Payton Jewelry opens chic Boardwalk space at 952 Boardwalk.
KRISTI PAYTON grew up in Philadelphia but feels at home on the Boardwalk. She came to the shore every summer as a kid, hitting the beach in Ocean City and other seaside towns year after year.
“I consider myself a local. I might be considered a shoobie here, but I’m a local,” she said in a recent interview at the new Payton Jewelry boutique at 952 Boardwalk, the newest location for her growing jewelry and lifestyle business.
She and her husband Sean design the pieces, which she said are made to go directly from the garden to a night out; jewelry to live in and layer.
“It becomes part of you. They are pieces that you wear every day,” she said.
Kristi said she would not offer anything for sale that she would not wear herself.
“All of our jewelry is handmade in Doylestown,” she said.
The business got its start about 13 years ago.
“My husband and I started making jewelry when my daughter was born. I didn’t want to go back to work,” she said. “We’re both creative and artists in our own way.”
Sean is a carpenter by trade. Kristi started selling handmade wooden items at craft shows and farmers’ markets throughout the area, offering wine bottle holders and other pieces.
“I did every craft show from here to New York City. I’d do farmer’s markets. I loved it and I fed off the energy of the people,” Kristi said. She said Sean made her a wooden necklace that she wore every day. It would often get more attention than the items on display.
“I’d get so many compliments. I said, ‘Make some more of those necklaces. I’m going to sell them,’” Kristi said. “And the jewelry business was born.”
They would design and create the pieces at home. After about a decade of craft shows at the shore and beyond, Kristi and Sean opened their first brick and mortar location. With the first store open and a studio in Doylestown, they continued to expand with new locations, but last year decided to close two of the smaller stores.
Described as the flagship store, Payton Jewelry has a location on State Street in Doylestown.
They were able to offer curbside pickup at the downtown Doylestown location in 2020.
“(Customers) could come right through the downtown and we could run the bag out to them,” she said. She had already worked to establish a web presence even before the pandemic brought more people to virtual options.
“Our business online blew up,” she said.
Still, she wanted a beach town location.
“I’ve always wanted to open a store down here,” she said. “You never see a space like this open up.”
She said she designed the interior, while Sean and a crew put in long hours bringing her vision into existence. The grand opening came in May, with Mayor Jay Gillian participating in a ribbon cutting.
“That was a dream come true. It was a magical day, with lots of friends and family here,” Kristi said. “We took a leap of faith. We are all-in with this location.”
The interview took place in a wide back room, something like an extremely comfortable and well decorated employee break room. Kristi sits on a pillow on a bench along the wall while talking jewelry. The walls are white, painted with leaves.
“It’s a place for ourselves and our employees. We decided we’re going to host special events here off-season,” she said. “If you want to have a birthday party, a girl’s night, we can host it right here.”
Many customers think they expanded the store, she said, but it’s actually a little smaller than it was because of the lounge.
“We put up this wall. Everybody who comes in the store thinks it’s bigger,” Kristi said.
The jewelry pieces run from about $30 to $100, she said, in a range that is within reach on a spur-of-the-moment visit on a boardwalk night. She said the designs appeal to her daughter’s friends in their early teens, as well as their moms and grandmoms.
“We even have something for dad,” she said. A small section of the store is dedicated to men’s jewelry, including leather bracelets.
She has also designed a scent, available at the store, and offers other products. The hand-made necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry are the main attraction. There is a section for charms, which is seeing a renewed interest. Many customers want something to remember their visit to Ocean City or other event in their life. Said to have originated in 1889, charm bracelets have found new favor generation after generation.
Kristi is after something similar, with designs that are personal to the wearer and continue to say something each year.
“Some of our pieces are definitely on trend, but we pride ourselves on our classic appeal,” she said. “You won’t just wear it once. These are pieces that don’t go out of style.” The collection changes over time, she said, with new colors or designs, but it all works together. “I have pieces that have been in the collection for 10 years, like this bracelet,” she said, showing off her left wrist. “It’s a line built with classic pieces that you can layer. The entire collection is something that you can mix and match.” There are some signature pieces that have remained in the collection, she said. As the world turned introverted last year, with many regular outlets unavailable, Kristi and Sean went deep into their creative process.
“We’ve just been so busy. Every season we come out with a new line,” she said. Sean had some really cool ideas, she said, adding, “I was just designing all through Covid.” The new designs received a strong response, she said.
“I knew that we had staying power because we survived Covid. This year is slated to be our best year ever,” Kristi said.