Robert Kaylor of R. Grey Gallery in Boise, ID, first learned the art of jewelry-making in Arizona in the 1970s under the tutelage of a Navajo master silversmith. When the turquoise market slumped, he moved on a whim to Boise, and the story of his business has been one of almost uninterrupted success since. From a tiny 600-foot store that did repairs for local jewelers, Robert and wife Barbara have grown their retail and design business into a nationally known operation that has picked up a string of honors including a Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year Award and top America’s Coolest Store honors in 2008.
They currently have 5,000 square feet of retail and workshop space in the BoDo district in downtown Boise. The store has grown to feature handcrafted furniture, glass and jewelry from over 125 American artists, along with a few German artists.
Barbara credits their success to the store’s workmanship, which has attracted a loyal customer following, as well its “unique mix” of artwork (including art glass and furniture) and jewelry by designers such as Alex Sepkus. As part of the commemorations to mark the store’s 30th anniversary, Robert created 30 custom jewelry pieces.
“A lot has changed since we started,” says Barbara. “But it has always come back to the foundation of the desire to go above and beyond to satisfy our customers’ needs.”
What has been the key to the store’s growth and longevity?
Our emphasis has always been on customer service and quality workmanship that has created a loyal customer following. We have a unique mix of artwork and jewelry from amazing artists who share our dedication to excellence. For the longevity of our business, it has been important to seek new opportunities, adapt to trends, and be on the leading edge of innovation. Our ability to create unique pieces that speak to each individual fills an essential aspect of providing quality service. We can create exactly what the customer is looking for; our in-house and custom designs are a foundation of our business. After 30 years we still have the passion and vision to create exceptional jewelry designs with an ever-changing market.
Our staff is an important key to our success. Investing in our employees to help them grow and reach their full potential helps us as a business constantly improve and become stronger. We love that our staff is able to bring new innovations and technology to the store. This enables us to use our expertise to serve our clients in the best way possible.
Was there ever a time when it looked as if the business may struggle to survive?
We started out as a small repair shop and have been fortunate enough, with the support of the community, to continuously grow. As with any small business, we have faced challenges over the years, but with a loyal customer base, we have always thrived.
Have there been any vendors who have been particularly important to the store’s success?
It has been a great experience to find vendors and artists with the same quality workmanship we offer in our own merchandise. We value developing great longstanding relationships with vendors and artists like Ed Levin, Alex Sepkus, and Breuning. Their constant and reliable support has made our business great.
What have all those years in the business taught your family about jewelry retail?
After 30 years in business we still love what we do, we have great loyal customers and we are grateful to be part of their lives. There is nothing more rewarding than to be part of creating memories and celebrating the greatest moments in their lives. It has been gratifying to serve multiple generations as we see families flourish and the children to grow up to create their own memories. A lot has changed since we started, but it has always come back to the foundation of the desire to go above and beyond to satisfy our customers’ needs. Our commitment to the highest professional standards in the industry has promoted lasting customer loyalty. After the many years of support from our community, it is important to us as a family to be able to give back to organizations and charities in the community that has helped us grow.
What’s your favorite True Tale from your years in the business?
When we first started out every sale was like Christmas morning. Robert would do a really goofy victory dance after every sale. One day a customer walked in on him when he was dancing with his back to the door. That story always makes us laugh. He doesn’t dance after every sale anymore, but we still want to whenever we help someone find the perfect gift for that special someone.
What has the latest generation of owners brought to the business?
We have been the owners from the start, but are lucky enough to have our daughter bring a fresh perspective to the business. She has updated our approach to social media and digital platforms to help our business grow. We love being able to share the opportunity to travel and learn all about the industry by going to trade shows together. As a family, we teach each other from our own unique experiences. We understand what it takes to make a small business successful.
What’s next for the store?
Expanding on our accomplishment of the last 30 years, we enjoy the challenge of constant innovation and growth. As a store we plan on continuing to support American handcrafted jewelry and artwork. Robert will continue to design jewelry, focusing on one-of-a-kind numbered pieces with high-end gemstones, high karat gold, and platinum.
How did you celebrate this milestone?
To celebrate, we invited customers and artists to the gallery for a night of food, live music and giveaways. To commemorate the evening Robert created 30 custom jewelry pieces for 30 years. The B-Town Bistro food truck provided a number of appetizers (their grilled cheese crostini was the hit of the night). Margaux Reed outdid herself with her outstanding desserts from the local Le Bisou Bakery. Sandy Gebhards put her creativity to work to make an amazing gemstones cake with 30 gemstones for 30 years. It was so fun to see people’s faces light up when they found a gemstone in their slice of cake. We had hundreds of balloons for a customer to pop with every purchase to reveal a prize inside.
Emily Tipton, a local musician, topped off the ambiance with her incredible musical talent. Artist Aaron Henry and his father, Conrad, came all the way from California to celebrate and showcase their amazing work along with some of our local artists.