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Suetables: a Studio That Puts a Unique Stamp on Jewelry

I learn from my clients all the time," says Sue Henderson of her client base at Suetables, which just opened its second location on Roncesvalles Ave. near Dundas St. W.

In fact, this entire business has been about listening to customer demands.

They love her sterling silver jewelry - she's also got some gold-dipped and pure gold pieces, plus semi-precious stones - that are all about hand-stamped letters and messages. The entire collection adds up to more than 1,000 pieces.

Customers often talk about their children and their lives when they ponder which initial or which word to stamp on a necklace or other keepsake. "You end up learning a lot about people's lives," says Henderson.

This 900-square-foot space puts all Henderson has learned about her customers and their likes together. It features her ever-evolving jewelry line, plus a collaborative line of things like pillows and cards that she's developed with illustrator Heather LeFleur, plus hand-picked items from other artisans.

The bright main space glitters with metals and stones - this used to be a Subway restaurant, but you'd never know. In a prime location is Henderson's necklace bar - a long row of different chains and charms that you can mix and match, then personalize, starting at $26 and going up to $350. Stretch ball bracelets range from $26 to $250.

Meanwhile, the roomy back space houses computers and rows of shelves, as it's the hub of Suetables' busy online business. The company ships to 30 countries.

Who knew quality, hand-stamped silver would sell so well? Henderson most certainly did not. She had worked in communications for Alliance Atlantis for many years, but quit to raise her two boys.

She purchased a set of stamps on eBay in 2004 - these tools are used in industry to label machinery, but they've become a popular handicraft tool. She used them on baby spoons and gave them away as gifts.

The rounded spoons soon started to annoy her, so she looked for something flatter. She found a bead that would take a stamp, and did one up for her sister Kathryn. Word got around the playground and Henderson found herself with customers. She sold 500 necklaces, purely via word of mouth.

She soon created a dog tag and sold those as well - but then needed a good source of quality jewelry, preferably of her own design.

An online search revealed the town of Taxco, Mexico, thanks to its proximity to silver mines, was a haven for jewelry. Henderson flew down and met two jewelry makers - she still uses them today. They took her hand-drawn designs and began producing high quality pieces for her.

Back at home, she started to sell at art markets and events at private schools. "The people I met there are still my clients," she says.

Growing the business gradually as her boys grew, Henderson put up an online store in 2008. She loved it - she could be in her pajamas and build her business.

In 2012, she visited Thailand, finding more small-scale manufacturers to add more items to her inventory.

"I always said I'm never having a store," recalls Henderson. But in 2015 she ran a pop-up in a Rosedale ice-cream store for three months. "People showed up in droves to buy things. The universe was telling me to get a shop." So, in June 2016 she opened her location on Mount Pleasant, and it did well, despite the relatively low foot traffic in the area.

This new location offers a bit more room - that's why online sales have moved here - and a chance to test out the products in an even busier retail neighbourhood. Henderson also brought on former TV industry colleague Alexandra Brown to partner in this new location and to work on the company's digital store too.

Together, they're looking ahead to what's possible for this brand and a whole new client base, all of whom will likely have lots to say. "We're learning from a whole new set of customers." Correction - December 14, 2017: This article was edited from a previous version that misspelled illustrator Heather Lafleur's surname.

Suetables: a Studio That Puts a Unique Stamp on Jewelry 1

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