The Centurion Scottsdale show was a couple of weeks ago and I decided to drag along my husband, kicking and screaming (meaning I was kicking and screaming that he came along…. OH I KID, I KID!) He wound up having such a great experience that he asked if he could share it with you all. Who am I to deny this man, right? I wouldn’t be half the writer I am without him.
Without further hesitation, I present to you, Todd’s Tale:
So for years I tried to talk my wife into leaving the jewelry business. I’d say things like, “Just call this lady back, Barbara, and at least talk to her about the high-end furniture sales position.” Or, “You like chairs; and don’t get me started about your love for a good sturdy couch.” And after every Christmas that came and went where I would look around at the detritus of a month’s worth of decorating and baking and shopping and designing, and decorating – wait, I think I said decorating already – and then say to her, “Babe, I think you have a real career in marketing, or something that lets you show off all that creativity,” I really thought I could convince her to do something other than work in jewelry. But she never took the bait. Not just because she has a strong personality (somewhere can I get an “Amen?”), but because she always told me, each and every time, how much she loved what she did.
In her previous positions in the industry I did not often get the chance to see her in hot and heavy jewelry action. Now stop your off-color imagery right there kids, because I won’t be writing a saucy tale interspersed with salacious tidbits of what goes on behind the scenes (although I could). I leave the innuendo and wink-wink-know-what-I-mean writing to my beloved, who’s quite good at it. So, ahem, as I was saying. Her job for most of our many years together didn’t offer the chance for me to get much of a peek into what was going on inside the industry, and although I knew generally what she did, I didn’t see what she did, at least not in great detail. But in the last year, and especially in the last few weeks, I got a full-faced introduction into what makes her tick; into the folks who help her stay inspired, and the places in the imagination that being surrounded by lovely people and beautiful jewelry can take you. And do take her. This is my story.
This year I got to tag along to the Centurion show in Scottsdale for a little R & R. And since I wasn’t working and Barbara was, and since I had no kids with me, and since I was alone each and every day to do as I pleased (my twenties called and asked me if I remembered them!), I was looking forward to playing a little during the day and partying a little in the evening. (I should mention that all this was made possible by Myriam Gumuchian, who kindly let me borrow the other half of the room that Barbara wasn’t using. I owe her a big thank-you.) I knew all would be well when, after being at the hotel for all of 15 minutes, I was at the pool bar drinking quite likely the tastiest beer (and absolutely the first beer) I’d had since last year. Dry January was done and for a few quiet and relaxed moments it was just Barbara and me. It was exquisite.
Then it was over. Time to go to work (her, not me – a recurring theme of the rest of the week), and off she went to help set up the booth. I made my way down to the show floor at some point to drop off something she needed, and it was at that moment I realized the true scale of the operation. It’s hard to know just how much work is going on inside of those ballrooms when your only view of it is obstructed by the exterior walls of the building and the shadow of the waitress walking over to you with your second beer. Such a hive of activity! Such organized chaos, everyone working together to get things ready for the next several days’ events. It was impressive. The sheer number of booths, and the care that was being taken to decorate each one in its own distinct fashion. It was my first inkling of things to come.
Throughout the next days and nights I found a new home away from home at the gorgeous outdoor bar overlooking the immaculate grounds of the Phoenician resort. I was hiking, swimming, eating, and relaxing during the day, then at night I came face to face with the true energy of the industry. After a quiet dinner alone with my wife the first evening, the events rolled by one after the other, and they were all fantastic, but it seemed like the lobby bar was the place that everyone ended up; the place where many of my favorite memories were made.
For one thing, I remember meeting so many people.
Here’s Jennifer Heebner coming up to me and introducing herself, knowing me only from Barbara’s Facebook page. And Zuraja with Carelle threatening to rat me out at the pool for looking so relaxed. When I needed restaurant advice in Scottsdale it was Jay Mednikow who volunteered his pick for the ultimate place to dine. Over there is Craig Danforth (whom I may still owe an apology? He knows why). He was one of the few faces I previously knew in the glittering crowd, gliding up to greet me just before he took off to the mountain for a quick hike that first day. And I’m still recovering from the extended hug from Michelle Orman, by virtue of which I think we are married in at least 13 states.
