Gorjana Westfield Century City

LOS ANGELES Many companies growing their retail footprint today are born online, direct-to-consumer brands and/or backed by venture or private equity capital. Jewelry line Gorjana is an exception.

The Laguna Beach, Calif.-based company, owned by Gorjana Reidel and Jason Griffin Reidel, employs more than 100 people. It began in 2004 with the couple bootstrapping and traveling from store to store and doing the trade show circuit, showing their products to buyers. Two years ago, the business opened its first door in its hometown and now has a total of seven stores in Laguna Beach, Venice on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Irvine Spectrum Center in Irvine and Westfield UTC in La Jolla, along with the West Village and NoLIta in New York.

The brand has another round of stores slated for openings later this year and into next. Westfield Century City is first up, bowing in October. That will be followed by San Francisco in a street location early next year; Americana at Brand in Glendale, Calif.; Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose in late summer 2019, and Scottsdale Quarter in fall 2019, expanding the firm’s retail footprint to Arizona.

The stores are a mix of mall and off-mall locations, speaking to the company’s careful approach to looking at each market on its own.

“We’re not creating a cookie-cutter formula with retail,” Jason said. “Each market’s going to be different and you’ve got to treat each market individually.”

For holiday, the brand is set to release a stone necklace line, incorporating diamonds and rubies, marking the first time such materials are being incorporated into its collections. The necklaces, retailing for $70, will be sold in Gorjana’s stores and its online shop exclusively. The company also has a new web site — with improved backend functionality and front end aesthetics — due out in January.

The Reidels say they’re continuing to grow the brand’s footprint backed by data they’re collecting on the back-end via the site and wholesale partners to forecast demand, coupled with the results so far of the existing fleet of stores.

“I think we’re filling a missing niche,” Gorjana said. “I think people want jewelry that is approachable and affordable and is easy. I think we are really providing that for them and that’s not discriminatory based on geography. We feel like we have customers everywhere and we have data based on our e-commerce and our wholesale partners. We also believe that retail isn’t dying; it’s just evolving. For us to be part of that evolution and be the people helping spearhead that, is exciting for us.”

Jason added the stores in operation have so far been profitable.

“To Gorjana’s point, the jewelry reaches a really, really wide demographic, it’s multi-generational and it’s well priced,” he said. “We’re seeing really high conversions. I think a lot of retailers are struggling right now because they don’t have as many people coming through the doors. For us, we don’t really know the difference because we’ve been opening these doors during a time when people are saying retail’s down.”

The line does sit somewhere in the middle of the competitive landscape. It’s not luxury price point jewelry with guards standing in suits just outside the door, nor is it fast fashion in the vein of a Claire’s. It’s also not so directional in its designs, Gorjana said, that its pieces speak to only one customer group.

Instead, the brand’s dainty pieces, meant for layering, range from $30 to $250 for bracelets, necklaces, rings and studs. Its stores largely reference Laguna Beach’s coastal aesthetic with light woods and brass accents.

Kendra Scott — another moderately priced jewelry brand — is also growing with its first store in Manhattan’s SoHo opening recently. It’s a much larger business, with 80 doors, that confirmed in late 2016 Berkshire Partners bought a minority stake in the business.

Gorjana, while smaller, is in a different situation with growth fueled by the company’s own money. The Reidels are sole owners and haven’t brought on outside investors to drive their retail and other growth plans. Under their guidance, the brand has its physical retail fleet in addition to more than 1,000 wholesale partners that include Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Shopbop, Revolve, Stitch Fix and a number of specialty boutiques.

“We’ve had a lot of interest and it’s tempting,” Jason said of outside investors. “We just haven’t because the stores are doing well and I think that’s an important part. You see a lot of these brands and they’re rapidly expanding and they’re rapidly expanding with investor money. We’re profitable with our own money. It makes it harder but it’s definitely doable.”

“It’s good though because it forces us to make very good decisions about where we’re opening and why and not get loose with it,” Gorjana added. “So that’s a benefit of not having [outside investors].”