On Coast Village Road, the Gaspar name has been associated with fine jewelry and customer service since 1982. The family-run business started by Maria and Art Gaspar was a must-stop for anyone looking for custom fabrication of anything diamond, sumptuous pearls, gold earrings or watches, to name a few of the items that filled the cases of their jewelry boutique.
During the early years of their business, while the Gaspars were juggling work and family, their two daughters, Katie and Dominique, could often be seen scampering around in the back room or behind the counters at the small shop at 1213 Coast Village Road.
In 2013, after one of the great retail runs in the 93108, Gaspar decided it was time to hang up his jewelers loupe. The announcement was met by a collective sigh and a bit of a tear. A closing sale was held, with people lining up down the block for days.
The event brought out just about everyone who had ever done business with A.H. Gaspar Jeweler. People were not just looking for a piece of bling but to bid farewell to a family that has been at the center of Montecito business for so many years.
I was one of the customers who was sad to see Gaspar’s go. As did so many others, I liked to peak over the dutch door to say hello after grabbing a coffee at the iconic Tutti’s, which became The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
Fortunately, my sentimental sadness was quickly replaced when I found out that the now-grown daughters, Katie and Dominique, were taking the reins from their dad and creating their own signature style of a fine jewelry store with a modern twist.
A familiar face is also on board for the new venture, mom and grandmom Maria Gaspar-Baltieri, whose official title is store manager, marketing and communications director at Gaspar Jewelers and pearl aficionado. When I stopped by the newly renovated Gaspar’s to express my surprise at the turn of events, she told me “people just did not want us to go.”
Katie’s love of jewelry began as young girl when her parents would bestow upon her rocks, gems and baubles from their buying trips for the jewelry store.
“I recall being mesmerized,” she related, “and would spend hours in my bedroom examining the rocks and organizing the box.”
Brought in after school and on weekends to assist in displaying jewelry and cleaning the cases, Katie discovered her entrepreneurial bent when she set up her own stand of homemade, friendly, plastic jewelry in front of the store in sixth grade. Up until she took a diamond grading course at the Gemological Institute of America when she was 19, she was convinced she would be on the business side of retail jewelry.
As it turned out, she said, “I LOVE diamonds.” So in early 2001, she began working as a graduate gemologist while pursuing her certification.
Her sister, Dominique, a real estate investment analyst for an international asset management company in London, also had the entrepreneurial spirit early on. When her sister approached her late last year about taking over the store upon their dad’s retirement, she was reticent. While Katie had been working alongside Art for more than 10 years, Dominique was always on the sideline. She pitched in during the holidays and when she was home from overseas, but her involvement was mostly limited to online buying and heading up the digital marketing side, including social media.
Dominique’s role is now primarily focused on strategy and as support for Katie.
“Living in London, I have great opportunity to keep an eye on the European jewelry and fashion trends,” she explained. “Part of our new look is a fresh, younger approach to a younger demographic while continuing to cater to our long-time customer base.”
The sisters have posted much of their products online via social media and their website, www.gasparjewelers.com, but they also offer their products on Facebook, where they are quickly gaining an engaged following.
Both sisters are huge advocates of green, sustainable living. Katie has an AA in Environmental Studies and has worked at local farms and volunteers at her son’s Montessori school.
“Sustainability may not seem like something that immediately comes to mind with jewelry,” Katie said. “It’s not an entire transformation yet, but Gaspar’s has already switched from Swiss- to American-made batteries whenever possible, and is carrying local designer Johnny Ninos from Los Olivos and American designers Mark Patterson and Alex Sepkus.”
They also buy gold that gets recycled and reused. Repairs are also a big part of their business, and they have an on-site goldsmith to design and create custom jewelry.
Just like their father, Katie and Dominique emphasize customer service. The next generation of Gaspars intends to keep the approachable, down-to-earth style of doing business started by their parents more than 32 years ago.
While they seek to appeal to the contemporary buyer, they’re actively looking for new designers but will continue to carry the classic and traditional jewelry their customers have grown to expect.