This week’s Meet a Mom is Emily Duffelmeyer – owner of Jean Jean Vintage. Jean Jean is a vintage, antique and original jewelry store in Lansing’s REO Town neighborhood. Located at 1136 south Washington Avenue – the storefront has the building’s original octagonal shaped window. Actually two octagon shaped windows – both next door neighbor, The Clean Refillery and Jean Jean Vintage have an 8-sided world view.
This busy mom of 2 young boys shares much about her experience growing her small business, some thoughts about motherhood before and during COVID and how she continues to prove, “slow and steady wins the race.”
We recently met Emily – she is simply lovely! And her shop is an area gem that we hope you will visit – if not in person then online via her Etsy store!
Welcome to Greater Lansing Area Moms, Emily!
Please introduce yourself, where are you from, where do you reside now?
My name is Emily and I grew up in Iowa. I lived in the Twin Cities for a few years before moving to Michigan (almost 20 years ago!) I live in a 100+ year old house in a historic neighborhood in Lansing.
What do you think is one of the best parts about being a mom?
The best part is watching your kids become more and more themselves as they age. Their personalities, preferences, strengths, and challenges all amplify as the years pass.
Best piece of advice for someone with younger children that you wish you would have known when your kids were younger?
Pay attention to what it feels like when you are getting to your emotional Mom Limit. What are the physical cues telling you that you need a break? Sometimes the body knows what we need before our brains do. I did not really learn to read my own warning/burn out signs until . . . last year?
I struggled more and harder than I needed to and that made me resentful and angry. I could have been kinder to myself (and to my kids) in those early years.
Tell us about Jean Jean Vintage?
Yes! Jean Jean is my vintage, antique, and original jewelry business. I sell everything from Victorian wax seal pendants to Czechoslovakian glass necklaces to Art Deco engagement rings.
Most of my business is e-commerce but my HQ is in Lansing and I LOVE my local guests!
Please tell us the story behind the name, Jean Jean 🙂
When I was a little girl, my dad’s nickname for me was “Jean Jean.” He died in 2005 and that sweet name sort of died with him. When I was thinking about names for the business in 2010, “Jean Jean” popped into my head.
It feels friendly and welcoming and that is how I want my business to feel.
How long have you been in business? How long in REO Town?
I started my online business in 2010 and I moved to REO Town after a year of building renovations in 2019.
You can see before/after photos and the whole story in the “REO Town” highlight on my Instagram! It was quite a transformation.
What is the best thing about owning and operating a vintage and original jewelry store?
Two things: getting to handle/experience historical pieces and getting to find placement for them with new people/families.
How did you start your business?
I started my business with a lot of intention and I grew it slowly. “Slow and steady wins the race” has been my professional motto. For me, there really was no other way with two young kids. So I embraced the slowness (and also constantly raged against it) in the beginning.
How did it change during COVID?
COVID did not affect my business that much, thankfully! People still celebrate and get married even during a pandemic! COVID DID affect my work/life balance, though, and that made everything more challenging.
Because we do not know – what makes a piece of jewelry vintage?
“Vintage” can mean anything 20-99 years old, so that is a big range. That means that Avon jewelry from the 1980s and cocktail rings from the 1930s are technically both “vintage.”
For that reason, “vintage” alone is not a great descriptor. “Antique” is anything 100 years old or more, which tells you a bit more about rarity but still nothing about quality. The devil – and the fun – is in the details.
If you had to narrow down to a single piece, what would be your favorite piece of jewelry of all time?
That is an impossible question to answer!
I enjoy jewelry that has a mechanical aspect: something that opens, closes, or “does” something. I will tell you that one of my proudest moments was donating a piece of jewelry by the American jewelry Mary Gage to the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2019. That will be in their collection long after I am gone and that feels good.
In your opinion, what about engagement rings – describe some of your favorite features found in a antique engagement ring?
For me, it is about the personality of the diamond/diamonds. Antique diamonds were hand cut before techniques were super consistent so each one is different from the next.
Old cut diamonds are generally warmer-bodied with a flickering, high contrast brilliance that thrills in low light (candlelight!) and in the sunshine. Charming, romantic stuff.
Do you ever have a story about the original wearer you share? And if so, do you share the story with patrons?
Sometimes I do and if I do, I always share!
How do you juggle work with being a mom?
Awkwardly. There are lots of pluses and minuses every day.
Last book you read?
I collapse into bed at night and when I have time to read, I read the New York Times. I can’t remember the last book I read. That is the honest truth.
If you watch television, your current binge shows?
I just watched “Clarkson’s Farm” and it was really fun.
Strangest thing in your purse right now?
A dirty number slide puzzle that has fallen out of the backseat of the car at least 10 times.
What do you do to enjoy you (me) time?
Lately, I visit my vegetable and flower garden. I have a little plot in a local community garden.
Favorite travel destination during summer break?
The Leelanau Peninsula.
Favorite summertime treat?
Galette with fresh stone fruit or berries! I love the recipe from Smitten Kitchen.
Coffee or tea?
Best piece of advice to someone starting out in your type of business?
Revenue is not profit. You may feel like you are “making a lot of money” – and you may be super busy! – but after you deduct all of your costs and remember to pay yourself you may find that you are barely breaking even.
I have known a lot of well-intentioned and talented people who had great business ideas but failed because they did not understand the back-end (financial) side of things. Take a course at your local SBDC (Small Business Development Center), learn the basics of Profit and Loss, hire a bookkeeper… try to do it right from the beginning!
Mind sharing a mom trick another mom will be happy to learn?
Buy yourself flowers.
Thank you Emily! Take a look at Jean Jean Vintage and learn more via the following links!
Photo and graphic credit: Jean Jean Vintage
Do you have someone in mind for our Meet a Mom Monday feature? If so, email [email protected] and we will take it from there 🙂