2012 was an important year for two Ramsey friends who say the borough’s unique atmosphere has made it a perfect place for their business. The Silver Lining, a jewelry and fashion accessories boutique on Church Street, just wrapped up a yearlong celebration of its 10th anniversary. For shop owners Debi Cichonski and Wendy Lupo, the passion they have for the business now is just as fresh as it was a decade ago.
In the 1990’s, Cichonski was working on Wall Street.
“I was working 24/7,” she said. “I was working across the street from the World Trade Center. After 9/11, it just put everything in perspective.”
The fashion enthusiast said she wanted to be closer to home, work less, and have a business that was part of a community.
So, in 2002, she opened The Silver Lining in her hometown, Ramsey. The jewelry store was named after a shop her aunt owned in Summit.
“My first customer ever walked in, and said I’d never make it. But, I wanted to do something unique and something I loved, so I thought I’d give it a chance.”
Lupo started as a Silver Lining customer.
“I had worked in the fashion industry, but I gave that up when I had my second daughter,” Lupo said. “I was happy to do that, but I missed working. At first, I came in here just as a customer who loved the store.”
The friendship between the two women gradually grew, as did Lupo’s part in the company. She started helping out at holiday time, and eventually bought in as part owner of the company two years ago.
The duo has managed to keep their unique business afloat, amidst a changing Main Street in Ramsey, and a faltering economy. According to the owners, the secret is being different, while still catering to customers' needs.
“Everything we have in here is unique,” Lupo said. “We only have one or two of each piece, so customers are getting something that’s just theirs.”
The shop doesn’t carry costume jewelry, but fine jewelry in mixed metals, silver, semi-precious metals, and many handmade designs. The styles and designs are varied, as are their price tags. The Silver Lining carries items ranging from about $15 to about $800, and designs from local to international designers.
“We are very selective with what we choose to carry,” Cichonski said. “It’s all about adjusting your assortment and connecting with what your customers want and can buy.” For example, she said, over the past few years, the shop has kept its higher-end pieces, but started carrying more mid-level jewelry in terms of price point.
“You have to understand the economy of your customers, but still make sure they feel they are getting something special for their money,” she said.
The other secret to their decade-long success, the owners say, is the Ramsey atmosphere. They say they feel lucky to have a loyal local customer base, and a community atmosphere on Main Street.
“All of us around Main Street want each other to do well,” Cichonski added. “We all help each other out.”
And, the two say the community works for them. Between them, the women now have kids in three of Ramsey’s five schools. The shop takes part in fundraisers and school events.
“Doing this works for us. We can still be class moms and there for our kids, and run the business,” Lupo said. “Plus, our customers know us. They know if we’re not here, we are probably picking up our kids, and we’ll be back soon.”