A new high-end jewelry store is moving to S. Kansas Avenue this fall.
After about 13 years away from Topeka, Michele Billam, originally from the Midwest, returned to the capital to pursue a business venture that builds on her years of experience in the jewelry business.
On September 24, Billam plans to celebrate the inauguration of MB Addis & Co. Heritage Jewelers, a store that she hopes will become Topekans’ must-have store for its dazzling diamonds and impeccable service.
“The space is meant to be a very upscale boutique – a sort of jewelry salon feel – but with the goal of accessible and affordable luxury for the local market,” Billam said. “My favorite way to describe it is that this is modern breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
The name MB Addis & Co., Billam said, is a nod to Martha Addis, one of the first female owners of jewelry stores in the United States.
Through research, Billiam discovered that Addis was a Kansas native who owned a store in Topeka. And one photo published on the Kansas Historical Society website says the Addis jewelry store may have been located in the same downtown block as Billam is now opening a storefront.
“I like to say she’s my muse,” Billam said. “When she started was in the early 1900s, there weren’t any other recognized female jewelers.… It was a nod to the fact that she was such a tall woman. pioneer. “
Before jewelry, her retail background prepared her to open a storefront
Washburn University graduate Billam said she started her retail career working for Payless. She then moved on to jewelry and landed at Helzberg Diamonds, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri.
“From there I fell in love with jewelry, fine jewelry in general,” Billam said.
She continued on this path by working for Signet Jewelers, the parent company of brands such as Kay Jewelers, Jared and Zales.
“I was in the Zales division, which is located in Dallas, so I spent several years with them,” Billam said. “I continued to develop my career there. I fell in love with even more jewelry. I traveled a lot abroad, the diamond sourcing, the diamond markets.”
As Billam delved deeper into the world of jewelry, she gained a greater appreciation for the craftsmanship behind each polished piece.
“You don’t realize the craftsmanship, craftsmanship and love that goes into creating so many jewelry,” she said, “(until) you spent time in factories and whether you are sitting next to someone cutting and polishing a diamond. or finishing a piece of metalwork. “
Billam recently worked in Miami for a specialty retailer of LVMH, whose subsidiaries include brands such as Louis Vitton and Dior. Billam was responsible for working with cruise ships to organize their onboard assortments of high-end jewelry and luxury watches.
“It was my first real taste of high-end luxury, like Bulgarians or Tiffany’s, because they were also part of the collections I wore,” said Billam.
Through this role, she managed a team of around 20 people, and this experience prepared her to embark on the jewelry business she defends today.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to take the best parts of all the things I love about the jewelry business, and I’m going to go out there and do it on my own,” Billam said.
MB Addis & Co. appears to be a full-service, relationship-based jewelry store
Although Billam had been away from Topeka for over a decade, she felt called to defend MB Addis & Co. here in the capital – where she lived for several years and where her two sons were born.
“When you start to think of ‘I want to do this for myself’ you think of the network and where you’re comfortable,” Billam said. “And also I had been there a few times, and the mood was changing here. It was very different from the city we left.
“I started to see this vibrant and different culture within Topeka, especially in the downtown corridor. There’s a lot of energy and exciting things going on.”
Although Topeka owns a few jewelry stores, Billam said she had not seen a local store specializing in accessible luxury items.
And that’s where his business comes in.
“It’s a full-service jewelry store,” said Billam, “definitely a destination for engagement, wedding jewelry, and other diamond essentials – anything you’ve always wanted in your jewelry box. “
But she also plans to have specials onsite, like a collection of floral birthstones, a full line of pearls, men’s jewelry, and vintage luxury items.
“There will be vintage and luxury, pre-owned Cartier and Rolex here,” said Billam. “There will be used and non-vintage Tiffany, Cartier, Bulgari – some of these key designer collections.”
Billam said his investment in the business has so far approached $ 1 million including inventory.
She is the first tenant of Gary and Martha Piland, who spoke to Topeka Capital-Journal earlier this summer about their renovation of the 111-year-old building where Billam’s business is now located.
Billam said she hopes to reach a variety of clients.
“The ideal consumer is someone who is looking for a relationship with a local jeweler,” Billam said. “When I grew up you had a jeweler. Your family knew a jeweler in town.… So I think one of my target consumers is someone looking for that relationship and not just a transactional business. very important. tome. “
With her experience and the connections she’s forged over the years, said Billam, there’s not a single piece of jewelry she can’t get her hands on. And she looks forward to helping people from all walks of life, including those who may request a ring cleaning or repair.
“Give us a chance,” Billam said. “You don’t have to go to other markets.… We’ll have it all here.”
Billam looks forward to welcoming customers to their store at 923 S. Kansas next month. And the timing couldn’t be better, she said.
“It’s fair,” Billam said. “The timing is good. The feeling is good.”