passionate about the artists he represents and he loves dressing people up in jewelry. “I want to bring into my store what I consider ‘Tribal Wear.’ It’s the go-to piece that makes a client feel good about themselves. Most of my client’s already have their diamonds; they come here looking for that precious piece that they wear for their husbands, they wear for their girlfriends, but mostly, they wear it for themselves.”
Ryan is exceptionally drawn to designers whose work is a consistent reflection of their personalities. “When a client comes across a piece and they immediately fall in love with it, that speaks to me. And then I get to tell them about the kooky designer who created the piece, how charming and off the wall they are! And that inspires me and it helps me drive the sale and drive what I do,” he explains. “I’ve gotten to meet these artists and they blow my mind, they feel like family, and we work very hard to sell and promote them and make it happen for them!”
He uses a term he’s coined, “Funky Fine,” to describe the work that he seeks out and carries in his shop, “It’s edgy, it’s different and it describes fine jewelry and wearable art.”
In addition to carrying the most inspiring pieces he can find, Ryan attributes his success to some aggressive marketing initiatives, “When I first opened, I knew I couldn’t just stand behind the glass door and think people would come in.” In addition to attending two thirds of the area’s many social events, he also advertises in Palm Springs Life and on T.V., but it’s his campaign in the community newspaper that has had the most measurable R.O.I., “I don’t just sell product in those ads, I give messages, I tell the story,” he says. “With the newspaper, we’re really getting, not only feedback, but people coming in and buying.” In an effort to help and give back, but also, admittedly, to meet clients, Ryan has recently joined the board of CancerPartners, which offers support for cancer patients and their families.
Another clever guerrilla marketing technique Ryan employs should probably be mimicked by retailers across the country! Every week, he hires two models, decks them out in jewelry from his store, and sends them to a popular local eatery where “the ladies who lunch” go to socialize. The models answer questions about their jewelry and send them into the store.
So where does Ryan Ryan go to find this Funky Fine Tribal Wear? “I think COUTURE is Emerald City,” he enthuses. “I put on my pink ruby shoes before I go! It’s unreal! I’m really impressed with how they curate the show, I want to look at everything and talk about everything, I’m just blown away by the talent at The COUTURE show! Even if something is not for me, I’m still fascinated by everything I see!”
In an effort to support emerging designer talent, Ryan has recently partnered with Benjamin Guttery, of @ThirdCoastGems fame, on something called “New Artist Spotlight.” Ben has identified 4 talented designers who will have their jewelry on display at The Jewelry Bar for 6 months and possibly beyond, “It’s so great that Ryan is giving these designers a chance,” Ben explained. “In this current environment, when every inch of case space matters, it’s so generous of him to give these designers the opportunity to get their name out there and develop a new fan base of jewelry enthusiasts at The Jewelry Bar!”