The words vintage, repurposed, and upcycle are everywhere these days. They can be found stamped on everything from weathered barn siding to vinyl records, but what about upscale jewelry, handbags, and watches? Jesse Johnson, the owner of Store 5a says yes.
Growing up with a passion for music, Johnson learned early on to appreciate things like classic guitars and the way that their age added to their value and sound, rather than making them obsolete. “When I was working in a recording studio, the guy who worked there taught me all about these old guitars that he collected. Each guitar had a unique story behind it, and I really fell in love with that history,” Johnson said. That love of vintage treasures stuck with him. When interning with his family’s jewelry store, The Diamond Cellar, Johnson was intrigued by all the older pieces that were being brought in by the store’s clientele. Inspiration struck, and Johnson got permission to start selling the jewelry online, something that hadn’t been attempted before. Where others saw dated jewelry and hard-to-move inventory, Johnson saw opportunity, and the current growth of both his online business and the brick-and-mortar stores on High Street and in Easton are proof positive of his success.
However, the real genius of Store 5a lies in its widespread appeal. Both experienced buyers and younger people looking to purchase their first name-brand bag or watch are able to do so at Johnson’s business. “Because the jewelry industry is a bit more permanent,” Johnson says, (unlike most other fashion which people tend to repurchase seasonally or annually) “clients will purchase pieces and keep them for years and years. We’re offering a way for them to be able to switch things out more routinely, to trade things in after a few years and put it toward another piece.” Johnson says he has some repeat clients who come to the store to rotate out their jewelry frequently, allowing them to follow trends in a way that would have been very expensive before Store 5a came on the scene. “There really isn’t anyone out there like us right now,“ he says.
The stores themselves are unique creations with an inviting feel. Johnson explains the reasoning behind the open, upscale, industrial feel of the Easton location, saying that he didn’t want it to feel like a jewelry store at all. “I wanted it to be open and inviting, the type of space where anyone would be comfortable shopping.” Each section is distinctly separated, but the whole shop flows in a way that invites people to move from one part to the next. In addition to paying close attention to the aesthetic design of the store, Johnson is also very involved in the business end of his company. All of the inventory that comes in is bought outright by the store, unlike at other secondhand and consignment stores. This allows Johnson and his employees to ensure that every piece he puts up for sale is the genuine article. Store 5a also uses the same team as The Diamond Cellar to inspect each new acquisition, lending them an air of trustworthiness that other secondhand shops may lack.
“We have our own photo studio and workshop in-house, so every piece we purchase gets photographed on a model for a good online reference, and we are able to refurbish older pieces back to their original, like-new state. Our resources enable us to assure our clients that they are getting the best value for what they’re selling and that we will take good care of even the most sentimental of pieces,” Johnson says. One such piece that came into the store was a very rare Channel Boy Bag that was a part of the first line to ever be brought to the US. “The woman we purchased it from had a Channel DVD that she brought with her which showed the bag actually being worn on the runway. That was pretty awesome for us to see, and you could tell it meant a lot to her,” Johnson says with a smile.
Having their own workshop on-site is another feature that Johnson is proud of, and it’s something that enables a level of customization that really sets them apart. He recalls proudly how that particular ability saved the day for a local couple not long ago. “They were looking to get married on a tight deadline, and the groom had very specific taste in jewelry. The bride told me that she had looked at every jewelry store in the city for what he wanted without any success,” Johnson says. When she came in, Johnson had the type of two-toned band that she was looking for, but it was plain. The groom specifically wanted three princess-cut diamonds placed into the center of the band. Johnson told the bride that he could source the stones for her and have them fitted into the band at the store’s workshop. “She ended up going for it with only a few days left before the ceremony,” he says, “but we pulled it off, and the groom was over the moon. They emailed me lots of pictures and kept telling me how perfect it was.” Being able to find specific pieces like that for clients is part of the fun of running his business, Johnson says, and it’s also the most rewarding part.
With two very successful brick-and-mortar stores in Columbus, Johnson says that the next step is to continue to grow his online presence. “We’re looking to find business in other cities, even if it’s only on the buying side. That is important, because it enables us to find pieces from retailers and clients who have unique items to sell that otherwise would never end up in Columbus. It allows us to diversify our inventory, and that connection to other locations brings added value to the market here. It’s a win for everyone.”
So whether clients are looking to part ways with old pieces of jewelry or are interested in acquiring affordable, pre-owned luxury goods, they are able to do so at Store 5a. “It’s really an amazing experience for both us and the clients,” Johnson says. “It’ll never get old because you just don’t know what’s going to walk through that door next.”