Rapaport Magazine

More Than a Store

Collectors from around the world immediately feel at home at McTeigue & McClelland in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

By Joyce Kauf
McTeigue & McClelland
Welcoming people to our world was the guiding principle in designing our new store,” says Walter McTeigue, co-owner, along with Tim McClelland, of McTeigue & McClelland. A recent move a short distance from their original Great Barrington, Massachusetts, location to a hilltop mansion gave them the opportunity to showcase their contemporary collections of exclusive diamond and gemstone jewelry amid the ambience of an old-world atelier.
   McTeigue and McClelland both have garnered an international reputation for their craftsmanship, but it was a chance meeting in an elevator in New York City’s Diamond District that led to their now almost 20-year collaboration. “It was instant friendship,” recalls McTeigue, who worked as director of purchasing at Harry Winston in New York. But this fourth-generation jeweler wanted to try something completely different from the profession he had “fallen into.” He moved to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts to become an organic dairy farmer, readily admitting that brief stint “renewed my appreciation for the jewelry business.” McClelland, a freelance jewelry designer who cites the musician Duke Ellington, the artist Saul Steinberg and the Art Nouveau jewelry designer René Lalique as inspiration, had also relocated to the area. In 1998, they decided to open a store in Great Barrington, drawing on their respective and complementary skills — McTeigue’s business expertise and McClelland’s creative talents.

From Customers to Collectors
   Great Barrington is located in the Berkshires, a bucolic setting that is home to many artists and cultural attractions. Recognizing its popularity as a vacation destination for people from New York and Boston, as well as the rest of the country, McTeigue says he and McClelland made a very concerted effort to work with local bed and breakfasts, hotels and restaurants to promote their store. However, they soon found that area residents constantly brought their friends in to see their designs and those friends in turn recommended McTeigue & McClelland, with some even making a specific trip to the store, often for a custom-designed diamond engagement ring. In fact, the partners refer to the people who buy their jewelry as “clients” or “collectors” rather than customers. “Collector better expresses the kind of relationship that we develop and nurture. Furthermore, we realized that many truly have ‘collections’ of our original designs — even to the point of loaning them out for museum exhibits,” McTeigue explains.
   Becoming a destination store, unlike a walk-in environment, gave them the impetus “to break all the rules,” says McTeigue. “Neither Tim nor I had ever been in the retail business, but we realized that the people who came to our store already had a jeweler back home. This was our opportunity to create unusual pieces that would elicit a response, ‘I don’t see this at home. Maybe I’ll buy it.’”
   For McClelland, their endeavor reflects the place “where art jewelry and fine jewelry collide.” Within about eight years, the partners had outgrown their original space. In their new store, collectors experience jewelry the way it was made 100 years ago.

Landmark Setting
   Built in 1850, this local historical landmark was originally a private home and then a church for 90 years. With over 6,000 square feet, the mansion is four times bigger than their first store. “We approached the interior as designers, not retailers,” notes McTeigue. “But we didn’t want the beauty of the building to distract from the jewelry. Rather, we wanted people to be drawn into our world and focus on the jewelry.”
   Essentially starting with a blank slate, they reused or salvaged as much as they could of the building’s original elements, including the two-foot-thick walls and the woodwork. Windows surround the entire first floor, which is devoted to jewelry and exhibits. The workshop, easily accessible to customers, is on the second floor.
   The collections are displayed in custom-made walnut cabinets that stand on legs to enhance the open, spacious feeling. The wrought-iron railings and the banisters were designed by a local blacksmith. A handmade rug from Nepal crafted by master Tibetan weavers in shades of blue, brown and plum red provides accent colors. “We emphasized the patina of the materials,” says McTeigue, which is evident in the golden glow of the sun filtering through the building’s many windows.
   Bridal is McTeigue & McClelland’s top-selling category. Colored sapphires, emeralds, yellow diamonds and rubies are also popular choices and spinel, turquoise, tourmaline and aquamarine are incorporated in collections, which range from Flame and Flora to Belle Époque and Quadrille. They also sell estate jewelry. Displays vary by type of merchandise rather than collection but McTeigue acknowledges, “We are still experimenting because we have more space.”

Creativity on Display
   The larger space enabled McTeigue and McClelland to “create more than a store” by dedicating one section of the first floor to special exhibits. “We wanted to show the jewelry in the larger context of the creative process — something to be appreciated and not necessarily for sale,” explains McTeigue. Their initial exhibit features a cuff bracelet, on loan from one of their collectors. Called the Monarch Triptych, it shows the metamorphosis of a monarch butterfly in gold, platinum, white and yellow diamonds and many colors of enamel. On the wall above the display case, the original design is rendered as a painting by McClelland.
   A future exhibit will be devoted to the work of McTeigue’s great grandfather, Walter P. McTeigue, who in 1895 founded McTeigue and Company, crafting designs for Tiffany & Co., Black, Starr & Frost and Shreve, Crump & Low, among many other prestige jewelry retailers.
   “The store is a genuine reflection of who we are — not pretentious even though we deal in high-end jewelry,” says McTeigue. He likes to compare their store to a maison, the French term that connotes high quality. But, as he also points out, “It combines house and home together.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - November 2014. To subscribe click here.

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