InStore Magazine | Evolution of the Boutique

Evolution of the Boutique Store renovation elevates an Austin original on the leading edge of retail.

Eliza Page, Austin, TX
OWNER: Elizabeth Gibson

ELIZA PAGE HAS been known as a “cool store” around the jewelry industry for a long time. But it was only after last year’s renovation that owner Elizabeth Gibson decided to enter INSTORE’s America’s Coolest Stores competition — and won it on her first try.

“It’s exciting for the jewelry business to see more independents that are unique,” says Gibson. “When I opened 20 years ago, there weren’t a lot of stores like mine, and now there are, which is cool. I think that just shows that today’s clients want a boutique experience, a more intimate experience. Austin definitely caters to that; that’s the culture of our city.” While the city itself may boast the motto of “Keep Austin Weird,” Eliza Page was still an outlier when Gibson opened the store in 2004. Her original location in south Austin was “terrible,” as she puts it, so she quickly moved into her current location downtown the following year. But she was distinctly
lacking in neighbors.

“I was the first retailer to open in the 2nd Street District,” Gibson recalls. “It was just empty store fronts around me. There was probably some naivete in my choice, but I knew downtown was going to grow.” Today, Eliza Page is a stalwart presence in a thriving retail area that includes independent restaurants, boutiques and one of Austin’s top live music venues, Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater. The store has evolved over the past 20 years, but it remains true to Gibson’s original vision: to create an approachable environment that showcases fashion-forward,
artisan-created jewelry in a boutique setting that feels more like an art gallery than a traditional artisan-created jewelry in a boutique setting that feels more like an art gallery than a traditional jewelry store.


Starting a New Chapter

Gibson didn’t come from a jewelry family like many of her fellow independent retailers did. In fact, she didn’t even intend to be a jeweler. She began her career in marketing after receiving a college degree in English. But jewelry-making had always been something she loved, starting with beads, friendship bracelets and pins, and wirewrapping. “I had started taking metalsmithing and wax carving classes locally. I wanted to make real jewelry,” says Gibson. “As I started to sell it locally as a hobby, I realized that Austin didn’t have a cool store. You couldn’t find fashion-forward jewelry here. Austin is hip, trendy but independently minded, and it supports local retailers so well. I decided to open a store and see what happened.”
She opened the store on a shoestring budget and a prayer. “I literally had to turn down a $100 change order when we were doing the buildout because I didn’t have investors backing me, I just had to make it work,” she says. The gallery space looked different back then, with a cash wrap at the back, independently designed fine jewelry in the wall cases and costume jewelry in the center. Over the years, engagement and wedding jewelry became an unexpected profit center. “We didn’t start out selling wedding rings and bridal,” says Gibson. “Our clients asked for it, so we started making and selling it, and it’s been a strong part of our business for many years now.”

Today, all of the bridal jewelry sold in the store is from the Eliza Page line or custom designed — a service that wasn’t offered in the original incarnation of the store. “We sold designer bridal for years, but our clients didn’t want that, so we created our own bridal line, and that’s what we sell.”
The store has also phased out costume jewelry (“that customer went away during the pandemic,” (says Gibson) and replaced it with ear piercings and permanent jewelry. “The price point is low, so as a retailer, that’s not exciting, but from a lifetime customer standpoint — my staff told me we’ve got to keep offering it. It’s brand-building and relationship-building,” says Gibson.


Turning the Page

When she initially designed Eliza Page, Gibson intended the space to be an open canvas that could be adapted in years to come as the business evolved. In 2022, the time was right to make a major change — in part because of what was happening next door. The neighboring tenant moved out, leaving an empty space, which would allow Eliza Page to operate temporarily out of that location while the store was being renovated. “I knew that kind of
thing only happens every few years, so it was kind of a ‘now or never’ renovation,” explains Gibson. The business functioned in the temporary space for three weeks while the renovation was completed.

Concrete floors were replaced with hardwood. Walls were moved to create a private piercing room. Wallpaper was strategically hung in the center of the back wall to add a pop of color and texture. A large TV screen was placed on the same wall to play marketing videos. And a gorgeous new light fixture, which looks a lot like big gold bubbles floating near the ceiling, was mounted. Custom furniture, including a new point-of-sale station and floor display cases, was built and
installed throughout the store. The cash wrap was built to be slightly smaller and was placed in the middle of the store against a wall so that customers wouldn’t walk around it. The floor showcases are gold-toned with wood accents and are slightly larger than the previous cases. Plus, an extra showcase has been added to help accommodate more jewelry. “We only have 1,000
square feet to work with in the showroom, so we had to maximize our showcase space as much as possible,” explains Gibson.

One of Gibson’s favorite features of the remodel were built-in desks for staff. “Jewelry is a lot of account management, back and forth with vendors and clients, so we are giving our team members a private space to do that,” she says.
The private ear-piercing area has been a hit with clients who prefer an elegant, calm
environment to the raucous energy of a tattoo parlor or the inexperience of hourly employees in chain boutiques like Claire’s. “A lot of moms come with their daughters,” says Gibson. “We spend a lot of time with these clients and get a lot of really great reviews.”

The addition of piercing as a category at Eliza Page came about during the pandemic. “Piercing parties had started to become a trend, and we were just about to do our first with a local tattoo artist when the pandemic happened and we weren’t able to,” says Gibson. But then, Sirandyn Wayne, a longtime employee that Gibson calls the store’s “Swiss army knife,” volunteered to learn how to pierce. As the pandemic receded, more and more people came in for piercings. “We have medical-grade sanitizing equipment, and we’re regulated by the state. They say we’re the most sanitary jewelry store in the city that does piercings,” says Gibson. “Some clients are really needle-phobic — we’ve had a couple of people pass out — so we have snacks and waters and Cokes, so we’re prepared!”

The store also now features a small semi-private consultation area at the back, which can serve as either a private diamond and custom showing area or a place for permanent jewelry to be welded onto wrists. “One positive coming out of the pandemic is that people like to make appointments now, so we are able to make sure that we don’t have a permanent bracelet welding at the same time that we have a custom-design client,” Gibson says. With the renovation, Gibson was able to retain the open gallery feel while raising the overall look of the store. “It’s still a welcoming, less intimidating environment, but we wanted to elevate the materials and the design to better fit the product we’re selling. We hope to grow our average retail sale and bring our customer into bigger, better jewelry purchases.”