“We have always tried to offer price points for everybody,” Barbara says. Though some of it ranges well into the four figures, the art and furniture offer customers more options, especially in a market where the price of gold, silver, and platinum continues to rise.
“At one point, more furniture was being sold — there was a little peak — because everybody was kind of hunkering down and staying home and buying accessories for their home instead of the higher-end jewelry,” Robert says. (He adds, “That seems to have reversed a little bit.”)
“The front windows catch a lot of people,” says Green. They’re full of art glass. “They’ll just be walking by, and they’ll see a piece of glass that catches their eye.”
Green came from Portland, OR, by way of Spokane, WA, where she went to school. “I was applying for jobs, and I knew I wanted to go somewhere in the art world, but I wasn’t sure exactly where. I drove out here I think the day after graduation, interviewed, sat in a park by the river, and thought, ‘This is a pretty cool city!’”
She and the Kaylors work to keep themselves and the gallery’s other employees up to date on the more than 130 artists whose pieces fill the store. “Because of all the different techniques, I would say the learning curve is two years before somebody’s real comfortable and they know a lot of the gemstones being used, or the metals,” Robert says. “It’s a whole process.”
But the latest thing in process is a step beyond retail. Last year, Robert won the Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year Award at the JA New York show with his RealSteel collection. Now he's gradually preparing to enter the wholesale world, too. The RealSteel designs are almost quintessentially Boise. Crafted from square head nails, set off against gold, silver, and colored stones, they're ruggedly elegant. Just based on the short while I've spent with their maker, I see a connection to him: The look is understated but singular, and magnetic. Right now, Robert and one assistant, Rick, handle all the bench and design work. "Now we're starting to acquire accounts, so I'm probably going to have to hire someone else," he says. "And who knows where it's going to go?" Despite benefiting from the counsel of friends like designer Todd Reed, Robert is still — not nervous, maybe, but bracing himself. "Here we are again, 26 years into our business, and now we're stepping out and taking a little bit of a risk again. But I think it's all about risk and reward. If you don't step out, then you're just not going to expand." It's kind of like hopping into your station wagon and heading west to Arizona. The next day I'm at the airport, checking in. As part of my carry-on, I have an R. Grey shopping bag containing art-glass flowers for my wife and a wooden toy for our son. "Oh, what did you get at Robert's store?" the woman behind the airline counter asks me. Yep, she knows the Kaylors too. And so my visit to Boise ends much as it began. She hands me my boarding pass. "It's really a cool store, isn't it?"
FIVE COOL THINGS
1. A STEP UP - "We wanted something that, when we're not open, would catch people's eyes when they're walking past and draw them in," Robert says. Thus, the wide flight of steps leading up to the store's second level, lit from within with a golden glow.
2. AN ARTFUL AESTHETIC - Once you're lured inside, it's hard to escape the pull of R. Grey Gallery. Every corner is neatly provisioned with colorful objets d'art or jewelry from the unconventional likes of Alex Sepkus, George Sawyer and Anne Sportun, among numerous others. The showcases were designed by local Idaho woodworker Gary Shue, including a massive circular case holding many of the higher-end lines.
3. WHERE IT'S AT - For snagging passersby, it would be tough to beat R. Grey Gallery's location in Boise's recently revitalized BoDo cultural district. Nestled along a stretch of businesses including other galleries, a baby boutique, vintage shops, a candy company, and an independent Apple retailer, it's steps from dozens of restaurants, the convention center, and the city's bustling Grove plaza.
4. SHOW TIME - Because R. Grey Gallery stocks work by more than 130 artists and jewelry designers, the store holds about two trunk shows every month. The gallery hosts touring exhibits like Thomas Mann's "Storm Cycle: An Artist Responds to Hurricane Katrina," design-it-yourself jewelry and art events, as well as an annual fundraiser for Boise State's metals art program.
5. HEAVY METAL - The roots of Robert's RealSteel collection lie in an art show he was once a part of. "The nails just struck a resonance, because you can work the steel hot and do things with it that generally you couldn't with silver and gold," he says.
I had no idea I was going to win. I got my certificate for the American Jewelry Design Council runner-up award and kinda wandered to the back of the room.
No. I kept hearing my name, and I said, no, I've already got my certificate!
Not like some of our competitors. I love bridal, but I don't love it as much as one-of-a-kind pieces and creating from scratch.
John Poznanovich — he was a true master goldsmith
Have a sound business plan, a large imagination, and never give up.
"Do you fix eyeglasses?"
Golfing with my son and then dinner with my family
Fire an employee
Be a welder/blacksmith ... and musician
To distribute my new jewelry line to 30 galleries or jewelry stores.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAY
Maeve Gillies: Everything about this store feels unique. It is colorful, homely, artistic and comfortable. The historic building contributes depth and heritage, but it has been fitted with great warmth and welcome. Every piece featured appears quality controlled and carefully selected to offer something unique. The balance of other art in the store adds to the tapestry effect without overwhelming the jewelry focus. Music and history, hiking and golf, culture and craftsmanship, nationally-acclaimed jewelry by the owners as well as the selected artists ... you just want to be a part of it!'