Why would a successful jewelry designer—with a loyal clientele and her own line sold at more than 80 stores in the U.S.—sign up for the headaches of running a shop? “Love,” answers Sara McGuire, 45, the owner of Sailor, a boutique she opened in Ravenswood last fall.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time,” McGuire says. “To provide a larger context for the work that we make in the studio, to offer insight into how the work is made, to fill a space with art and objects that inspire. And to create something that’s small, personal, distinctive, ambitious and welcoming, all at once. A store for everyday luxuries and special occasions. A neighborhood shop with broad horizons. Sailor is the shop I’ve always wanted to have on my corner.”
Sailor is indeed a convenience store of sorts, filled with a wide variety of products handpicked by its owner, from a $6 letterpress card to a $2,500 engagement ring, plus framed artwork, handmade shoes, ceramics, wall hangings, books, blankets, fine teas, leather bags, and other accessories.
Jewelry prices range from $70 to $4,000; engagement rings start around $600 and can be purchased custom-made as well. “If you come in looking for a wedding ring, we’re going to be as helpful and involved as you need us to be,” says McGuire. “But you’re not going to get lectured on the four C‘s [carat, cut, color, and clarity] or get pressured in any way here. And if we don’t have what you’re looking for, we’ll happily refer you to someone who might.”
McGuire, who crafts her pieces in a nearby studio, became a jewelry designer almost 20 years ago while working as a graphic designer in New York City. Her line, like her shop, feels both organic and sophisticated, and is produced in mostly mixed metals—Sarah’s favorite pairing is 18-karat gold and oxidized silver. “Black and gold is a magical combination,” she says.
Besides her own work, McGuire also represents independent jewelers from all over the country, designers she admires for various reasons: “I love the rawness of Variance and the edginess of Elizabeth Street. The bold, graphic quality of Acanthus. The delicate refinement of Carla Caruso, who makes the best hoop earrings on earth. The stop-you-in-your-tracks originality of Atelier Narcé. They’re all quite different, but what they have in common is that they have a distinctive vision.” Nonjewelry lines include MQuan Studio (ceramics and wall hangings), Garza Marfa (textiles), Notary (ceramics), Winter Session (bags), Tatine (candles and apothecary items), and Freda Salvador (shoes). There are also Fog Linen’s functional objects and textiles, made in Japan, and Sibilia’s brass and enamel pieces from Buenos Aires, among others.
Thanks to its high ceilings and large windows, Sailor is an airy space drenched in sunlight. It has a minimal and contemporary look, yet a natural and inviting vibe. “We don’t have traditional jewelry cases. We don’t have overly bright jewelry-store lighting,” explains McGuire. “The style of the shop blends modernism’s clean lines with the imperfections of preindustrial handicraft.”
Located in a wooded street in the Ravenswood neighborhood just a few steps from the Brown Line, the Damen bus, and a Metra station, the boutique is also close to other charming independent businesses such as District, Architectural Artifacts, and Alapash New Home (and Terrariums).
McGuire is enthusiastic about her surroundings and her prospects: “The response we’re getting is great. I love that the store already has regulars, people who visit often, whose names I know, and whose specific tastes I’m learning. For some people we’re a jewelry store, for some we’re an art gallery, for others we’re a shoe store—and for some it starts out as one of those things and becomes another, which is wonderful.”
Sailor 4658 N. Damen, 773-942-7356, shop-sailor.com. Friday-Saturday 11 AM-6 PM, Sunday noon-4 PM, and by appointment.