By Stacey K. Payette
Being the owner and curator of Sheldon Hill Vintage Jewelry is a unique privilege and certainly has shown itself to be my professional calling. Like many of those who came before me, I caught the antiques bug early. I still remember carrying a caned oak armchair up a hill in 1989 to spruce up my college dorm room. It was a novelty on campus and everyone thought that old chair was so cool. To me, at that time, it was the best chair in the world!
After college, there were no jobs to be had with a Political Science degree in Upstate, NY. Thank goodness my boyfriend turned husband entered a profession that gave us a very respectable income in our early 20s. I worked in restaurant to earn money and started hitting the auctions, antiques malls, and shows for fun. I paid attention, asked a lot of questions, and began to learn about eras and the design elements unique to each of them. After renting a space at my first antique shop at 25, I got a job there and realized that the college degrees weren't going to go to much use! I started a whole new form of education...the type earned through time and experience. I dabbled in furniture, art, smalls, and jewelry...whatever I could afford as a "bottom feeder" at auction on a small budget. I sold a few things and made a few bucks. It was great.
My daughter arrived when I was 28. By that time, Ebay had just started and I was amazed that I could go into my cupboards and curios and sell from home. What a concept!! My interest in vintage jewelry had already begun to blossom by this time and I quickly realized that it would be infinitely easier to carry my baby around with a bag full of jewelry rather than a Mission Oak Sideboard in tow!
I'm proud to have been an early Ebay seller. That was a fun time when people were first connecting through that new thing called the World Wide Web. In the late 1990's, Ebay was a novelty and I tended to sell anything I listed. People were friendly, we waited for checks to clear, and I quickly learned how to manage the new technologies that seemed to appear overnight! (By the way, somewhere out there is a star-shaped color change corundum ring I sold on Ebay right off my hand! I didn't know much about high-end jewelry back then, only that there was a mark that read "T & Co.," and that the auction went for WAY more than I had anticipated.) I hope the owner has always appreciated that good deal!
I took a break from the vintage world to teach high school Social Studies after a change in marital status in 2000. I guess I got to use those degrees afterall!! Teaching was so different from anything I'd ever done before. As a natural night owl, and someone who tended towards jobs in the restaurant business, the 7:50 am gig (with a 3 year old) was really tough, so I certainly do have the utmost respect for my teaching colleagues. On the whole, it was a challenging time in my life and I'm glad it's past. My departure from teaching was hastened by a new supervisor who took over our department in year 5 of the 6 years I was there. She is a true testament to the idea that "your worst nightmare can actually be your greatest blessing." In the fall of my last year teaching, I had the opportunity to take over a 14,000 square foot multi-dealer antiques mall and the writing was already on the wall at school. The NIKE in me said, "just do it." I finished out that school year with the sadness of the death of one of my students and what I now know was some of my best work, done under much duress. Although I had not yet made a conscious decision to resign my position after that dreadful year, I packed up my room as if I would never return. I never did.
I ran the antiques mall from 2005 to 2008. In December 2008, I passed daily operations to my then partner and left to open Sheldon Hill in downtown Ithaca, New York. It was a relief to go from the multitude of daily large management issues to a small boutique of my own. Although I started my store at the beginning of the Great Recession, my business has grown steadily each year and my inventory has increased tenfold. I am enjoying my 10th year as a stand-alone boutique, eight of them on the beautiful commercial walking plaza known as the Ithaca Commons. Come visit!!
In 2016 I discovered another amazing thing, by chance, called Instagram. For me, it's come full circle. In just 20 years time, I have had the pleasure of ushering in the E-Commerce age with Ebay in 1998 and now, as a Social Media Personality, @sheldonhilll_vintagejewels, through Instagram. I produce 2 live shows each week and am widely known as the #kapowkween in the antique jewelry community on Instagram. What a trip it has been and I can't wait to see the next great thing.
Thanks for reading!