Helen Ficalora must have some amazing time management skills, because we still don’t understand how she is fully committed to her family, her motel in Montauk AND her jewelry business, and by fully committed we mean creating personal relationships with all the customers and clients she can. No wonder the press and celebs love her.
Where did you grow up and what was that like?
I grew up on Long Island. I spent the summers and lots of weekends year round in Montauk at The Breakers Motel, a wonderful place my family owns. I loved being at the motel both as a child and an adult. I am answering this from my favorite cabin, which is on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
How did you first get into making jewelry?
I love jewelry! When I was a child, I made things from elements in nature- now I make things inspired by nature and still natural. I took jewelry making in high school and then studied more when I was living in Olympia and raising my family there in the “winter” months.
In the early days of your jewelry business and well into your success you were still running Breakers.. answering the phone and taking reservations. What was this like for you?
Hectic! I loved everything I was doing. I had amazing guests who stayed at the motel, started a boutique that introduced my jewelry and was a full-time mom all at the same time.
Once a door peeks open for you, hustle to make things happen.
What was the community of women like that you were a part of at the motel/Montauk? How was and is community important in your life?
The woman who stayed with their families at the motel were fantastic, smart, strong woman who were creative and all started their own business. I am still friendly with everyone it was a great network of supportive moms.
What’s been the best experience in your career so far? Thing you are most proud of and thing that has surprised you the most?
So many great things have happened for me as a result of believing that I could do work I loved and provide for my family. How do you decide best moment? The first magazine cover with my jewelry on it, two page story in PEOPLE magazine, being on Martha Stewart, Extra, tv shows and movies with my jewelry in them, meeting celebrities, having someone recognize my name when I handed them my credit card… or just hearing how my jewelry has made someone else’s life special.
What advice would you give to aspiring jewelry designers?
Love what do and do it with a joyful heart. That was the key for me.
Your jewelry is so personal and timeless. Are there any stories your clients have shared with you about their personal connection and stories with the jewelry?
Stories galore, they could fill a book. My jewelry is part of multigenerational family experiences. I feel so honored to be in some way part of so many lives. From the delivery room calls for a new initial, to the first girlfriend’s necklace, to the bridesmaid gift, to the grandmother’s necklace.
You’ve said that in the beginning, your business really grew by word of mouth; people spotting your jewelry on someone and placing an order! Today your brand is all over the country with 6 stores and online. How has the way your brand’s growth changed or not changed?
I have always tried to grow at a rate I could handle- running the motel, raising my sons. Opening stores once my children were older and during the offseason for the motel, my business growth was at a personal pace. I enjoy close relationships with my customers. I love going into the stores where I get to meet people and hear the stories about how they found my jewelry. There are still many personal referrals and with the internet our communities can widen.
You’ve had so much press and a great relationship with the media, being featured in practically every magazine and tons of blogs. How did you develop this part of you business? Did you work with a PR company, or was it an organic process?
I would say my success in the press and in business is due to the kindness of others. Once a door peeks open for you, hustle to make things happen.
You live in places most people like to vacation, where do you head when you want to go away?
When I’m not at the beach, the next best place is the mountains. Being in nature helps me feel grounded and peaceful.
What’s the most challenging and rewarding part of running your own business?
Challenging- You are never out of school – there are always looming deadlines and responsibilities. Rewarding- it is the best thing that ever happened to me- I am so happy to have the life I do and to have helped others along the way.
Lifestyle photos by Stevi Sesin