Some people have scrapbooks that capture memories and reflect milestones. Susan North has a jewelry box. “It literally tells the story of my life,” said Susan, who is the owner of North Star Fine Jewelry and Gift Boutique in downtown Sarasota. As she extends her left hand she says, “I can tell you why I have this ring and what it commemorates;” then points to her right wrist and proudly explains, “And I got this watch after signing a development agreement to expand my business.”
From tour guide to successful restaurant franchisee, Susan’s path to opening the Pineapple Avenue boutique has been as interesting as the jewelry that represents her journey. “I’ve always been in hospitality,” she explained, adding she went to work after graduating high school. “It was office by day, cocktail waitress by night. I ended up in the hotel business, which led to work for a travel company.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Susan became a top tour sales representative, traveled the world, and helped the company she worked for become a profitable success. She says that experience gave her the courage and confidence to put her time, energy, and skills into being her own boss. During the course of 17 years, she opened 10 IHOP locations throughout Arkansas, building half of them from the ground up.
It was during COVID that her she and her husband Craig discussed their dreams. “We had the conversation that many people did during the pandemic — If we could be anywhere in the world doing anything we wanted, what would that look like? I said I would own a jewelry store in Sarasota.”
The dream came true and North Star opened earlier this year in a 1,900-square-foot space in one of Sarasota’s newest buildings, The Mark. The boutique carries 14 collections of one-of-a-kind pieces, all handmade and customizable.
North Star has the feel of an art gallery, with each designer’s unique pieces beautifully set on display, and Susan, like a guide, tells the stories behind the artists and their work — from the exclusively woman-designed Armenta collection to JB Star, whose founder Rafael Fouzailoff is the son of one of the largest diamond manufacturers in Israel in 1946. “Knowing the designers intimately allows me to be a true ambassador of their designs and their stories,” she said. For instance, “JB Star designs all his pieces. Everything is set in 18 karat gold and platinum. The quality is amazing, and the stones are just brilliant.”
And Susan knows her gems. She is a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America, certified in diamonds, and has worked with some of the top jewelry designers in the world. So when a client enters North Star, Susan introduces them to the various lines and then steps back to observe. “I watch as they gravitate to a certain designer, and that’s where we’ll start,” she said. Clients looking for a customized piece can discuss options with the designer via video conference in the VIP room located in the back of the store.
In addition to jewelry, North Star also carries BSWANKY handbags, stationery, candles, picture frames, soaps and other gift items. The bar area, which is stocked for those who enjoy a libation while shopping, also includes hand-blown crystal from Portugal and a variety of hostess gifts. And for true art lovers, works by contemporary artist and graphic designer Alissa Silvers, creator of the LISS brand, are on display and for sale.
Whether clients are purchasing jewelry for themselves or others, Susan believes special pieces bring beauty and meaning into one’s life. “When I was traveling all over the world, I started buying a piece of jewelry from wherever I went,” she said. “My jewelry box truly is a scrapbook of my life.”
And about that ring…it’s her first Erica Courtney piece and she purchased it for herself. “Every detail is so well planned and thought out,” she said as she ran her finger over the stunning imperial topaz. “It’s so smooth. It actually came out of the ground this color. Isn’t that amazing? Each and every diamond has been hand drilled and set. You can imagine how much love has gone into this ring.” A reflection, no doubt, of the love that has gone into North Star Jewelry.
North Star will be hosting a private Wine, Women and Wealth event Dec. 2 featuring award-winning jewelry designer Paula Crevoshay. Known as the Queen of Color, Crevoshay’s pieces have been on exhibit at the Smithsonian as part of its National Gem Collection and MOMA in New York. For more information about this invite-only event, email email@example.com