Deirdre Zahl has an eye for what people like. So when she started selling her vintage jewelry finds, her business took off quickly.
She had recently moved to Charleston from New York, where she worked for a digital marketing agency, and still had plenty of connections, which she used to book trunk shows. Soon she was traveling back and forth between New York and Charleston frequently. She launched a website called Candy Shop Vintage, got spotlighted by Vanity Fair and designed her first jewelry collection. At the same time, she was breastfeeding a baby girl back home.
Looking back, Deirdre says, “It was really stressful. I can’t believe I did it. The time away from her was so hard.”
Deirdre found that when she was in New York, everyone wanted to talk about Charleston. So she started searching for inspiration for a jewelry line she could create that would be tied to Charleston. Then during a shopping trip, she discovered an original Napier rice beads chain. Deirdre designed a modern version of the necklace, which has oblong grooved beads.
But she needed to find someone who could make the chain. She approached a manufacturer who said it wasn’t worth his time, but she didn’t give up. Eventually, she paid for the manufacturer to build the machine that could make the chain. She Googled “powder coaters” to find an auto body shop to paint the beads and called the shop with the website that touted, “We specialize in taking jobs no one else will.”
She recalls that there was a lot of trial and error getting the manufacturing process right. And, she says, there were a lot of tears along the way, but “I just kept pushing through.”
“I have a very determined personality,” Deirdre says.
She debuted her rice beads collection three years after her first vintage-jewelry inspired collection.
“You just have to get it out there. If you wait until it’s perfect, you will miss your moment.”
Deirdre seized the moment again when she found out a storefront she had been eyeing on Cannon Street was coming available. She opened the Candy Shop Vintage store, which she stocks with her version of rice beads, vintage jewelry and other collections she designs. Each season, Deirdre introduces two new colors of the rice bead necklace. This fall it’s violet and cinnamon.
Deirdre describes her style as feminine with a twist, and says she’s been influenced by living in Charleston.
“Southern women do jewelry a little more confidently,” she says.
In the beginning, Deirdre says, she sought other women in the area who were doing what she wanted to do, and the women she met made her feel empowered to give her own dreams a shot. She notes that Charleston boasts an “epic number” of female entrepreneurs.
“The community of women here is so supportive,” she says.