New Studio

David Olmsted of AL David works on a custom diamond necklace in the business' new studio located on Carlisle Street in Gettysburg. (Ken Knox/Gettysburg Times)

To anyone walking by the ALDavid storefront of the former Times building on Carlisle Street, it may appear that the boutique jewelry store - which opened not even a year ago in October and quickly established itself as a destination business for unique, custom-made items - has already closed its doors. But in truth, the store has merely relocated and is currently thriving in the much smaller space behind the now-vacant storefront.

"We haven't gone out of business!" laughs Michelle Manahan, who co-owns the business with her fiance, David Olmsted. "There have been some rumors, but that's not the case. We've just revamped our business model."

Now located in suite 210 of the same building, ALDavid no longer has store hours, but has adopted a by-appointment-only model to offer a more intimate experience with its customers.

"In our first year of business, we found that our customers really enjoyed the privacy and the one-on-one interaction that we provided," Manahan explains. "Most people became used to calling and setting up an appointment for that custom design, so we found that was more important to our clients than having a storefront with a traditional jewelry store atmosphere."

Manahan, a native of Gettysburg who studied at the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica (and who met Olmsted in Denver while they were both attending the American Gem Society Conclave and later worked with him at Scott and Co. in New Oxford after he relocated to Adams County to work there), says she believes the smallness of the town lends itself to creating the desire for a more discrete experience. "A lot of people in this area like that they come in and sit one-on-one and they don't have to worry about who's walking into the store and maybe seeing them purchase an engagement ring or an anniversary gift," she states. "And they love the fact that they can sit down with David one-one-one as the designer and the creator and start with that sketch of what they envision."

"You don't get that experience with a lot of jewelers where you're dealing with a salesperson," Olmsted adds. "It's kind of the old-school philosophy, where everybody has their jeweler. He's the guy they've trusted for so many years, who gives them exactly what they want. Sometimes that's an original piece, sometimes it might be a restoration, or just an appraisal, but in this setting, I can give the customer exactly what they want, and there's no B.S. when it comes to evaluation. I can just be straight-up honest with them."

Sharing a passion for colored gemstones, the pair has hosted several roundtable discussions both in and out of state that have attracted customers both locally and elsewhere, and they say that the revamped business model has allowed them the freedom to be more creative and enjoy their lives outside their business.

"To do strictly custom and restoration and repair is not the norm, by any stretch," Olmstead posits. "Typically stores will invest X amount of dollars in inventory and cases and incur that overhead. What I don't like about that is that is you're trying to sell what you happen to have in stock, and to me that's high pressure."

Having recently been contacted to do private-label manufacturing and create a patented line for companies on the West Coast, Olmsted says not having to worry about maintaining a storefront allows him to get even more work done, while the quality of the work keeps him as happy as his customers. "It's more of what we really love to do instead of what we have to do to survive," he notes. "Every day is different. Every day it's a new challenge. It's a new set of circumstances and emotions or sentiments that goes with a piece. And that's huge. It's a great way to do business."

"It's win-win," Manahan interjects. "We have our work-life balance that we've missed for the past year, and customers have bragging rights about a piece nobody else has. It makes everybody happy."

Summing up the new business model, Manahan adds, "Pretty much everything that we create jewelry for is for happy occasions, and for us, we love the relationships that we build. Not to mention the beautiful jewelry we get to create."

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