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Evolution of the Boutique

Store renovation elevates an Austin original on the leading edge of retail.

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Eliza Page, Austin, TX

OWNER: Elizabeth Gibson; URL: elizapage.com; FOUNDED: 2004; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2005; AREA: 1,200 total square feet; DESIGNER: Kasey McCarty Interior Design; TOP BRANDS: Eliza Page, Dilamani, Facet Barcelona, Shaesby, Midas, Zoe Chicco, Marika Desert Gold, Armenta, Lashbrook, Jennie Kwon, Jade Trau, Scribe; EMPLOYEES: 5 full-time, 1 part-time; ONLINE PRESENCE: 56,100 Instagram followers, 122 Google reviews with a 4.9 star average; BUILDOUT COST: $150,000


Eliza Page

Elizabeth Gibson

ELIZA PAGE HAS been known as a “cool store” around the jewelry industry for a long time. But it was only after last year’s renovation that owner Elizabeth Gibson decided to enter INSTORE’s America’s Coolest Stores competition — and won it on her first try.

“It’s exciting for the jewelry business to see more independents that are unique,” says Gibson. “When I opened 20 years ago, there weren’t a lot of stores like mine, and now there are, which is cool. I think that just shows that today’s clients want a boutique experience, a more intimate experience. Austin definitely caters to that; that’s the culture of our city.”

While the city itself may boast the motto of “Keep Austin Weird,” Eliza Page was still an outlier when Gibson opened the store in 2004. Her original location in south Austin was “terrible,” as she puts it, so she quickly moved into her current location downtown the following year. But she was distinctly lacking in neighbors.

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Store Renovation Elevates Austin Jewelry Boutique on the Leading Edge of RetailStore Renovation Elevates Austin Jewelry Boutique on the Leading Edge of Retail
Store Renovation Elevates Austin Jewelry Boutique on the Leading Edge of RetailStore Renovation Elevates Austin Jewelry Boutique on the Leading Edge of Retail

“I was the first retailer to open in the 2nd Street District,” Gibson recalls. “It was just empty store fronts around me. There was probably some naivete in my choice, but I knew downtown was going to grow.” Today, Eliza Page is a stalwart presence in a thriving retail area that includes independent restaurants, boutiques and one of Austin’s top live music venues, Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater. The store has evolved over the past 20 years, but it remains true to Gibson’s original vision: to create an approachable environment that showcases fashion-forward, artisan-created jewelry in a boutique setting that feels more like an art gallery than a traditional jewelry store.

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Starting a New Chapter

Gibson didn’t come from a jewelry family like many of her fellow independent retailers did. In fact, she didn’t even intend to be a jeweler. She began her career in marketing after receiving a college degree in English. But jewelry-making had always been something she loved, starting with beads, friendship bracelets and pins, and wirewrapping.

“I had started taking metalsmithing and wax carving classes locally. I wanted to make real jewelry,” says Gibson. “As I started to sell it locally as a hobby, I realized that Austin didn’t have a cool store. You couldn’t find fashion-forward jewelry here. Austin is hip, trendy but independently minded, and it supports local retailers so well. I decided to open a store and see what happened.”

She opened the store on a shoestring budget and a prayer. “I literally had to turn down a $100 change order when we were doing the buildout because I didn’t have investors backing me, I just had to make it work,” she says. The gallery space looked different back then, with a cash wrap at the back, independently designed fine jewelry in the wall cases and costume jewelry in the center.

Over the years, engagement and wedding jewelry became an unexpected profit center. “We didn’t start out selling wedding rings and bridal,” says Gibson. “Our clients asked for it, so we started making and selling it, and it’s been a strong part of our business for many years now.”

Today, all of the bridal jewelry sold in the store is from the Eliza Page line or custom designed — a service that wasn’t offered in the original incarnation of the store. “We sold designer bridal for years, but our clients didn’t want that, so we created our own bridal line, and that’s what we sell.”

