Great Barrington jewelery store to close showroom, forge on with creativity in workshop

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GREAT BARRINGTON A high-end jewelry store that has served the Berkshires from South County for 21 years will close its showroom by early January but leave its workshop open, hoping to attract a large retail partner to help market a new line of items.

McTeigue & McClelland, which has been located in a restored mansion at 454 Main St. since 2014, has decided to close its showroom because its bricks-and-mortar operations have been struggling under the current retail conditions. They will be holding an inventory-reduction sale that begins Monday.

Co-owner Walter McTeigue could not be reached for comment Friday, but he recently told a jewelry industry publication that the store's business model is "untenable" in a retail climate that tends to favor bigger brands that can devote large sums to marketing.

"We're an anomaly," McTeigue told JCK Magazine. "We're a small, independent design-maker, and we make all our jewelry and retail it all ourselves," he said.

Being located far from a major urban center has made it difficult for McTeigue and co-owner Tim McClelland to effectively market their brand.

"It's difficult to get the kind of exposure we need to sell the kind of jewelry we're making," McTeigue said.

"Our fatal flaw is that we have no interest in social media," he said. "We do it, but neither Tim nor I have been very interested in it."

As their retail operations close, the two men intend to use their workshop to create an engagement and wedding ring collection, known as Wildflower, that features designs McClelland has been creating for more than a decade.

McTeigue told JCK Magazine that the two men already have created a website for the new collection, but that everything else regarding their new venture is "a work in progress" as they look to form a partnership with a large retail partner to help market their items.

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"We realize we're not the right people to get the collection out there in the world," McTeigue said, "so, we want to partner with someone who has the resources and exposure to really get it out."

McTeigue, originally from the New York City area, is a fourth-generation gem dealer whose great-grandfather purchased stones for Tiffany & Co., the famous New York-based jeweler, at the beginning of the 20th century.

According to JCK Magazine, Tiffany & Co. is first on McTeigue and McClelland's "wish list" of potential partners. But on Monday, the French luxury group LVMH agreed to purchase Tiffany & Co. for $16.2 billion. LVMH also owns three other famous luxury retail brands: Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Bulgari. The company's owner, billionaire Bernard Arnault, is one of Europe's richest men.

The transaction is expected to be finalized next year.

According to The Associated Press, firms that sell luxury goods have been "wrestling" with the changing habits of shoppers, who increasingly are buying items online. Also, a drop in international tourism to the U.S. has luxury goods firms worried about an economic slowdown in China, which is a major market for them.

Tiffany has been working on plans to appeal to younger consumers who use the internet to shop and hunt for deals on merchandise, according to the AP.

Overall, U.S. sales of luxury goods, excluding jewelry, have dropped 2.7 percent this year, compared with a 3.1 percent jump in overall retail sales, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks sales over several types of payment methods.

McTeigue and McClelland, who originally met in an elevator in New York City, opened their business in Great Barrington in 1998. They purchased their current location, a mid-19th-century English Gothic revival mansion at Main and Maple streets, for $625,000 in June 2013. They spent about a year renovating the structure before moving in. The total cost of the transaction, including the renovations, was about $1.1 million.

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6224.


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