Margery Meltzer and Cheryl Stark of CB Stark Jewelers.
Fresh from the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston, Cheryl Barbara Stark came to Martha’s Vineyard in 1966 to teach silversmithing at an artisans’ collective. She quickly fell in love with the island community, opening a small studio.
A few years later, she was joined by Margery Meltzer, a recent philosophy graduate.
Together, Stark and Meltzer have built CB Stark Jewelers, one of the Vineyard’s best-known businesses with two stores and a growing online operation.
The store recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Stark and Meltzer answered a few questions about their success and goals.
Please tell us how your store got its start.
Fresh from the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston, Cheryl Barbara (CB) Stark came to the island of Martha’s Vineyard in 1966 to teach jewelry-making at an artisans’ collective, then opened a small studio and retail space. In the off-season, Cheryl operated a booth in New York City’s Diamond District, honing her skills and selling her work to renowned retailers such as Cartier and Georg Jensen, among others. By 1969, Cheryl had settled on the Vineyard year-round. She teamed up with Margery Meltzer, a recent philosophy graduate with a penchant for rocks and minerals. Margie worked first as an apprentice, then became a full-time business partner, meanwhile earning a master’s degree in Jungian psychology. She oversees CB Stark’s constantly evolving jewelry design and production, which comprises about 50 percent of the store’s merchandise. Together, Cheryl and Margie have built an independent jewelry business renowned for its innovative designs, quality workmanship and excellent customer service.
Was there ever a time when it looked as if the business may not survive?
Operating a business in a popular vacation destination has both its challenges and advantages. On the one hand, it’s a seasonal economy. On an island, no less. So it took a few years to grow the business to a place where we felt comfortable and relatively secure of its future. On the plus side, many people consider Martha’s Vineyard to be a special place in their lives, and there’s a strong market for charms and other jewelry that commemorate the island. Now that we have two stores and a successful online business, we’re confident the business will continue to thrive.
What has been the key to the store’s growth and longevity?
Adaptability is an important skill in the jewelry business, and being able to forecast or pick up on trends and reflect them in the merchandise we design and sell. Our emphasis on excellent customer service and fine workmanship is another hallmark of our success, as is our extensive line of in-house designs. We’ve designed more than 500 pieces over the years, and our new website makes our jewelry easily available year-round.
Have there been any vendors who have been particularly important to the store’s success?
Because CB Stark designs about 50 percent of the jewelry we sell, we’ve been selective about partnering with vendors who represent the same high standards of workmanship and whose designs complement our own merchandise. We’ve carried The Touch and Ed Levin for 40 years, and John Hardy since its inception about 20 years ago. We really value those longstanding relationships.
What have all those years in the business taught your family about jewelry retail?
While quality and honesty are key ingredients for any business success, having an excellent staff is absolutely essential. We treat our employees like family, with good pay and benefits, including a retirement plan. It’s not always easy for a small independent business to provide for their employees that way, but it’s a priority for us.
What’s your favorite True Tale (fun story) from your years in the business?
There have been so many heartwarming moments, it’s hard to pick just one! But a favorite is a man who lost his wedding band, which was missing for a few years (only about 30!) till it turned up in his driveway. Turns out it had been buried there all along, with cars coming and going and parking on top of it. He had bought it from us many years earlier, and he brought it back to the shop to get spruced up again. He was so grateful to have found it, and we were happy to give it a new lease on life.
What has the latest generation of owners brought to the business?
CB Stark is unusual in that after 50 years, the founders are still at the helm. We get a lot of creative input from our talented staff, however. They bring different business ideas and design skills to the table, helping keep CB Stark current with the latest jewelry trends, technology, and social media.
What’s next for the store?
Building on the success of the first 50 years, we want to keep honing our skills and evolving to be at the forefront of new styles in jewelry and accessories, as well as keeping our website fresh and up-to- date. We’re also excited about developing our social media presence, since that’s such an important communication tool and a fun way to connect with people.
How do you plan to celebrate this milestone?
CB Stark has marked its 50th anniversary with several commemorative charms and three catered parties for customers and the community. But the best part for us has been the opportunity to pause and take stock of how far we’ve come and to appreciate how lucky we’ve been to work with such great staff, vendors and customers over the years. It’s been an amazing experience.
This article is an online extra for INSTORE Online.
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