The store has also phased out costume jewelry (“that customer went away during the pandemic,” says Gibson) and replaced it with ear piercings and permanent jewelry. “The price point is low, so as a retailer, that’s not exciting, but from a lifetime customer standpoint — my staff told me we’ve got to keep offering it. It’s brand-building and relationship-building,” says Gibson.

Store Renovation Elevates Austin Jewelry Boutique on the Leading Edge of Retail

Turning the Page

When she initially designed Eliza Page, Gibson intended the space to be an open canvas that could be adapted in years to come as the business evolved. In 2022, the time was right to make a major change — in part because of what was happening next door.

The neighboring tenant moved out, leaving an empty space, which would allow Eliza Page to operate temporarily out of that location while the store was being renovated. “I knew that kind of thing only happens every few years, so it was kind of a ‘now or never’ renovation,” explains Gibson. The business functioned in the temporary space for three weeks while the renovation was completed.

Concrete floors were replaced with hardwood. Walls were moved to create a private piercing room. Wallpaper was strategically hung in the center of the back wall to add a pop of color and texture. A large TV screen was placed on the same wall to play marketing videos. And a gorgeous new light fixture, which looks a lot like big gold bubbles floating near the ceiling, was mounted.

Custom furniture, including a new point-of-sale station and floor display cases, was built and installed throughout the store. The cash wrap was built to be slightly smaller and was placed in the middle of the store against a wall so that customers wouldn’t walk around it. The floor showcases are gold-toned with wood accents and are slightly larger than the previous cases. Plus, an extra showcase has been added to help accommodate more jewelry. “We only have 1,000 square feet to work with in the showroom, so we had to maximize our showcase space as much as possible,” explains Gibson.

One of Gibson’s favorite features of the remodel were built-in desks for staff. “Jewelry is a lot of account management, back and forth with vendors and clients, so we are giving our team members a private space to do that,” she says.

The private ear-piercing area has been a hit with clients who prefer an elegant, calm environment to the raucous energy of a tattoo parlor or the inexperience of hourly employees in chain boutiques like Claire’s. “A lot of moms come with their daughters,” says Gibson. “We spend a lot of time with these clients and get a lot of really great reviews.”

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The addition of piercing as a category at Eliza Page came about during the pandemic. “Piercing parties had started to become a trend, and we were just about to do our first with a local tattoo artist when the pandemic happened and we weren’t able to,” says Gibson. But then, Sirandyn Wayne, a longtime employee that Gibson calls the store’s “Swiss army knife,” volunteered to learn how to pierce. As the pandemic receded, more and more people came in for piercings.

“We have medical-grade sanitizing equipment, and we’re regulated by the state. They say we’re the most sanitary jewelry store in the city that does piercings,” says Gibson. “Some clients are really needle-phobic — we’ve had a couple of people pass out — so we have snacks and waters and Cokes, so we’re prepared!”

The store also now features a small semi-private consultation area at the back, which can serve as either a private diamond and custom showing area or a place for permanent jewelry to be welded onto wrists. “One positive coming out of the pandemic is that people like to make appointments now, so we are able to make sure that we don’t have a permanent bracelet welding at the same time that we have a custom-design client,” Gibson says.

With the renovation, Gibson was able to retain the open gallery feel while raising the overall look of the store. “It’s still a welcoming, less intimidating environment, but we wanted to elevate the materials and the design to better fit the product we’re selling. We hope to grow our average retail sale and bring our customer into bigger, better jewelry purchases.”

Store Renovation Elevates Austin Jewelry Boutique on the Leading Edge of Retail

Growing Together

“I know the store’s named after me,” says Gibson. “But the reason why Eliza Page is successful is the people who work here.”

The small team is comprised entirely of female employees — an eclectic and multi-talented group, according to Gibson. “We have a unique combination of sporty (wakeboarders, tennis players), skilled (a ceramicist and an Austin Community College bench jewelry professor) and fantasy-loving ladies (Harry Potter and Dungeons and Dragons fans).”
Eliza Page offers GIA AJP training to all staff, online sales training, and the sales and marketing staff has been sent to market trips in

Vegas, Scottsdale, Tucson, and Lafayette. “Our sales and marketing team members get to see our partner designer and vendors’ entire collections and learn about the jewelry firsthand from the makers and owners. It’s so important to put a face to the people we work with so closely, growing the relationships beyond phone calls and emails,” says Gibson.

