Kathi Gard didn’t leave her heart in the San Francisco Bay area — she brought it with her to the Pacific Northwest after moving here 32 years ago. Today, she puts that heart into every piece of jewelry she creates for her new Sumner business, Maggie Mae’s Jewelry and Gifts.
Gard’s love of dressing up fashion by creating works of art began at the age of 16.
“I wanted to be creative,” she said.
News of her talent spread quickly and she soon worked with leather, flowers and plants. “I sold my work to co-workers, at craft shows and to stores,” she said. “Jewelry then went on the wayside so I packed up all my findings and beads and moved.”
While hobby interests changed in the coming years, Gard never closed the clasp of wanting to create more designs and in 1984 she picked up the hobby once again.
She applied Swaroski crystals from Austria and used metal stamping to create unique pieces. Once word of her designs spread throughout the Kent region – she sold her works at the Kent Saturday Market – she decided to supply beads to the public through her own Kent retail bead store on First Avenue. She closed the store last summer because she said she wanted to retire.
“I didn’t like being retired – it lasted two months,” she said. “I just love keeping busy!”
She opened Maggie Mae’s Jewelry and Gifts in mid-October.
“The whole idea was to do something fun and unique for downtown Sumner,” she said.
The namesakes for her business come from Mae, her grandma, and Margaret, her mother’s middle name and Gard’s confirmation name.
“I just wanted something different,” she said.
Along her journey she hired longtime customer Cheryl Wolfram. Together with one more jewelry designer, the three are able to make one-of-a-kind beaded bracelets, necklaces, brooches, earrings and even Valentine’s Day key chains for an eclectic range of customers.
Each woman delivers their own individual styles. Yet their craftsmanship delivers consistency with style and beauty.
A favorite supply of Gard’s is her use of vintage Lucite from the 1930s and ‘40s, she said.
She came across a supplier who had discovered a warehouse of the original pieces. Today she incorporates them into colorful finished products.
“You can wear clunkly without it being heavy,” Wolfram said. Some of her vintage designs include Lucite flowers mixed with small beads and filligree.
Those designs compliment Maggie Mae’s other products, some of which include a wide selection of jewelry dolls.
“The bridal jewelry dolls are very popular,” Gard said. “Brides come in here to buy them for their bridesmaids,” she said. Other designs include a black formal and one with Marilyn Monroe from a scene in the movie “Some Like it Hot.”
Other customer favorites are the silk and beaded shawls, which sell well, she said.
Both Gard and Wolfram said some of the best parts of working from the Sumner location are the customers and the ambiance of the shop.
“It’s imtimate and cozy,” Wolfram said. “We want the customers to feel that when they come in, they can walk in and feel like they’ve entered a different (world.)”
And those customers keep coming, despite the economic dip.
“I have a customer e-mail list with 2,500 names,” Gard said. “When you open a business (in a bad economy) you have to be very conservative in how you promote; you have to be careful what you buy. You’ll learn from the beginning to tighten the reins. But in a good economy, you might be a little more frivolous in your buying.”
“She’s had good business habits to start with,” Wolfram said.
Those business habits have led Gard to keep a steady pace of sales.
“We’ve sold 170 pieces of jewelry in two months,” Gard said.
She and Wolfram said the store is a perfect place to find quality-made jewelry and gifts and works especially well for girlfriend days – when women seek a slower pace of life with each other by having lunch downtown and shopping unhurried in stores such as Maggie Mae’s.
“We like to put smiles on peoples’ faces,” Wolfram said.
Maggie Mae’s Jewelry and Gifts is located at 1113 Main St. in Sumner and can be reached at 253-826-0499.
It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Reach Judy Halone at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-802-8210.