Vashti Wilcher was a woman ahead of her time as an entrepreneur in 1961. Her legacy, Vashti Jewelers, remains a local treasure in Edgehill Shopping Center just off Main Street in Gloucester Village.
“It was just unheard of 60 years ago for women to have their own business,” says Nicole Michael, Vashti’s granddaughter and today the owner of the store.
Vashti grew up enchanted by the sparkle in jewelry and first worked for a jeweler at Gloucester Courthouse. Only a year in, the store was set to close until Vashti bought the business and renamed it. It was never her idea to have her name so prominent. In fact, she sought suggestions for what it should be called by sending out a community survey.
“Every one that came back said she should name it Vashti’s!” Michael says.
The store passed from Vashti to her daughter, Joan Roane, who ran it for years until retiring in 2015 when Michael, her daughter, took over. As a little girl, Michael was too shy to talk much with customers, but she loved hanging out in the store, often gift wrapping for clients.
These days Michael balances Vashti’s with another longtime job — for 30 years she’s been the buyer for Peace Frogs, also Gloucester-based.
Years ago, Vashti’s carried fine china and silver, both largely out of style with millennials. Today most everything inside is timeless — classic and contemporary pieces; an engagement, bridal and wedding collection; and an array of gold, sterling silver, platinum and other precious metals and stones.
An in-house jeweler, Keven Hanscom, has been part of the staff for 20 years; associate Tammy Smith has been there for 30. Nicole’s husband, Robert, handles all the engraving.
“Our employees are awesome, and our customers have grown to love them over the years,” Michael says.
Most design and repair work are completed in-house. Price points attract casual and serious shoppers.
“We offer a variety,” Michael says. “We have anything from a $17 pair of earrings on up to a $20,000-plus diamond bracelet when we have our annual Estate Event. There’s something for everyone. It’s cute to see the little girls come in who just got their ears pierced and they want the small earrings that don’t have nickel in them that aren’t too expensive in case they lose a pair.”
A recently introduced lab-grown diamond that is earth friendly is the new rage. Pearls haven’t gone out of style. Anything nautical doesn’t last long.
Generations pass through, too. “Kids I used to see come in with their parents are now coming in and getting engaged,” Michael says. “They stay with their local hometown jeweler and carry the tradition forward.”
Because Vashti’s is part of a strip mall, customers have the convenience of a parking lot rather than having to search for spaces along Main Street.
“We have an older clientele that really appreciates that,” Michael says. “We have to have a parking lot, so this works well for us.”
Michael feels very much a part of the close-knit community of shop owners who support each other’s businesses. She recently delivered a flower arrangement to welcome The Farmasea Restaurant, a recent addition to the shopping center.
She’s grateful for the business thriving six decades after her grandmother started it. Michael’s sixth-grader, Avery, reminds her of herself. Avery loves coming to the store and pictures herself following in the footsteps of her great grandmother, grandmother and mother one day.
Vashti’s Jewelers, located in the Edgehill Shopping Center at 6734 Main St., in Gloucester Village, is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m and Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Sundays. Email email@example.com for information or call (804) 693-3434.