The team also enjoys an annual staff retreat on the Tuesday after Labor Day every year, which generally takes the form of a spa day or a trip to the nearby Texas wine country area. “I think that you want to come to work and enjoy your colleagues,” says Gibson. “I try to create a relaxed environment. I give people a lot of flexibility and understanding that life gets in the way sometimes. I’ve never worked in a truly corporate environment; it’s not for me or anyone who works here.

“They work really hard to go above and beyond for our clients. That’s what boutique stores do. The Small Cool stores are pretty special; we have to wear a lot more hats.”

Store Renovation Elevates Austin Jewelry Boutique on the Leading Edge of Retail

Eliza Page’s marketing incorporates in-house photography of the store’s jewelry on models. The campaign above shows how jewelry reflects the inner self.

Five Cool Things About Eliza Page

1. MARKETING KNOW-HOW. The Eliza Page marketing team includes a director, a social media coordinator and a graphic/web designer/photographer. The brand gets traction on TikTok, where it regularly receives hundreds of views of its tongue-in-cheek videos. “People my age are still on Facebook, but the younger generation isn’t,” says Gibson. “My team has a great vision, they’ve pushed me into being more edgy. We still want to be as luxury as possible, but Austin is funky, so I hope we do both of those things well.”

2. WHOLESALE LINE. Gibson recently introduced a wholesale line called Scribe to the industry at large. The line is based on acrostic stylings, with each gemstone representing a letter. The emblematic designs are inspired by European ironwork, antique architecture and nature. A Scribe medallion won 1st Place in the Personalized Jewelry category of this year’s INSTORE Design Awards.

3. CONNECTION THROUGH EVENTS. Creative in-store events are a hallmark of Eliza Page. For Mother’s Day, the store highlighted tennis bracelets and necklaces with a tennis-themed event. It included a balloon arch for photo ops, bouquets for clients, and branded Eliza Page swag with purchase. The team also wore EP-branded tennis sweaters. And for a color-themed trunk show with designer Armenta, the store brought in a person to read clients’ “color aura.”

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4. MATERIAL ADVANTAGE. The recent renovation included not only a new hardwood floor, but also a point-of-sale station and built-in desks and cabinetry handmade by a local carpenter out of solid walnut. The meeting table at the back of the store is marble and is surrounded by custom upholstered velvet chairs. An antique wood and glass display case was outfitted with custom-built brass legs in order to combine old with new.

5. NON-TRADITIONAL HIRES. Most of the team at Eliza Page did not have prior jewelry experience. “Having a jewelry background is great, but you can’t train people to be kind and smart and hard-working. So that’s what I’m looking for first,” says Gibson. “I didn’t have a traditional jewelry background when I opened the business. I believe in the individual, that they can rise to the occasion if they want to and we give them the training. We want them to be passionate about the customers and the product.”

PHOTO GALLERY (16 IMAGES)

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • LESLIE MCGWIRE: : The store feels modern and airy. They created a gallery-like space that is unique and did a great job combining the old with new design elements. The design is a non-intimidating environment, so it is pleasing to their clients. The ceiling design is just perfect with the look and space plan.
  • KATHLEEN CUTLER: Eliza Page’s commitment to community engagement and creating a sense of artistic wonder is commendable. It showcases their dedication to nurturing relationships with both customers and the local creative community, further establishing their store as a destination that extends beyond a mere retail experience. Their emphasis on staff development is impressive. Setting short-term, quarterly goals to achieve annual goals is something each small team should consider to focus on retention of staff and development.
  • MEREDITH SEEDS: Lovely, light, bright, and warm — with lots of great attention to product presentation.
  • MEGAN CRABTREE:Eliza Page gives shoppers an experience that differentiates them from other stores in the best way possible. Not only can you see that Eliza Page exceeds your expectations with their services, but their diversity and inclusivity marketing strategies also attract a wide range of customers from all walks of life.
  • MARIE McCARTHY:Nice website, cool jewelry, great marketing images. Love the branded bottle of champagne. Continued training for staff is so important.
  • ELIZABETH ross BREWER:Elizabeth brought the cool to Austin’s 2nd Street District. From the gallery style layout to the custom-made walnut cases, Eliza Page has a relaxed, welcoming feel. The store also offers ear piercing and permanent jewelry, two of the hottest trends in the jewelry business.

