Bling blossoms From humble beginnings to a spot on Etsy, Sugar Blossom Jewelry finally opens a bricks-and-mortar boutique in St. Boniface
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/08/2022 (292 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A slice of St. Boniface has turned gold.
Until August, Sugar Blossom Jewelry sold its wares online and through other retailers — to Chapters Indigo, to Anthropologie, to fashion bloggers and everyday customers.
On Tuesday, the Winnipeg-based brand opened its first storefront at 138 Provencher Blvd. It’s the latest accomplishment for founder Kelli Miller.
“It’s weird to open up the doors to be like… ‘This is our studio,’” Miller, 37, said.
She sat steps away from the newly renovated shop, where gold necklaces hung inside and chunky rings mingled on stands.
Every so often, her phone pinged — the sound of a cash register making a sale — as another person bought a piece of jewelry online.
The company launched on Etsy in 2008 and has since grown an international presence.
It started on Miller’s bedroom floor.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve just been fascinated with jewelry,” Miller said.
She’d raid her mother’s jewelry box in their St. Vital home, putting pendants on different chains and creating charm bracelets. Her mom taught her to work a set of pliers.
Miller said she absorbed information about the fashion industry during her teenage years modelling.
“Some of the places I would go… you actually saw them moulding a pair of shoes,” she said.
Jewelry design was top of mind, even during Miller’s years studying fashion communications at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Fashion Institute, she said.
She’d wear accessories she’d made — but it was just a hobby.
After graduation, she moved to Germany, where her Winnipeg-born husband was playing hockey. There, she dove into her dream: Sugar Blossom Jewelry.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve just been fascinated with jewelry.” – Kelli Miller
“I didn’t want to be one of those girls that went and did nothing,” Miller said. “I’m so blessed to have (had) that time free… to figure out what I wanted, to make my own brand.”
She set up an Etsy account and began advertising her bracelets — colourful braided wristlets, at the time.
She and her now-husband came back to Winnipeg in 2012. First, she juggled a job as a fashion stylist while building up Sugar Blossom Jewelry.
“I wasn’t being the best at that job or the best at the other job,” Miller said. “I just had to take the risk and just do it, like (go) all in.”
Miller dropped her day job. Her weeks were filled with making jewelry and selling online. She and her mother made thousands of braided bracelets, she said.
“We’d get, like, arthritis in our hands,” Miller said. “It just wasn’t sustainable.”
She hadn’t found a manufacturer to replicate her vision, she said. Meantime, she was expanding her line, adding gold-plated pieces and charms.
In 2014, Sugar Blossom Jewelry was among the gifts offered at the Golden Globes.
Miller said she tried different manufacturers to make her wares.
“I spent so much money having collections made,” she said. “When I got (one) shipment, I was in tears… I was like, ‘Oh my God, I literally just spent all my money on this.’”
Miller said she and her mother re-braided and refinished the thousands of shipped products from the single order.
Around 2017, Miller said she found a Chinese company that could make her jewelry at a price that would keep Sugar Blossom competitive.
“That changed the path of Sugar Blossom,” she said.
Suddenly, the doors to creating new products opened. Miller could sell her line to retailers like The Bay.
Business boomed at certain points in the pandemic, Miller said — stores like Anthropologie were calling for her stock, because she had some available while others faced supply chain issues.
“All through COVID was stressful,” Miller said, highlighting supply chain snarls from China. “You never really knew for sure (if your stock was coming).”
Her team has expanded to four people, including herself. The crew worked out of Miller’s house until the St. Boniface shop’s opening — and customers would pick up at the same location.
“(I was) not feeling totally comfortable with all these people coming to my house,” Miller said. “That’s why I was like, ‘I think we need some kind of storefront.’”
Unveiling the roughly 500 square foot space is “a dream come true,” said Sharon Miller, Kelli Miller’s mother and a Sugar Blossom staff.
“I spent so much money having collections made.” – Kelli Miller
“When we first started, she wanted (a store),” Sharon said. “She said, ‘Oh, someday I’ll have a store.’ I (was) like, ‘Yeah right.’”
Katherine Hardy greeted customers a day after the shop’s opening. The marketing manager said the team “lucked out with the space”.
“It’s so exciting to have a storefront and to be able to meet with customers and kind of have more of an experience than just online,” she said.
Sugar Blossom Jewelry will continue to offer its goods through its website.
Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.
Updated on Friday, August 12, 2022 5:49 PM CDT: Fixes typo in deck