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December 06, 2023

Hidden Gems: Gallery by Julez Bryant

esigner Julez Bryant can now add “retailer” to her long list of accomplishments. With an already thriving multi-brand gallery in Solana Beach, California, this past November she opened a secondary store in Atascadero, an area revered for its vineyards and natural beauty. The Gallery by Julez Bryant boutiques aim to flip the script for her business, as well as for the businesses of the designers she’s proud to carry. While she admits that she’s learning as she goes, the joy she feels in being part of the communities in which her stores are located is palpable, and she’s delighting in shifting the psychology of the traditional jewelry shopping experience. We were thrilled to connect with Julez to find out more about her unique point of view, to learn about some of the COUTURE designers who are performing well in her galleries, and to find out what’s special about these picturesque California towns.

"I started to question, how can we change this script a little bit?"

Julez Bryant

Image courtesy of Julez Bryant

COUTURE: What’s notable about your store? Basically, what is your unique point of view?

Julez Bryant: The intentionality in starting the stores was, we started to look at our business model and began wondering, why are jewelry designers struggling? Partially it’s because we’re artists, and if you use one side of your brain the other side might not be functioning as highly, but I thought it might be time to go direct to consumer to even out and create some balance. In the industry that we’re in, the retailer often writes the script, telling designers you can’t sell anywhere else, you can’t discount, you can’t do e-commerce, you can only sell to one store in the entire area, and yet clothing and apparel designers are not held to the same standards. All of these restrictions make it impossible for a designer to move to the next place.

Image courtesy of Julez Bryant

As a designer, you are buying gold, diamonds and gemstones up front, and then your work goes into stores on consignment, so by the time you get paid for products you’ve already purchased it might be 8 months. I started to question, how can we change this script a little bit?

It’s a hard transition, I’m not gonna lie. It’s not hard being in retail and it’s not hard being in wholesale, but it is hard to ride both currents and the expenses around all of these things are significant. I’m learning as I go!

From an aesthetic and emotional perspective, I wanted my collection to be seen as I designed it and dreamed it to be seen. In 20 years, I’ve never seen my collection set up in cases the way it’s meant to be because a store only has a finite amount of space, and they’ll carry maybe 20-30 pieces, so it’s never set up the way I designed it. I also wanted women to feel that they could go into a fine jewelry store and purchase and treat themselves. Women in traditional jewelry stores do not typically buy for themselves, it’s this old fashioned idea that you should only be receiving fine jewelry as a gift, so they’ll go into a traditional store for a repair and then their husband or partner has to come in and purchase for them. Why?! Are we not valuable enough to buy for ourselves?!

Image courtesy of Julez Bryant

Conversely, in a lifestyle store, women are buying for themselves, yet men don’t trust jewelry if it’s not in a fine jewelry store, they won’t buy a $5,000 piece in a lifestyle store. I want to change the psychology and create some balance, and that’s happening slowly but surely. Men are coming in and they trust the product; we’ve never had more of a male clientele until now. And women come in and they’re comfortable to treat themselves, but the lion’s share of the spend is men. It’s an interesting transition to see because previously it was 90% female and 10% male, and only for engagement rings. We’ve also gotten a lot of brides and grooms or brides and brides or grooms and grooms that come in, so that’s really cool.

Image courtesy of Julez Bryant

Where my new gallery is located, they don’t have access to anything! It’s 4 hours form LA and 3 hours from San Francisco, there’s an airport but it’s not easy to get into and out of. All these vintners are thriving, and they want to be able to make these kinds of purchases, but they don’t have access, so the store up there is more trend-driven whereas down here in Solana Beach it’s more casual and not as trend-driven. We are not LA, we’re not Orange County, it’s its own little animal. While there are affluent people, it’s a surf community. It’s a weird transition to figure out what the right brands are, so I chose them first and foremost for their ethics. And there are other brands I really want to carry but I don’t want to let the brand down and not have really good sell through and representation if I don’t think the client can understand it. I would say we’ve made a few mistakes where the consumer didn’t get it.

Image courtesy of Julez Bryant

People are always surprised when they come into our stores for the first time and realize it’s not stuffy, it kind of looks like my home, so they feel comfortable to come in and buy. I have also purposely tried not to do out of reach price points, and I’ve tried to do it without funding, slow and steady wins the race!

Julez Bryant, image courtesy of Julez Bryant

COUTURE: What COUTURE designers or brands (other than your own!) are your clients really responding to lately and why?

