by Natasha Heinz
The sun shines through the glass counters of Dockside Jewelers, making the silver and gold pieces sparkle. The twinkles of precious metals grab the attention of people strolling through the Oak Bluffs Harbor. The store is small in comparison to some off island, but space is precious on the waterfront and there is so much to look at that you will feel as though the store has plenty for the eyes to take in. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings in varying styles and with different color stones fill every available space. It is mesmerizing.
As I walk in, the clerk smiles and says hello; nothing else. I later learn that was all she intended to say. “People come in and I don’t ask if they need something,” explains owner Steve Davidian. “That is what I tell the girls at work. You don’t ask them if they need help. Just say, ‘Hi, where are you from?’” “I don’t care what you ask, as long as you don’t try to sell them something. If they like something, they’ll see it”.
Davidian’s way of doing business without pressuring customers to purchase something specific seems to be working well. Indeed, he has been working at this same spot for 34 years.
Originally from New Bedford, Davidian started making scrimshaw as a teenager and began selling his pieces to a store in Edgartown. When it was time to find his own place, the Vineyard was the only option. “I always wanted my own store here. I started looking and it took me about four years to find one that I liked, that I could spend every day at and also charge a fair price for my stuff”.
Ten years after opening the store, Davidian transitioned from scrimshaw to metal work for two reasons. Jewelry is more politically correct (no whale bones or ivory needed). And it is also easier to reproduce. That made it easier for him to work on more designs, such as the well-known island charms, his OB and MV necklaces, as well as other pieces created by Davidian in homage to the Vineyard.
As he walks around the store showing me some of his favorite pieces (“I like all sorts of big, shiny stuff”), Davidian reveals that he sold a ‘really nice’ oyster ring the other day. He pauses and says he wishes he hadn’t so more people could come by and look at it. “I would rather sell those nicer pieces in September, after everyone had a chance to see it,” says Davidian.
That is a recurring theme in his work ethic. Most of what is sold at Dockside Jewelers is jewelry Davidian buys at shows and stores around New England. For him, the most important art is finding the nicest pieces he can at reasonable prices. He will not charge customers more than is necessary.
“I always believed is better to have people around you, good connections, than try to make more money. That is what I do with customers. I charge reasonable prices, so they come back…”