A decade has passed since Amanda Pinson first put down roots in Chattanooga. Opening her very first bricks & mortar store in Southside’s Historic Baggage Building was only a small step on the journey in which Pinson has combined a lifelong love of jewelry with a wealth of fashion and retail experience to create a unique fine jewelry boutique with a loyal global following.
Pinson began styling and designing jewelry for clients out of her home in Nashville while she raised her five boys. Clients would bring gowns for galas and special events to Pinson so she could match jewelry and shoes. She spent time traveling to estate sales, finding unique pieces and advising clients on combining pieces into a new design. As her sons got older, Pinson had more time to pursue her passion and it soon became clear that the business was taking on a life of its own. “I was already styling people’s jewelry, working with them and bench jewelers to make pieces,” says Pinson. “What I really wanted to do was to create an affordable jewelry line using my own designs, but I realized that producing the pieces on my own was going to be impossible.”
In 1997, as Pinson flipped though an issue of Vogue Magazine, she discovered the name of a young New York designer. She called the contact number and the designer happened to pick up her own phone. Pinson told the designer her story and that she was looking to work in collaboration with someone to have her designs created.
For four months, the two talked frequently about the possibilities. At the same time, Pinson was talking to her husband about what she should do. “My husband and I talked about it literally night and day…am I going to do this or not. Finally he just said to do whatever I thought I wanted to do but he really didn’t want to talk about it anymore,” laughs Pinson.
So with a flight to New York and an extremely successful meeting with her designer, Amanda Pinson Jewelry was born. Drawing on inspiration from everything from paintings to leaves on a tree, Pinson’s designs focus primarily on colored stones with gold accents. “When I first met the designer at her loft in New York, she had two picnic tables lined with boxes and boxes of loose colored stones. It was such a fabulous start! We literally picked stones out of the boxes and laid them out as earrings or necklaces,” says Pinson, with the excitement of a true artist. “Her husband was a photographer and he shot the pieces, loose and unset. She made the pieces and would send things to me in groups of about 30 pieces at a time. It was a perfect arrangement.”
While on vacation in New Orleans, Pinson stumbled upon a small shop and was immediately drawn to the young women who owned it. Although Pinson had made no formal plans to have a store of her own, she spent hours observing the shop’s operations and asking questions. It was a chance meeting that Pinson believes, like many of the steps on this journey, did not happen by chance. To this day, she considers this shop owner among her closest friends and one of her most trusted mentors.
At the time, Pinson didn’t dream that she would soon be putting the discoveries she made in New Orleans into practice in her own store. As her client base grew, Pinson spent a lot of time traveling from her home in Nashville to Atlanta, Birmingham and Knoxville with a car full of her own designs and pieces purchased from other designers. One day a client mentioned that it was too bad Pinson was not more centrally located. That got the wheels turning and within ten days, she made the decision to set up shop in Chattanooga’s Southside. She rented a small apartment and found the ideal store space—one that she completely renovated with the help of close friend and co-tenant, Revival owner Rodney Simmons.
“It got busy from the beginning,” says Pinson. “It was the summer of 2002 and I was just this woman who was about to turn fifty who moved to Chattanooga to do this crazy thing. It was an untested market and I had no business plan. My only plan was that if I made money, I could buy more jewelry. I’m not really sure what I thought was going to happen if I didn’t do that but I fortunately never had to find out.”
The store continues to grow and evolve. In 2009, Amanda Pinson Jewelry relocated to Warehouse Row. Pinson, once again completely renovated the space with the help of Simmons and Hefferlin+Kronenberg Architects. The location’s award-winning crisp white interior is the perfect canvas to showcase over 40 designers’ collections from all over the world.
“Women in Chattanooga are very sophisticated and stylish. They challenge us to keep up with them in our collections,” says Pinson.
In addition to the store in Warehouse Row, Pinson’s jewelry can also be found in the online boutique collection, Taigan. “Revival and I were two of the first ten stores to be invited to join Taigan. It was quite an honor,” says Pinson. “They have such an innovative approach and it’s such a beautiful site. It has really broadened our reach and has allowed us to transact safely online, although most customers still call us directly.”
Pinson points out that it is this direct contact with clients that is at the heart of the business. She and her associates focus on getting to know clients before advising them on selections. “Jewelry is very personal. Just as with everything else, we all need the freedom to explore our own likes and dislikes in jewelry. It’s not a one for all. Each of our clients is unique and therefore we are constantly searching for unique pieces that fit their personality,” says Pinson. “It’s not about selling something. It’s about the pleasure of playing with the jewelry and creating something our clients love.”
Ten years ago Pinson could not have imagined Amanda Pinson Jewelry would be where it is today. “I wish that more women would step out and pursue their passions like this,” says Pinson. “The store has kind of taken me on its own journey. I am not sure what the future will bring. I think I could do a lot of things if the circumstances were right. My husband likes to tell people, ‘I never know what she’s going to do.’ I sort of feel that way too and it’s a good feeling.”
Photography by Sarah Dorio, H+K Architects and courtesy of Amanda Pinson Jewelry
This article was originally published in 2011 October/November Issue of Chattanooga Magazine.