When Adorn & Flourish (7027 Stockton Avenue, El Cerrito, 510.367.8548) opened its doors in May 2012, Proprietor Kate Peterson described the greeting given by the neighborhood as "so receptive, so happy, and welcoming," which, in turn, describes her artistically appointed shop. Adorn & Flourish features the works of 20 mostly local artists, including Kate Peterson Designs – Peterson's jewelry business – and is home to three other artists who work in studios in the back. Ever evolving, the shop, prompted by requests from customers, will offer classes beginning in March taught by resident artists.
Creating a community of artists
This unique shop concept developed over time, with its genesis in Peterson's early and therefore difficult efforts trying to get her jewelry into retail shops around town. At that time, she wished she could just "buy a little piece of property" in the stores to display her work. That opportunity presented itself in the form of an art gallery, where she sold her jewelry in a large shared retail space. When she left the gallery, the "biggest internal message" she came away with was: "It's not just about me." Peterson wanted other artists involved. She wanted support and a community. Just as important, she wanted to help people. "I needed that [support from a community], but I didn't get it when I was at that place and had nowhere to go," she explained. "I wanted to create a friendly environment where we could give people an opportunity to show and sell their art."
It wasn't until she moved into her current location that she was able to transform her vision into reality. Peterson pointed out that many artists are shy and introverted and therefore find marketing a challenge. Her business was originally next door, sharing a smaller storefront that was home to a little gallery, but when the larger retail space was available, Adorn & Flourish grew into its current model. Peterson calls the five small studio spaces "a bonus." Artists rent display space for $35 to $40 a month and retain 100 percent of the profit from selling their goods in the shop. "I'm not trying to make a living off of the rent I’m getting at the store," Peterson said. "It's really a labor of love."
In return, the resident artists flourish and offer advice and support in this community, as opposed to, for example, working alone in a garage studio or paying high rent for studio space. One benefit of Peterson's business model is that she doesn't have to buy or change out inventory, or mark down products to move them out. "I have no overhead as far as products," she said. The artists change out their wares, weekly or monthly, and bring in new work based on customer response.
Peterson has been fortunate to not have to seek out artists and their creations. "They find us by word of mouth," she said. Though many are local to the Bay Area, a few hail from Southern California or other parts of the state. Peterson and her assistant and fellow artist, Marika Munkres, set up a jury process for selecting artists. Their goods can be in the same category, such as jewelry and scarves, as products that are currently being carried in the shop, but they need to be different so as not to compete. Peterson and Munkres are looking for unique handcrafted goods, quality workmanship, and a style that fits in with Adorn & Flourish's aesthetics, which Peterson describes as "simple, elegant, and contemporary, but also with a rustic edge."
All artists are subject to a three-month trial period. Some artists have come and gone; either their products didn't sell or they were expecting greater foot traffic, which Peterson admits is lacking on the two blocks of retail nestled in a residential area. While Stockton Avenue doesn't produce the foot traffic of, say, Solano Avenue in North Berkeley, Peterson asserted, "We consider ourselves a destination." That notion seems to be working for many of the artists who have been selling their work at the shop since the beginning.
Peterson never considered opening her shop in Berkeley. Having grown up in Kensington, one town over, and residing in El Cerrito, she was committed to her hometown and looking for a location close to where she lives, in a nice, friendly neighborhood. Peterson has relied primarily on word of mouth to position Adorn & Flourish as a destination point; however, she is continually marketing the shop via social media such as Yelp and Facebook, and hosting trunk shows and other events.
Peterson as jewelry designer
Peterson is thrilled when people tell her Adorn & Flourish is "a wonderful idea" and thank her for being in the neighborhood and helping the community and artists. "It makes me feel good," she enthused. "I can go home at night and feel that I contributed and participated." That said, Peterson is juggling running her shop, maintaining studios, and creating her line of jewelry, the latter of which has become a monumental challenge. "I would really like to have more time to be more creative and experiment with new things and materials," she said. "KPD is evolving as well."
She is concentrating the next two years on expanding her jewelry design business website and etsy presence, and then having Kate Peterson Designs carried in boutiques across the country. "It's important to get my brand out there and get my jewelry seen online," she explained, of her strategy and priorities. Meanwhile, most of her creative time is spent designing commissioned pieces. Peterson thrives on people appreciating and loving how her jewelry makes them feel and how special it is to them. "I'm blown away by the feedback that I get," she said, with wonderment. "It's really amazing and it makes me feel wonderful that I'm doing the right thing."
"Doing the right thing" was having a "breakthrough moment" realizing that her massage therapy business wasn't fulfilling and that her retail management career was not defining who she was and wanted to be, and not getting her to where she wanted to go. Peterson sought to be true to herself and find, as she describes it, "the thing that feeds my soul while helping others." She got – and continues to get – a lot of support from her family, especially her father, along her journey. Over time, serendipitous events unfolded, and she "opened" herself up to those opportunities. A self-described part healer and part artist, Peterson sought to bring those talents together to join with the community and to support local artists.
Adorning and flourishing
It's only fitting that her shop borrows from Kate Peterson Designs' tagline – "adorn and flourish." When you adorn yourself, your body, and your home with something that is meaningful and self-healing – whether it be an image, word, color, symbol, talisman, or gemstone – you flourish and become "the best possible and authentic you," she explained. Peterson has always loved stones and shells, which she collected as a child. "They brought me peace, calmness, and authenticity to myself," she said. Now, using those stones in her designs, she is creating adornments that her many and loyal clients are proudly wearing. In setting up her shop, Peterson is helping the community of local artists and the community at large to flourish.
To see more photos of Kate Peterson and Adorn & Flourish, go to The Dress at 50.