While prospective customers won't find rows of display cases in Wanderlust Jewelers
, they will find something unique: a custom jewelry design and production experience from beginning to end.
Founder and jeweler Wes Airgood consults with clients over a small collection of sample pieces in order to "start a conversation," as he puts it. Then he sets out to design the work with hand-drawn sketches.
"I'm really interested in building a relationship with the client and getting to know them and their parameters for the work," says Airgood. When it's time to bring the concept to fruition, he sets out to craft "something that's very special to that one person." Airgood focuses largely on bridal sets. All of his work is handcrafted.
Previously housed in a 450-foot-space above Presti's Bakery and Café in Little Italy, Wanderlust's new location is just a bit more than a mile away at 12429 Cedar Road in the Cedar Fairmont neighborhood, right above the Starbucks.
"I guess we have a thing about being above coffee shops," quips Airgood. He moved the business, which he helms with wife Heather, earlier this fall.
"We needed a place where we could put down roots and be part of community," says Airgood. "It was really important to us." The couple has a two-year-old daughter and is expecting another baby in January. They live in a century home in Cleveland Heights.
At nearly 850 square feet, the new location begs for Wanderlust's expansion. To that end, Airgood has built three workbenches and hopes to add a part time craftsperson in the coming months, perhaps an intern from the Cleveland Institute of Art. After that, he envisions up to five or six people working in the space.
"That's the nice thing about being a jeweler," says Airgood. "Everything is very small; space isn't really an issue. We could make an entire body of work and it will fit in a shoe box."
Airgood founded the business in 2011 after working for other jewelers and doing custom work on the side.
"When we decided to go this route, we thought we had come up with a smart business model that no one had ever done before," he says. "Then as we got more and more established, we realized that this is the definition of what a local hometown jeweler was for hundreds of years.
"We found we reinvented a very old wheel," he adds, noting that the custom one-on-one service Wanderlust provides is rare. "You don't see much of that today. We go back to a much older tradition."
All of his business come from word-of-mouth referrals, which often bloom into something more.
"More often than not, we get invited to wedding because we develop such a fast personal relationship," says Airgood, adding that the connections endure over years, with clients returning for the fifth anniversary, the tenth, the birth of the first baby and so on.
"That's the thing that I'm proudest of what we've built: our clients," he says. "They're not just customers, they become almost instant friends."
Wanderlust Jewelers invites the public to an open studio event on Thursday, Nov. 19, from 5 to 8 p.m. at 12429 Cedar Road, suite 25.