Most women know that the right piece of jewelry can make an ordinary outfit into a statement piece, and we all can attest to the fact that the right gift can turn any occasion into a more memorable one – but finding that right piece, that perfect gift? That can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. Luckily, Westerly is home to small business owner and gifting expert Joanna Papineau of OMO Jewels & Gifts, and she’s able to help you locate exactly the thing you need to make your day brighter and more beautiful.
“Oh, I’ve been doing this forever and ever,” Joanna laughed when asked about her path to small business ownership. Following her high school graduation, Joanna found a job as a holiday gift wrapper for Sun Up, an American craft gallery. Within six months, she had moved up to the role of jewelry manager, and she loved it so much that she stayed with them for the next two decades, also taking on the role of gallery manager during this time.
When the owner retired, the building was purchased by the Avondale Arts gallery and Joanna knew that she wanted to open her own shop. “After twenty years of working for others, I was finally On My Own, so that’s where the name OMO comes from,” she shared. “I was incredibly lucky to be able to rent this space from Avondale Arts, because it feels like home.” That was four summers ago, and Joanna has been helping make Westerly more beautiful ever since.
Building relationships with clients is the component of her job that Joanna loves best. “I’ve helped some of them for almost 25 years at this point, so I know their taste or their wives’ taste, and I just love to help people pick out birthday presents, baby gifts, or something for a housewarming – we have something any and every occasion.” OMO also offers complimentary gift wrapping, to ensure that the items you purchase there look their very best on the way out the door.
OMO is open during the summer and through the holidays, and then Joanna takes the winter months to go on buying trips across the country, from New York and Atlanta to Las Vegas, scoping out the best of American hand made jewelry and gifts. “I have to be physically out there, walking the shows, looking at everything in person. There’s too many variables when purchasing online,” she explained. Rather than following trends, Joanna seeks out the most unique items possible, sticking with what speaks to her, what she knows her clients will love to see, and what will help OMO stand out from any other store.
When she’s not traveling to find the best new items or tending to customers in the store, Joanna also manages the Avondale Arts gallery, which she works hard to maintain as a community space, open to artists and art lovers alike. Summer is their busiest season, with two different art shows taking place monthly, as well as author visits, art classes and workshops, yoga and pilates, and trunk shows. For a full schedule of events taking place this summer, please visit the Avondale Arts website.
Women-owned businesses still only account for a third of total businesses in this country, which makes Joanna’s success not only valuable to her but inspirational to others. “If you’re passionate about something, try it. When I wanted to have my own business, I asked myself, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? Maybe I’ll fail, but if I don’t try, I’ll regret it forever,” Joanna explained. “So to other women, I’d say go ahead and take the risk.”
Looking ahead, Joanna would like to continue focusing on serving her clients and perhaps growing small sections of the store to offer a greater selection of clothing or more specialized gifts. “Growth and expansion is wonderful, but that’s not really my goal – mostly I just want to offer people the best of everything,” Joanna said. “So whether they’re coming for the art classes or jewelry or trunk shows or gallery openings, I love when new people stop by, and I love to see returning customers.”
So if you’re an artist looking to exhibit your work, or someone who’s never held a paintbrush before in your life but would like to try something new, or you simply have an event coming up that you want to make an impression at, Joanna has you covered. Be sure to stop by OMO Jewels & Gifts soon!