Our community series spotlight is on Babs Noelle from Alara Jewelry.
While Alara is located on the corner of our street, Babs and I met a few years before Hattie Rex moved to that location.
Our meeting -- and the conversations that followed -- made a big impact on me. In fact, I probably owe it to Babs that I stayed in Bozeman!
I had just signed a lease on my first retail location and I was going through a divorce. I was feeling trapped in my lease, having just transitioned to a retail schedule where I was normally used to that e-commerce lifestyle.
I met Babs on a day when I was feeling down, as one does during a divorce. I was considering breaking my lease, giving up my store (my dream-come-true), and moving away from Bozeman. I was thinking of moving to Denver, in fact, for a larger population and a major airport.
I went to a wine tasting one night and Babs was there. We had met a few times before, but evidently I was forgettable. She very amicably shook my hand as if it was the first time we'd met.
Now, usually I'd be polite and not bring this to someone's attention, but because I'd met Babs before, (and also because wine), I knew (thought) that she wouldn't be offended if I called her out. So I did. And she's remembered me ever since.
Our conversation that night extended way beyond our re-introduction. After the wine tasting, Babs invited me to her store to look at a canary yellow diamond she'd just sourced. While ooh-ing and aah-ing over the sparkly gems, she shared with me that she, too, was divorced and that she used to live in Denver. The reason she left? She was held up at gunpoint one night in her store. Turns out there's a downside to living in a large metropolitan area.
Needless to say, I didn't give up my lease after that night, and my considerations of moving to Denver abrubtly stopped.
Since that night, she's become a good friend and a sounding board for all things business. She continues to be an inspiration to me, as she does to many other business people in our town. Each time we talk, whether it's as downtown business owners or as friends, I learn something new from her and about her (Graphology, really?), and I'm guaranteed a few laughs as well.
I'm so happy to feature her for this community series.
Alara Jewelry Bozeman is a fine jewelry gallery specializing in custom jewelry. We couldn't ask for better Downtown Bozeman neighbors! Babs Noelle is the owner of Alara, and we think she and her team are what makes her store so special. Keep reading to learn more about Babs and how community plays a role in her business!
What’s your favorite part of the work you do?
Seeing "that look" on people's faces. There's nothing quite like the light in people's eyes when they are handed a piece of jewelry that was custom-made, just for them--often using old gems and materials they couldn't even imagine being turned into something beautiful.
Sometimes "the look" is accompanied by happy tears, which I imagine is something few people in retail get to witness. I imagine it's because there is something ever-so-intimate about the jewelry design process, given the emotionally-laden nature of jewelry and gems.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
During the kinder, gentler months: camping and backpacking.
During the "baby, it's cold outside" months: dancing of nearly any kind imaginable, and often in the kitchen.
What does community mean to you?
I come from the smallest family you can imagine: I am the only child of two only children.
My parents did well by me, teaching me (way before it was "a thing") that family can be chosen. Having carried that sentiment throughout my life, I have found family wherever I have lived.
To me, "community" is the name most folks assign to this concept. I enjoy the close community of my team family, the sweet community of our client family, the supportive community of my fellow business owners, and then the broader community of this town, this valley, this wonderful place.
And since community is not a one-way street, I try to give of myself, my business, and my pocketbook to the philanthropic organizations that come a-calling.
At the end of the day, my family is very large, indeed!
Who do you look up to for creative inspiration or guidance?
My mother is a retired fashion designer; she owned a couture bespoke dress shop on Chicago's North Shore for quite a few years.
She went through the same type of Master's training in Germany that I did, except she learned the ways of textile and I learned the ways of metal.
Until her dementia diagnosis (she is about to turn 92), she served as a wonderful sounding board for all sorts of quandaries and milestones.
These days, I find that I find my own inspiration through those I informally and formally mentor in my own field. While there's "nothing new under the sun," I enjoy the light of every designer I meet. (Maybe that's why I carry the work of over 70 of them. I guess you could say I have a problem).
Where is your favorite place to eat, get a drink, etc?
What do you want your customers to know about your art?
That no one at Alara "acts" excited--we really are!
The entire mission of Alara is to return fine jewelry to its glory days of artisanal crafting, as opposed to mass-produced "whatever."
On the more serious side, we do not stock any jewelry or gems that are made, mined, or cut in countries that turn a blind eye to child labor. It's a grass-roots effort we've undertaken, and it's starting to see more and more buy-in.
How did you get started with your craft?
The long story is waaaaaay too long. Short story: serendipity.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Graphology. Whatever you do, don't sign a cocktail napkin...I can do some damage figuring people out that way!
What’s the #1 thing on your wishlist right now?
Summer. More summer.