 

Try This: Listen to Your Team.

“They have great ideas about the business and are working hard for you and your clients each day,” says Gibson, who uses a bonus system to reward staff instead of commissions. “Find a way to let them be in charge of their goals, and empower them at work as much as possible.”

ONLINE EXTRA

What did you envision for the business when you opened the store in 2004?

GIBSON: “We originally designed the store as an open canvas. I wanted it to be a gallery — warmer and more inviting than most jewelry stores. This past year, we created a private room for ear piercings and maybe one day will turn into private diamond showings. We’ve also created a dedicated area for our bridal customers, including a table where we can sit and do the presentation. We have Eliza Page-branded champagne and try to create an intimate experience. We’re a downtown, modern store, so it has more of a downtown vibe than a lot of stores.”

Why did you choose to be in downtown Austin?

GIBSON: “There was probably some naivete in my choice, but I knew it was going to grow downtown. Of course, you have to find parking and often pay for that — although we validate for our clients — but Austinites are used to that. Our customers think independently, they’re individualists. That’s why they shop at boutiques. I had a second location for a while in a shopping center, and clients were always ‘just shopping.’ They weren’t really boutique customers who want something special. Our downtown clients don’t want to look like everybody else.”

What’s the story on your new wholesale collection, Scribe?

GIBSON: “I’ve seen jewelry collections for years, and I got really excited about the acrostic concept. We’ll see. It’s an old concept but we’re modernizing it, and I feel like it has a special story to tell. I’m always thinking about the collection from a business perspective as well as, ‘Are my clients going to like this and sell it? Does it have a great story? Can it be marketed? Can it be passed down?’ Everyone has to carry collections that speak to their brand and business model. About half of what we sell is customized — meaning, they pick their own stones. The other half buy the pieces the way they’re made. It’s a passion project. It has its own personality. I see this as a marathon, not a sprint.”

Did you compare notes with your friend Jennifer Gandia, who owns Greenwich St. Jewelers in New York (our Big Cool winner this year) and created her own wholesale line?

GIBSON: “Yes, Jennifer created her own line as well, called Astra, hand-enameled zodiac. As retailers, we see so much jewelry — and of course we get excited about new jewelry all the time — but we’re probably not moved to the ends of the earth by too many things. We’re not collectors; we’re businesspeople. Jennifer and I were talking about starting our own collections, and we thought, why not? We know how to make it, we understand the markup, we know what the client wants, we know what retailers want. So naturally, if we’re designer-inclined, we would make our own jewelry. We have all of the facilities to do so. It’s really more like a time, money and interest thing.”

Marketing is very important to you. What’s your current approach?

GIBSON: “By combining images of products alongside curated and stylized model shots, we invite people to explore the new, ultimate, everyday luxury in a realistic way. We’ve modernized our approach to connecting with customers by reaching out to them through SMS marketing as well as email campaigns. Creating new lines of communication such as videos on social media has increased our visibility and relatability with our customer base. In our holiday 2022 campaign, we aimed to showcase how jewelry can be a true reflection of one’s inner self, and how it can accentuate an individual’s personality. Our objective was to demonstrate that jewelry can serve as a person’s ultimate accessory. We utilized this campaign extensively across various digital media platforms and also in printed materials. This campaign performed significantly higher digitally and got a much more enthusiastic response from our clients in person than our previous year’s campaign.”

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