Iluminé Gallery owner, Lynda Berdin, has found a new home for her affordable jewelry store and gallery.
By Caitlin Maloney Kuchemba
Photography By Melissa Kelly Photography (melissakellyphotography.com)
Iluminé Gallery appeared to have opened on Main Street in an instant. It might be because it wasn’t the first time owner Lynda Berdin opened a gallery, Iluminé is actually the seventh gallery she’s owned over the last 30 years.
It all started back in Albuquerque, New Mexico when after graduating with a degree in business management from the University of Phoenix, her husband at the time suggested she get a job working at an art gallery in Old Town Albuquerque. Lynda loved the idea of working in a gallery, but she didn’t just want to work at a gallery, she wanted to own one.
“I thought to myself, ‘I just went through business school, why on Earth would I work for someone else instead of starting my own business?’” Lynda thought.
Lynda began talking with other gallery owners in Old Town and as luck would have it, a gallery called Papel was on the market. After some persuasion, Lynda convinced the owners to give her the first right of refusal on the gallery while she gathered up the funds she needed to purchase it.
“Luckily I was able to pull together enough money for a down payment and made a promissory note to pay back the owners within five years,” Lynda said. “But, I actually ended up paying the owners back in just six months because the gallery was doing so well.”
Upon acquiring the gallery, Lynda immersed herself in the art world and into growing their higher price point collectable pieces and later expanded into her second gallery which offered framing services for posters, prints and lithographs. By this time, she had renamed Papel to Nizhoni Gallery.
While in Albuquerque, Lynda also acquired another gallery, Nizhoni Fine Arts, with work from the renowned Navajo artist RC Gorman and later opened Nizhoni Jewelry, which featured handmade Native American Jewelry. Her galleries were booming until 2008 when the recession hit the art and collectable industries hard.
“The year 2008 had put an end to that wonderful era of art and jewelry collecting by collectors from all over the country,” Lynda said. “I had to close all of the galleries one by one.”
After taking some time off to travel and enjoy the fruits of her many years working in the industry, Lynda kept coming back to her passion for jewelry. On her travels, she began picking up jewelry pieces and sourcing designers she hoped to sell in a new gallery in the future.
“Out of all of my businesses, I love selling jewelry the most,” Lynda said. “There’s just something magical about when a woman gets a new piece of jewelry. The smiles and the feeling of joy and happiness are just so real that it seems to come from the innermost recesses of her soul. I just love seeing that.”
Iluminé Gallery finally came to fruition when Lynda decided to move east to be closer to her son and daughter-in-law, who currently live in New York City. Lynda knew New York City life wasn’t for her, so she came to Philadelphia on a whim and upon arriving, fell in love with the city and started looking for a retail space.
By the time she found 4386 Main Street, Lynda already had a collection of over 2,000 pieces of curated jewelry to sell in her new shop. The only other thing she needed was a name for her new business, so she turned to her Bahai faith for inspiration.
“One of my favorite prayers has the word ‘illumine’ over and over, so when I opened, I decided that jewelry is shiny and bright and illuminating — so it was a good fit,” Lynda recalled. “My mother, who was a very successful businesswoman in her time, once told me when you name a business it has to be an odd number, not even, so I dropped the one “l” and added an accent over the “e” to make Iluminé.”
In the 1980’s and 1990’s when Lynda first began selling jewelry, the trend was toward big, bulky statement pieces, but she’s noticed a change since then.
“This generation loves dainty and small jewelry so this is where Iluminé’s slogan, ‘affordable fine jewelry for everyday wear,’ comes from,” Lynda said.
Lynda carries everything from sterling silver to rose gold and 14 and 16 karat gold overlay jewelry in her affordable line and also carries higher end solid gold and small diamonds as well. Designers she carries include La Kaiser, Five and Two, Bopbe, Jaxkelly, Bu, Vera Wolf, Lanna, Jack and G, Anzie, Kozakh, Rachael Hatala, Alex Monroe, and Colleen Mauer.
Besides classic jewelry pieces, Lynda has also pulled inspiration from her past by offering work from Native American jewelers like Alex Sanchez, Fernando Bennaly, and Stella Naranjo.
“Our price points start at $25 with a few pieces retailing for up to $5,000, with the average price around $55,” Lynda said.
Iluminé’s price point and variety make it a great gift option for this holiday season.
“We offer a variety of jewelry designs and price points so that anyone and everyone can find whatever they might be looking for at Iluminé,” Lynda said.
Besides jewelry, Iluminé also carries lines of candles, cards, Native American prints and other Southwestern inspired collectables in the shop.
“I’m really excited to be on Main Street during such a busy time of year because we have so many gift items — there are a lot of pieces here that are at price point where you can buy them for anyone and everyone on your holiday list,” Lynda said.
While Lynda comes with years of experience in gift suggesting, customers can also purchase gift cards this holiday season.
As far as expansion goes, Lynda would love to see another Iluminé Gallery one day, and has her eyes potentially on Brooklyn for a second location.
“When I was younger, it was easier for me to open one gallery after another and when something works for me I like to stay with it. So even though I’m getting older now, I would like to live to see another Iluminé,” she said.
For now, Lynda is loving calling Manayunk home and recently purchased a house here in the neighborhood too.
“The Manayunk community and fellow shop owners have been so welcoming and friendly,” Lynda said. “They’ve been visiting the store to check on me and see how the business is going. The community really cares and wants to see us be successful. I love calling Manayunk home.”