Santa Barbara Business Reports by Ray Estrada
In the midst of Fiesta, a gem has emerged on State Street where a stationery store struggled for two decades.
Self-taught jeweler Scott Gauthier gave a media preview Aug. 2 to his newest store at 921 State St. where the Paper Star once sold wedding invitations, business cards and sundries. The new jewelry store opens to the public Aug. 11.
“We used to come from Phoenix to Santa Barbara to escape the heat,” Gauthier said. “I think State Street is one of the prettiest streets I’ve ever seen.”
Gauthier said he waited for years to find the right space on State Street to open his Santa Barbara store. He has two others in Phoenix. Now, he and his wife, Coco, have bought a home on the South Coast and she is expecting their child.
Gauthier designed the new store to look more like a museum than a shop. He hand crafts every piece of his jewelry, which ranges in price from about $1,900 to more than $300,000. However, he said the price of rubies, for example, has increased some 200 percent in recent years. So, many of his one-of-a-kind designs will greatly increase in value soon, he said.
One ring he showed to the media had a revolving pearl in it. Another carries one of the largest emeralds one can find in Santa Barbara. “We really think the economy will come back,” he said. “People want to get the best piece for their money.”
Gauthier said he has 13 jewelers making his designs “the old-fashioned way.” He said, “These guys are the best of the best.”
Most of his operations are in Phoenix because Santa Barbara city officials don’t want him using some of heat-intensive processes on State Street. He said he does some of the finishing work at the new store.
Gauthier displayed some of the rare raw stones he uses to make his creations. He showed a raw piece of mother of pearl and then opened a show case to display the finished product: a necklace carrying the mother of pearl with gold inlay running down the middle of it.
He lamented the fact that the design process used by many jewelers has abandoned Old World tradition for mass-produced and machined pieces.
Gauthier said he started out as a janitor in a jewelry store, went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison and for the past 23 years has been producing his own designs of collectible jewelry.
A private gathering will be hosted by Gauthier at his new store from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 11, which will benefit the Dream Foundation and Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation. For information, call (805) 335-2424.
Here’s the Scoop with Beer!
In one of the one of the more unusual Fiesta events, the new owners of McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream and the owner of Telegraph Brewing teamed up Aug. 1.
The event was not just an ice cream social or beer bust; it was billed as “McFiesta,” an ice cream and beer tasting. Actually, one of John Steinbeck short story characters named “Doc” was known to order a “beer shake.” So, why not drop a scoop in a beer?
A couple hundred revelers show up at Salon U on outer State Street on opening night of Fiesta to sample Brian Thompson’s Fiesta lager and his dark porter beer. A scoop of McConnell’s chocolate ice cream tasted alright in the porter. Samples of McConnell’s frozen delights also were passed out generously.
Outside Salon U, one of McConnell’s new owners, Michael Palmer, stood in the company’s new ice cream truck, which will be touring the city during Fiesta. He said the owners plan to keep the six-decade-old brand the same as it was when it was founded in Santa Barbara. Made in a plant on Canon Perdido Street, the ice cream contains all natural ingredients.
Palmer and Eva Ein and Barry and Kira Fay, teamed up to buy McConnell’s for an undisclosed amount last year from Jim McCoy who purchased the business from the McConnell family in 1963.