Historic American jeweler Seaman Schepps is back from its New York City retail hiatus with a new store on Madison Avenue.
The company — which has manufactured its collectible gems in Manhattan for 118 years — closed its store of 60 years on Park Avenue and East 58 Street during the pandemic’s darkest days. All the while, Seaman Schepps maintained its long-running stores in Nantucket, Mass., and Palm Beach, Fla.
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Now, the company finds itself in an upgraded space on a stretch of Madison that has considerably more foot traffic than Schepps’ previous stomping grounds. At 824 Madison Avenue at the corner of East 69 Street, the company now considers Hermès and Ralph Lauren among its neighbors.
“We are fortunate that the people who bought the building came to us, they wanted a quality core tenant,” said Seaman Schepps owner and president Anthony Hopenhajm. “We looked at the space and it was very interesting with two levels and four times the size of our old store. It’s on a corner and we have 30 feet of frontage on Madison.”
As an irreverent, all-American jeweler beloved for its classic shell earrings as well as fine pieces made of unconventional gems and fine wood, Seaman Schepps is well-positioned for the post-pandemic era. The company straddles a delicate line between what’s fancy and practical for everyday wear.
“I think that there is an excitement to come back to the lives we left behind for a bit,” Hopenhajm said. “I think people are socializing more and Americans like to consume — whether it’s fine foods or fine jewelry. So it’s really great to now have most of our clients within a 10- to 15-block radius of the store.”
He added that the location is in some ways a reflection of New York City’s evolving retail typography. “Our old store was more of a destination. Back in the day, we were on the way when someone walked across 58th Street from Bergdorf Goodman to Bloomingdale’s but that doesn’t exist anymore,” Hopenhajm said.
The 1,600-square-foot Seaman Schepps store has enough room to display the entire breadth of the company’s collection, along with museum-quality archival pieces that will be rotated on display for special viewing.
“We worked for eight months on the design. I had a vision of coming into someone’s living room and having it be calm, elegant soft blue with pale oak material — not a fussy place,” Hopenhajm said.
While gold prices are on the rise, Hopenhajm said precious gems are harder to come by — as well as the component perhaps most important to the Seaman Schepps brand: its craftspeople. “Gold has gone up but one of the most difficult things for us to find is craftspeople to make our product. We have a dearth of young people and it usually takes a few years before you can be a lapidary or make our jewelry. It’s difficult to fill positions we need to fill. Fortunately we have a crew that’s been with us for years, some artisans have been on staff for 20 or 30 years,” Hopenhajm said.
The Madison store is a turning point in Seaman Schepps’ long history, riding on the excitement of a successful past few years.
“We had shops in areas where a lot of people had weekend houses and started living full time. Of course in Nantucket, we are in the middle of Main Street and own the building and in Palm Beach on Worth Avenue. We have clients with multiple residences, and during this pandemic, they lived in their seasonal homes rather than the city,” Hopenhajm said. “We were beneficiaries of clients spending time there — people took more time to look and buy something special that’s not made in large quantities. There was a flight to quality and originality.”
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