When walking into Harper Ray Accessories, a new jewelry store in Southfield, you’ll find necklaces, bracelets, anklets, rings and earrings shining and lining the space.
The store is carefully curated using white and pink, and the walls are covered mirrors with special sayings on them, such as “You can’t afford me” and “Whatever you want Princess.”
“We deeply believe that every woman has a little princess in them somewhere," said Gillian Bradley, 27, of Southfield, the store's owner who loved glitter as a child. "We want to make sure that we’re bringing that out of them and celebrating that.”
The classy, sassy and icy appeal is proving popular. When the store opened Sept. 26, at 29139 Southfield Road, Bradley said she recouped 50% of the funding spent to launch the store in the first week of operation.
“We feel like it’s for us by us,” Bradley said of the business model. "Most jewelry is marketed towards men to buy for women for special occasions. So we believe that you can buy your own jewelry. You deserve to shine every day, not just on special occasions. And men don’t have to buy it for you. We felt like there was a gap in the industry, and that’s what we’re here to fill.”
Starting the company
Before the company started, Bradley created her own jewelry and sold it while attending Farmington Hills Harrison High School in 2012. She was so into glitter her family would find leftover glitter all over the place.
Then she went to Michigan State, where she earned a degree in food science with a concentration in packaging in 2018.
“As soon as I graduated college, I decided to start taking (the business) serious, and started doing it full time. And last year is when it really took off,” she said.
She named the business after her grandfather, James Harper, who she said was a Black male anesthesiologist in Detroit. He received his undergraduate degree from Howard University and earned a medical degree from the University of Washington. He passed away when she was 6 years old, and he played a huge role in her life as a child. One of her favorite memories of him is when he attended daddy-daughter dances with his grandchildren, so her siblings wouldn't have to argue over who was going with their father.
She calls her customers Harper Baes, in his honor, and she wants the store, which has six employees, to represent every bold and confident woman through jewelry, accessories and apparel.
“We want every Harper Bae that walks in here to feel like the princess that they are,” Bradley said.
“I feel like I’m a good representative of the Harper Baes and I know what they like,” she said. “I know what they want to see. So it’s super easy to come up with things and just focus on what I feel like my audience enjoys and what I also enjoy. I definitely feel like it’s perfectly aligned.”
Bradley interacts with her customers on Instagram Live, where she showcases new products and gets to know her buyers. Tamira Owens, 27, of Detroit, has been a customer of the store since 2019.
"Harper Ray curates a vibe I just can't deny," Owens said. "The quality of the jewelry is amazing and the new store is beautiful. Everything this company stands for keeps me coming back."
The store offers jewelry designed in-house which then gets created by a manufacturer. You can order custom pendants and chains and can find gold- and platinum-plated and water- and tarnish-resistant jewelry, along with sterling silver post earrings and many hypoallergenic items. There are also chains available in smaller sizes to fit children.
Prices start at $5 and go up to $232 for custom pieces. But the store is big on sales. Every Tuesday, there will be three to five items marked down to $20, and different items will be on sale each week.
The store also hosts social media challenges and events for its customers. Bradley plans to have a Black Santa Claus visit the store on the first three Saturdays in December for kids to take pictures with during the first three hours of operation. The store’s hours are Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The business had been operating out of a small office space, but its popularity grew on Instagram to over 21,600 followers in the last year. So Bradley said she felt it was time to her longtime customers a full in-person experience.
And since she is from Southfield and the city is a central location for her customers, she chose to place her first store there. She said she expects to expand her business in one to three cities next year.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Harper Ray Accessories jewelry store opens in Southfield