At dinner the first evening I met the entire Gumuchian crew, and it gave me another reason to understand why Barbara loves not only what she does, but the people she does it with. Especially these people. It’s no exaggeration to tell you that I was made to feel immediately welcome into the jewelry world, even if I don’t know a blue topaz from an aquamarine. (God, I hope those aren’t the same thing.) Chris Matty, Jodi, Tatiana, and the whole team were great, and funny, and friendly. Even though Tatiana, seated right up next to me the entire evening, spoke fourteen more languages than I did, she was kind enough to get me counting to twenty in German while only mildly and simultaneously correcting my pronunciation. But what made it extraordinarily special were the nice things they all had to say about Barbara – hearing about her hard work and great attitude were highlights for me – and it became a theme no matter who I was meeting. My girl knows her stuff, and works hard, and that’s all right by me.
Some of you may know that I play a tiny part in this blog’s production. Mainly, I read it before it goes out the door to be that extra set of eyes to catch the odd typo or punctuation slip. Although it’s only a small part, and even though all the creativity comes from Barbara’s mind and her process, it is still nice to be a part of it. So it was especially cool for me to have her introduce me to many folks not just as her husband (although to some of the better looking guys she failed to mention that), but also as her editor. What made it so exciting were the reactions I saw from people when they talked about her writing. I’ve always been her biggest fan and I try to tell her often how I feel about what she’s creating in these pages. But, like when your mom tells you that you are a handsome young man or a beautiful girl, it’s, well, it’s your mom. So maybe she feels like I have to say it. But all of you who told me what you thought, none of you had to say anything. So I was proud of her in those moments, tremendously.
Now back to those men I kept meeting – like Todd Reed, and Gannon with Couture, and that kid from Ritani Barbara had mentioned once or a thousand times – all over the place, handsome men! And they all knew Barbara. How odd! I could have easily felt uncomfortable by the presence of so many guys who were not only good looking but young enough to be my sons (had I of course started having kids at four). But the thing is, they all were respectful of Barbara and certainly on their best behavior with me there. I’m pretty confident and not terribly sloth-like in appearance, so I mostly kid, but regardless, I was impressed with the way everyone handled themselves. Good for her that she works in a field where it’s not just the jewels that are sparkly and attractive.
So many people, and such fun. I met Brandee Dallow, the crew from Hales, Blakeman’s, and Galloway & Moseley, along with Jen Cullen Williams. There was Desiree Hanson, Andrea Hansen, Trace Shelton, and many others whom I had only read about in Barbara’s posts. (Hey, Rachel from the Knot!) I was able to put faces to names, finally. Oh, and Kevin Reilly; cannot forget him. He’s a friendly face to me, and a kind and caring person who has always made me feel comfortable. Great seeing him too.
On the last evening in Scottsdale, I had the chance to talk to Myriam’s husband Ronnie for an hour about real estate. Finally, something I knew about and could talk about, which was nice. There we were, much different in that he has been a part of Gumuchian’s shows and travels for many, many years, but much alike in that we were two middle-aged dudes who had kept themselves together, who both clearly married up, and who were both enjoying being surrounded by people and an industry that celebrates life, glamour, baubles, conversation, travel, lifestyle, and fun. Yes, fun. It’s a simple word to describe what I think it all boils down to.
A wise man – or woman – once said that if you find a job that you truly enjoy and that you have fun doing, it never feels like a job and the money is secondary. I’m not suggesting that anyone in this industry wants to work for free, mind you, but I am saying that when the work is hard, the travel is long, your plane is delayed, and your clients forget they were supposed to show up, or that you were showing up, you can depend on the fact that you love what you are doing and have fun doing it to give you the energy you need to keep going. A show like Centurion is clearly a highlight for many in the gem and jewelry business, and I suspect the energy from this show carries a lot of folks through any number of difficult moments.
So now I see why she doesn’t want to go anywhere else. Maybe there is more money in Aeron chairs and laser-machined modular filing systems. Hell, I don’t know. But I tell you this, I don’t think that furniture convention would be as exciting, or the people as interesting, and I one hundred percent know that the product couldn’t hold a candle to the shiny things I saw over those four days. I know why she doesn’t want to go anywhere else and she’d be silly to leave her extended family. I don’t want her to leave that family any more, and I won’t ask again. I’m grateful they adopted me in Arizona…if only for just a few days.