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SMALL COOL 3RD PLACE: Balefire Goods / Arvada, CO

Sense of Discovery

Jamie Hollier brings a world of experience to the jewelry store concept.

OWNER: Jamie Hollier | URL: balefiregoods.com | FOUNDED: 2017 | OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2017 | EMPLOYEES: 3 | AREA: 1,188 square feet with 550 square-foot showroom | TOP DESIGNERS: Jamie Hollier, BoldB, Ash Hilton, Aimee Petkus, Yed Omi | ONLINE PRESENCE: 373 Facebook likes, 1,316 Instagram followers, 5 stars with 14 Google reviews


JAMIE HOLLIER’S earliest experience of retail jewelry involves cool characters, forbidden fruit and tantalizing tales.

Her great-aunt Tettie owned an antique store in Lake Charles, LA, that Hollier recalls as insanely surreal.

“She literally had five of those 6-by-2 or 6-by-3-foot tables so covered with costume jewelry that you couldn’t see the table tops. And she organized it all by color. It was a rainbow of glitter and weird shapes, like Carmen Miranda. It was just madness! And I was not supposed to touch it, so it was like forbidden fruit. But she would let me engage with it if she were there. I’d sit on her lap and I’d show her the pieces I wanted to know more about. She knew who made it, the materials, the story behind it. I had one-on-one time with this fascinating woman who I thought was cool.”

Almost everyone I’ve brought into the store for an event is someone I know, including musicians and flamenco instructors.

Artisan jewelry has deep roots in Hollier’s life. As a young child, she worked with her grandfather in his metal shop and visited art shows with her mom. Later, she earned degrees in art history and metalsmithing.

Hollier had been planning a jewelry store in her head for a long time without fully realizing that’s what she wanted to do. Circumstances in her adult life had led her in different directions, including library science and information technology. In late 2017, though, she took stock of her life as a successful technology entrepreneur and realized she was unfulfilled. She resolved to return to her background in metalsmithing and art history, which she had left almost 20 years before, and soon after, Balefire Goods was born.

She had come full circle. Although Balefire looks nothing like Aunt Tettie’s colorful hodgepodge, it does share a sense of discovery with that enterprise. And she does encourage charismatic personalities, storytelling and tactile encounters.

Hollier aims to build a true customer experience through education and community engagement, all with the arts at its core.

Offering jewelry-making classes to customers has opened their eyes to the fact that hand-making jewelry isn’t easy.

Visitors come by to learn about stones or a metalsmithing technique, make jewelry themselves, or meet an artist. Education is a core aspect of how Hollier approaches her work because the jewelry she carries represents a wide variety of materials and techniques. In addition to the organic, informal education that takes place in the gallery and in custom consultations, Hollier also offers slightly more formal options. Beyond the front showroom is a small kitchen, bar and a flex space used for events such as gallery openings, jewelry making class, and free lectures on gemstones hosted by a local AGTA Spectrum award-winning lapidary. It’s also used for pop-ups and trunk shows with artists and makers, including local clothing designers, artists, chocolatiers and more.

In-store events come naturally to her for a variety of reasons.

“When I was getting my undergraduate degree in art history and metalsmithing, I hung out with art students and I had space in a gallery where people lived,” Hollier says. “That was all about creating experiences and performance art. Then I ended up managing two public libraries and that was all about what programming you were going to run.”

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Along the way, she made a lot of connections. “Almost everyone I’ve brought into the store for an event is someone I know, including musicians and flamenco instructors,” she says.

Events at Balefire are designed to showcase local art in many formats, collaborate with local non-profits, promote a positive social and environmental impact and prioritize equality and inclusion.

For example, Hollier hosted an art show centered on tactile art featuring the work of blind artists in partnership with the Colorado Talking Book Library and the Blind Institute of Technology. “To me, jewelry is a tactile art,” Hollier says. She also hosted an in-store kitten adoption event with the Cat Care Society. “Each month we donate a portion of revenue to a different nonprofit, which not only brings funding to those organizations but also exposure.” She’s also donated regularly to silent auctions that benefit efforts on behalf of refugees and the hungry.

Balefire Goods is in a unique location at the intersection of the old and the new. The gallery is in the circa-1890 building that housed the first post office in Olde Town Arvada, a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This area is also a bustling modern shopping area with a commuter train stop in front of the store, easily connecting it to the entire Denver metro area.

