By Robbie Kaye

Ginger Cleland, owner of Designs In Gold Antique & Estate store in Solvang, moved from St. Louis to the valley in 2008 with her husband Jim.

One of my closest friends, a fellow Missourian, introduced me to Ginger and from that moment, I knew I had to interview her.  I wanted to know more about her and her journey and the determination and verve with which she created her very successful business in Solvang.

One can tell that each piece in her store is curated with great care and knowledge. Like all the beautiful pieces in her store, she shines and welcomes all who walk in.

Was it an easy decision to move to the valley?

The decision to move wasn’t difficult. I knew that running a small independent jewelry store in a metropolitan area was going to become incredibly difficult with the economic crash on the way. The biggest challenge we had was that our son, Albert, was a senior in high school. He was 18 at the time so he stayed in Missouri for his last year of high school.

We sold our store in St. Louis and drove three days west in a U-Haul with the contents of our store.

How did you get interested in the jewelry business?

My initial interest was in business, and jewelry became the product. When I was in college at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, I met my husband Jim, who owned Southern Illinois Gem Company. I loved him and his store and the idea of running a business with him, and it happened to be jewelry.

Where did you start, and how long did it take to get to where you are now?

We married in May of 1987 and by September we had moved to Mascoutah, Ill., for family support and opened our first store in St. Louis that was an hour away. That store failed after the first year.

We then had an opportunity to lease a space in the lower level of a fine antique gallery in the Central West End of St. Louis.  This is where and when I had the good fortune to mentor under Marianne Kovac of West End Antiques Gallery. She was a gorgeous, smart woman with a keen eye for the finest of antique furniture, accessories, silver, fabrics and fashion.  She taught me the art of the deal in the antique furnishing world in 1990.

What were some of the challenges you faced in transitioning to your own business?

The biggest challenge was being young and convincing people much older than I that I had some authority in these subjects.

What are some steps needed to build a good business reputation?

The steps are don’t lie, cheat or steal, pay your bills, and live within your means.  Product knowledge and length and depth of experience in the jewelry profession only come by doing it daily.

What is the most rewarding thing about selling jewelry?

I find it very rewarding meeting people with the same appreciation of fine craftsmanship and skill that it requires to create an outstanding piece of jewelry or fine art.

What was the most challenging thing about opening your own jewelry store?

The most challenging thing … is the time in takes to build a good reputation. People have to have confidence and trust in your knowledge and ability to care for their personal jewelry.

How do you decide on what estate or antique jewelry you will buy and then sell?

When purchasing antique and estate jewelry I always start with construction and how well it was made. Then I look at aesthetics. Once the piece passes those first two criteria I look at cost, and can it be a good value for my customer.

What advice would you give to an entrepreneur just starting out?

My advice … would be patient and have confidence in your God-given talents and ability.

What is your favorite time of year in the valley, and why?

My favorite time of year anywhere is springtime!  I was born in March, so I love the rebirth of the season. It reminds me there is always the opportunity to start fresh.

How can people contact you?

You can typically find me at the store: Designs In Gold, 1640 Copenhagen Drive in Solvang (805-693-8700).


Photographer and artist Robbie Kaye is the author of “Beauty and Wisdom” and is working on completing the “Ladies of the Valley” documentary. Follow her at @ladiesofthevalley @robbiekaye on Instagram.