JB: In terms of the other designers we carry, it really makes me beam when I choose a collection. I have many designers I started with for whom I have deep respect for their business. I choose brands that have a shared value system so our team can speak honestly about their worth, who they are and the intention around their brand. But also understanding the community we live in, I had to choose brands that I just know my community will glom onto. It’s a learning curve in a way, I might try a brand and people don’t understand it, they’ll say it’s too artisanal, or if it’s too fancy they don’t get that either. It’s kind of an interesting thing when choosing brands and deciding what I feel are the right fit for our galleries.

All of the brands we carry are complementary to our brand and they are the best at creating what they create, so there’s no need for me to reinvent the wheel.

Zoe Chicco, image courtesy of Julez Bryant

Zoe Chicco is our trend brand; her work is perfect for someone who wants to start getting into fine jewelry. Having Zoe’s work in the store has brought in younger women who are wanting to build their collection and who really respond to her work.


Amáli is another brand people really love. It is gorgeous and the craftsmanship is impeccable.

ARTËMER, image courtesy of Julez Bryant

Artëmer is probably the biggest draw for us. I have a deep deep respect for them as people and to be one of their stockists has been really special. They have such a huge following online, but they aren’t carried in very many retailers, so the brand draws a lot of brides into the store. Their brand aesthetic is incredible and who they are as people is incredible, so I am deeply proud to carry them.

Image courtesy of Vigilante Coffee

COUTURE: Where’s the best spot in town to grab a quick lunch?

JB: In Solana Beach, there’s this little French place, Madeline Café Bakery. It’s on Cedros, which is the Design District for our area, it’s very French, run by two French men, and you can get a proper quiche or a crepe there. Claire’s, also on Cedros, is the first eco restaurant in our county and the food is delicious, it has the most delicious pastries and wonderful lunches. And I have to mention Vigilante Coffee in Oceanside, I go there every day!

We’re new to Atascadero, but in Atascadero, I love the Underdog because I’m always the underdog! Also, Brū Coffee House is this cool little place with yummy coffee and delicious wraps and things like that.

Image courtesy of @PacificCoastGrill

COUTURE: Where’s the best restaurant for entertaining clients or out of town guests?

JB: Near our flagship store, Pacific Coast Grill, it’s right on the ocean, right on the beach I grew up on as a teenager and it’s a great place for guests and people to come to get a real feel for our little beach community that’s so unique. Everybody should go if they come to town.

The food is really good in Atascadero. I love Justin Winery. The chef, Rachel Haggstrom, is the first of two, female Michelin star restaurateurs, she’s won two! She grows all her vegetables, everything is grown there on site, and she’s also a mom, she’s super low key, she’s a really neat person.

Image courtesy of Julez Bryant

COUTURE: What’s your favorite bar?

JB: I’m not much of a drinker, but the Belly Up Tavern on Cedros is famous, a lot of musicians got their start there and lots of famous musicians and bands have performed there throughout the years.

In Paso Robles, I’m told the Pony Club is a fun bar to go to. In both communities micro-breweries are huge. This place Tin City, in Paso Robles, which is all Americana micro brewers, has a Forklift Parade and thousands of people come out for it.

Image courtesy of La Paloma

COUTURE: What’s your favorite local cultural spot?

JB: In my hometown there’s a theater called La Paloma that’s an old theater that has the original seats, original architecture, it’s very cool. They do the releases for all the big surf films that come out; it’s an institution in Encinitas, which is next to Solana Beach. In San Diego, I definitely have to say Balboa Park. The heritage of Balboa Park is incredible, it has a fabulous museum, it’s a special treat to spend a day in Balboa Park.

Near our new gallery, I haven’t yet attended too many cultural events, it’s more about Americana. They do have an old car museum there that apparently has about 100 vintage cars.

Balboa Park in San Diego, California. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

COUTURE: What’s special about your town?

JB: Solano Beach, the county it’s in, is an authentic surf town, where the surf world, the culture around surfing started, literally. When you arrive you feel there’s no airs about it, it’s not a beach community that you have to have the perfect body, there’s an authenticity to it. I worked at one of the first organic groceries stores there as a teen, we had no meat and one of my clients was River Phoenix and his family, they introduced me to wheatgrass juice. (Which is why I can’t drink wheatgrass juice anymore, I had too much!)

The beach along the Camino del Mar, Solana Beach, California. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The energy around both towns where I’ve positioned my stores is all the good parts of America, like real vegans, real yogis, hardworking people that work the land with their hands and I think we align beautifully with both of the towns, and we align beautifully with both communities; there’s a shared value with both areas we’re in.

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