Stefanie Wolf designs and sells jewelry and gifts at her studio and retail showroom in downtown Edgartown. For 11 years, she has created jewelry that uses colorful, geometric, handmade beads from a family-owned and operated glass bead factory in the Czech Republic. Her collection features whimsical and vibrant beaded necklaces, earrings and bracelets made on-Island. She sells her products at her showroom in Edgartown, and wholesale to about 100 stores nationwide.
When the pandemic hit in March, Wolf was forced to temporarily close down her shop, sell her products virtually, and adapt her business with the change in demand. Wolf gradually began selling different types of masks, and soon came up with the idea to use her jewelry-making skills to create beaded mask chains; she now sells a variety of masks and beaded chains that are both stylish and practical.
How has your business coped throughout the pandemic?
I feel like my customers have been eager to buy the jewelry and they have been supporting me. They are eager to support local businesses if they can. I think staying in touch with my customers via email all winter was good. A lot of them see it as a way that they can stay connected to the Island and feel like they are supporting a local business. Since COVID-19 began, I have shifted a lot more energy to my website. People are buying sweet gifts online to send to friends that let them know they are thinking of them. I’ve been surprised about how people are still eager to buy. Overall I feel hopeful for the future. I feel like I’ve made the best of all of this and shifted my focus to help my business survive while offering something that my customers want, need, and appreciate.
What kind of jewelry and products are you selling now?
This summer in the store we have been selling a lot of our bestsellers and classics. We continue to sell some of the same bestselling necklaces, earrings styles and bracelet styles that we usually do. I started selling face masks in April. I used a supplier I was already buying things from. I wasn’t sure if it was quite my market, but I have been selling a lot of facemasks in addition to the jewelry as well as the facemask chains.
What prompted you to start selling face masks?
I already owned a comfortable stretchy headband that I sell here, and I realized I could use it as a face mask. At first I was a little turned off at the idea of selling an actual face mask. I didn’t know how long people would need face masks for, so I wasn’t sure if it was worth my while. I posted some pictures of me wearing the headband as a facemask, and people really responded to it so I started selling them. I soon realized that I personally wanted to buy a face mask, and some of my suppliers were starting to make them. I began doing face mask test orders from different suppliers, and we liked a lot of them. My staff and I turned into mask connoisseurs and tested them and relayed that information to our customers. I’ve posted some review-like videos online. I felt like I was fortunate to have access to all these face masks so I felt like I might as well share this info.
How did you come up with the idea for the beaded mask chains?
I prefer to wear a stretchy face mask all the time, and when I don’t have it up on my face I would push it down so it wasn’t on my face but it was still on my chin. It was getting ridiculous to wear it on my chin. I thought that if I hooked a chain on it, it could be around me all the time and easy to get to when I need it. At the same time, my friend Annabelle Hunton who owns the Nobnocket Inn, asked for one because she is always coming in and out of contact with her guests. I then began looking at prototypes.
What is the process behind making a mask chain?
I have about four or five women on-Island who help me make the jewelry. I thought about it, did some sketches, made a few samples and then spoke with one of the women who helps me make jewelry and she created prototypes that we tested. I sent Annabelle one to test, and my staff and I tried out a few and we decided which ones we liked better and why. We created a 20-inch strand with a clasp on each strand and right by the clasp there are a few inches of beads or designs. Our beaded ones have been the most popular. I tried not to make the whole strand beaded because if the chain is too heavy, it will pull the mask down off your ears. I wanted to make it lightweight enough so that it wasn’t adding another tension point on your face. The process of making a chain is pretty much the same as making my other pieces, it’s like putting two bracelets together.
How have you seen the pandemic influence style?
I think throughout the pandmeic I have evolved a bit and watched my customers evolve a bit from the necessity of having to wear a mask to turning it into more of an enjoyable accessory. At first I think people were upset they had to wear masks and it was dramatic, scary, and strange-looking. I now think that if we have to wear these things, at least let’s have a little fun with it and show our personality. I feel like that has been how women have adapted in general. Now people are having fun with masks. At first it was a necessity, but now it’s an opportunity to show your style. Masks add a new accessory into people’s lives.