The front showroom is much like she always imagined it would be, halfway between a jewelry store and a gallery, but more approachable than what either of those customarily are, she says. It’s flooded with natural light from large south-facing windows. The historic brick storefront is offset with a contemporary yet comfortable interior with bamboo floors, white walls highlighting local art, and plenty of plants. The wood, metal and concrete furniture and fixtures contribute to the soft industrial aesthetic, while creating a neutral backdrop where jewelry and art become the focus. “I wanted it to be classy and clean and contemporary with a kind of softness, too. I wanted to walk in and feel inspired and relaxed at the same time.”

Hollier sourced display tables from all over — from Crate & Barrel, IKEA, Cost Plus World Market, American Furniture Warehouse, local places. “I knew what I was looking for size-wise, color-wise, material-wise. I was able to piece together all these things that worked. I wanted something that felt more like a home than a showplace.” Display pieces are made by a local woodworker.

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Balefire is staffed by a small group of independent contractors, who work part time at Balefire and bring with them a variety of experience, from art and bartending to custom design and jewelry repair.

Hollier is also a published author on the topic of company culture. She strives to support and empower her staff, a strategy that creates a rich service culture that resonates with customers.

“My goal is to make sure everyone is empowered, 100 percent,” she says. “When I hire, I ask myself, ‘Do they have empathy for other people? Are they committed to lifelong learning?’ I believe skills can be taught but those things are core. That they want to learn and have each others’ backs.”

Judges’ Comments

Julie Ettinger: Jamie does an amazing job of bringing her community in to her store and connecting people through both her charitable contributions and her ability to promote other artists.

Julie Gotz:  It’s very “cool” for the store to take a neutral approach to gender when presenting jewelry pieces. They have clearly etched out a niche client category and are fully embracing it within the store and community!

Joel Hassler: I like the open display concept with the jewelry. Allows for a more hands-on and welcoming atmosphere.

Barbara Ross-Innamorati: The originality and creativity of this store owner blows me away. From educational classes to partnerships with other organizations, to featuring the work of unique and smaller artists, Jamie has gone above and beyond to break the traditional mold of a retailer jeweler. Bravo, Jamie! I love how she has built so many unique parterships.

Hedda Schupak: I absolutely love her approach to community, giving, diversity, individuality, and everything she represents. I love the idea of “loaner” engagement rings to pop the question and then create a custom ring afterward. The exterior is a perfect fit with the surroundings and the kind of store it is.

Eric Zuckerman: What I loved about Balefire Goods is it is not just a place to go to buy jewelry, it is a place to go to fall in love with the art of making jewelry. This is a business that is continuously innovating what it means to be a jewelry retailer and how to connect with your customers. From ongoing educational programs, to providing “loaner” engagement rings, to removing gender labels from jewelry, to having a showcase dedicated to emerging local artists, Balefire Goods is not afraid to break molds and create their own path.

PHOTO GALLERY (36 IMAGES)

5 COOL THINGS ABOUT BALEFIRE GOODS

1 Rings on loan. Balefire provides “loaner” rings customers can use to pop the question, allowing them the surprise of that special moment, but also ensuring that everyone can take part in the design process for custom engagement rings. Loaner rings can be solitaire style or bands, reflecting the diversity of modern couples.

2 Windows that wow. Balefire window displays change every other month and are approached as installation art. Balefire has many customers that stop by regularly just to see the new windows. “It highlights the jewelry and stops you and makes you want to look in the windows,” Hollier says. “It brings beauty to your day or a smile. We use a lot of fluffy, fake clouds. Little kids love them, so when they’re walking by, they point and smile.”

3 Clicks and bricks. Many of Balefire’s customers want to browse online but still want to see jewelry in person, so Balefire provides the best of both worlds with the “buy online, pick up in store” option on the website.

4 Jewelry-making classes. The most important goal of the classes is that people begin to understand the amount of effort it takes to hand make jewelry. “The people who come to the classes tend to buy more from us because they understand the value,” Hollier says.

5 Diversity within product. “In the look book for our commitment line, Kindle, we use real couples who represent a diversity of ages, sizes and sexual orientation, which more closely represents our store and our customers than traditional models,” Hollier says. She also believes that the idea of certain jewelry being for a man or a woman might be misguided. “We believe everyone should be able to wear jewelry that brings them joy, regardless of how others may label it,” she says.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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