It’s Independents Week, which means we at Alx&Co. are celebrating two themes: our independence as citizens (Voting! Checks and balances! Civil rights!) and also as business owners (Not working for “The Man!”). In honor of the theme, I wanted to reflect upon what it means to own and operate an independent shop, both from my perspective and from our amazing clients’ points of view. Read on to learn more about what sets us apart and why it’s worth investing in small shops like ours…
Owning your own business — and being your own boss — is an experience full of contradictions. It’s exhilarating to be in charge, but also scary: the buck truly stops with you. If something goes wrong (and it inevitably will, may it be the toilet clogging or an unhappy client), you as the owner and operator of the business must find a way to fix it. You can take time off “anytime you like”…except that you do not have sick days, vacation days, or holidays. You just have days you don’t get work done (and therefore no income!).
In listening to our clients talk about why they love our shop, we find that the most common refrain is that we care. And, we do! Tim and I have poured ourselves into this business to make it into the very best resource for jewelry and silver services in the region. You like our paint color? I chose it (and painted it). You thought the person you spoke to on the phone about a potential job was friendly? That was me! Because we are responsible for every aspect of this business, we feel responsible for every client who walks in our door for our services.
From a management perspective, our shop is very different from other big-box jewelers (and some smaller ones, too). While other retailers incentivize their employees to sell, whether through commission-based salaries or quotas, we feel strongly that our small team should focus on our clients’ satisfaction over their own bottom line. We therefore pay our staff competitively so that no one feels pressured to bully a client into a higher sale. This contributes to the stress-free, decidedly “un-jewelry store” environment that we’re known for.
Our workshop has been in service since 1968 and we’ve continued the lineage of the original proprietors — Anton Rubesch and his wife — through Lawrence and into Tim and me today. Tim and I have owned this business for ten years and plan to own it and operate it for many more. This also means that we are extremely invested in the neighborhood. Tim and I live in Old Town and have our business here so we’re engaged with the community and want to see it shine. We care deeply and want others to share in this amazing neighborhood we call home.
Supporting independent businesses isn’t just about supporting the people who work here. The way I see it, we chose this profession and we don’t expect our clients to visit us out of the goodness of their hearts. Rather, I find that the service and detailed expertise that I receive when I visit other shops such as Bellacara, Red Barn Mercantile (& Penny Post), The Hive and The Shoe Hive, or any of the other amazing independent retailers in Old Town is simply incomparable to what I would receive from a big box store.
I know that our peers in the neighborhood spend as much time as I do obsessing over their clients’ experiences and how to improve their services simply because it’s evident in the product they provide. They also care deeply about their staff, their neighborhood, and see the investment in these things as inherent to running a business they’re proud of, rather than as extra costs to their profit. This is why it’s worth investing your time and money with us — not because we’re here, but because we’re awesome!
So, in honor of Independents Week, take some time to visit a shop you haven’t seen before or to check in with your old favorites. It’s also a great week to discover new independent brands you’ve never heard of. This week, our shop is participating in the Still We Rise Silent Auction, which is benefiting a number of non-profit organizations that Tim and I care deeply about. It’s all on Instagram and you’ll be able to bid for a $100 credit towards our online shop, and it’s a great opportunity to check out other talented artists and independent brands who have donated in kind. The action runs through July 9th and if you have any questions about how it works, just reach out to me personally! I’m happy to help.
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.