Rock and Rapture: How an Obsession Turned into a Business
This is Part 1 in a series on the opening of Rock and Rapture, a new jewelry gallery, art house, and rock and roll lounge in San Francisco.
Shahasp Valentine was enamored with jewelry from a very young age. She remembers digging in her backyard as a child looking for gemstones. That interest built itself into a 30-year career in the jewelry industry—it took a few detours, but always landed her back to her passion.
Now Valentine is opening her first brick-and-mortar shop, Rock & Rapture, in San Francisco. With the tagline “jewelry • art • music” the shop will be a jewelry gallery, art house, and rock and roll lounge. In this series, you’ll read about how Valentine turned her jewelry obsession into a business, and we’ll share each milestone in the creation of Rock and Rapture, from developing the concept to opening the shop, which is scheduled for February 14, 2018.
Turning an Obsession into a Career
Valentine was always fascinated by design—and obsessed with being a shopkeeper. She fantasized about having her own store called Shahasp’s World. “It was going to be a multi-storied building where you would walk in, find everything you need to create your image, and walk out transformed. The store would have everything of my design: jewelry, clothing, shoes, handbags. Even a hair salon.” Her stores were going to be in San Francisco, Paris, London, New York.
“My mom says I was just born this way. I’ve wanted my own store as long as I can remember.”
Taking after her artist mom, Valentine started sewing at 11 and making jewelry at 13. She added ceramics to her repertoire in high school. To feed her sewing habit in college, Valentine worked at a fabric store and made clothes for friends and family, sewing costumes and accessorizing outfits for plays.
When her younger brother started college, the family needed help to finance his education. So she quit school and started working full time at Macy’s in their fine jewelry department. There Valentine had such a knack for selling and management that within a year she led the expansion of the fine jewelry department. At 23 years old, she was managing 24 people as the youngest fine jewelry manager in the store’s history.
Getting into the Entrepreneurial Spirit
In spite of her success at Macy’s, Valentine was burning out. She left to work in graphic design, which let her work on her first business on the side. She created all kinds of materials a gift store might want, including handmade greeting cards, hats, and earrings. In her spare time, she talked to shops all over San Francisco to get new accounts. Soon, the bulk of her business was jewelry-making.
Valentine became a one-woman show, running her business and making all the jewelry on her own. She enlisted the help of her friends to make jewelry when the orders started coming in, creating “recipe cards” with instructions on how to assemble the pieces so that her friends could assemble them easily. But it wasn’t enough to take to take the pressure off.
Then came a new material in the jewelry business. It was called Precious Metal Clay, or PMC, and it revolutionized how jewelers work with metal. She quickly became an expert at using PMC and gained a lot of press for her work with it—her methods were showcased in 14 different books.
Making Tough Decisions
Her work with PMC became its own business, Precieux Metal Clay Jewelry. Unlike with her previous jewelry, these were made in limited editions. She realized that the business was not scalable.
“I got to a point in the business where I had to make a decision. I could either sell out and create a production line, which I didn’t want to do. Or, I could raise my prices.”
At the same time, Valentine’s business was home-based and she realized that she missed being with people. She decided to put the business on the back burner and only do a few commissioned pieces while she worked somewhere full-time. She ended up working for Pavé Fine Jewelry in the Berkeley, later managing two locations and becoming Operations Director for the company.
Taking the Plunge
Valentine moved from Pave to a high-end jeweler in Menlo Park, learning a great deal about inventory management in the process. She was still doing some of her own pieces on the side, but she wasn’t satisfied with splitting her time between her full-time job and her passion. “I really just wanted to design jewelry,” Valentine recalls.
Knowing she had learned the management and operational skills she needed to run a store, Valentine was ready to take the next big step: owning her own jewelry shop. She’s calling it Rock & Rapture, the perfect name for a concept that blends fine jewelry with a rock and roll edge. The store will be primarily a gallery, where dozens of jewelry-makers and artists can display their work for sale.
“It’s fine jewelry, but not too fine. I wanted it to be accessible”, Valentine explains. She has a big vision for the space—a live music lounge where friends can play will add to the ambiance and bring in more local talent. She already has 20 jewelers and 10 artists ready to consign their work in her space.
Rock & Rapture launches February 14, 2018. We’ll follow Valentine over the next few months as she gets ready to open her store so we can share tips and insights on launching a retail space. In our next article, we’ll talk with Valentine about how she honed in on her store concept.