Scrolling through Instagram, you inevitably see influencers sporting gorgeous, glittering jewelry. New styles come in and out of our feeds like the wind, and it’s hard to keep up. Luckily, NJ’s Stacey and Sara Benz have tapped into the trends of pop culture to keep Sarafina Jewelry on the cutting edge of fashion. But don’t worry, they’ve got you covered for classic and timeless looks as well.
Stacey Benz originally started Sarafina Jewelry in the 2000s, which was an ever-popular New Jersey storefront during its 18-year run. After closing in 2018 and revamping in 2020, its second iteration is driven by online sales. Integral to Sarafina’s rebirth was Sara Benz, Stacey’s daughter. Sara brought a modern outreach model to her mother’s previously successful business. Now, their mother-daughter working relationship has transformed and revived a Marlboro, NJ favorite. Since they’ve officially relaunched with a focus on e-commerce, I asked the duo behind Sarafina Jewelry a few questions.
1. Stacey, what is your background in jewelry and how did you prepare to open Sarafina the first time?
My career in jewelry started in the late 1980s when my childhood friend got me a job on 47th Street in New York. I did accounting, was a showroom manager and later got into production. Years later, after I got married to my husband, I joined his family’s jewelry business in Brooklyn. We moved to Marlboro, New Jersey from Brooklyn and we had our first child, Sara. My husband was commuting to Brooklyn to help out with the family business, but after we had our second child, Emily, we finally decided to open a store here in Marlboro.
Sarafina Jewelry, named after our first daughter, opened on October 18, 2001. We chose the location because it was just five minutes from home and in a well-known shopping center that naturally drove traffic to the store. It made running our shop much more convenient because it allowed us to be more involved in the day-to-day business affairs.
2. If you had to create a timeline of important moments in the near two decades that Sarafina has been in business, what might be on it? Your highs and lows, your milestones?
Our grand opening was not too long after 9/11. It was such a tragic and difficult time for everyone. We live and work so close to New York City and knew many people who were affected. In an effort to support our local community, we decided to fill the store with red, white and blue merchandise that people could purchase to commemorate their loved ones. Being that we’re a family-owned business, we became a support system for locals who were directly affected by this horrific event. I’m so proud that we were able to provide love, support and encouragement to our customers in that capacity.
We’ve had so many incredible milestones throughout the years. Again, as a family-owned business, we understand the importance of giving back and supporting the community that welcomed us with open arms. We’ve partnered with many local charities including Stomp The Monster, a New Jersey-based organization that provides financial and other support to cancer patients, their families, and caregivers.
In 2019, the tough decision to close our doors after 18 years was definitely a low. Many of our customers were devastated. Sarafina Jewelry had become a place filled with amazing jewelry and memories for many in our community. Quite a few of our employees were with us from day one until the day we closed our brick-and-mortar store. Sarafina truly felt like an extension of our family.
Flash forward to 2020, when my daughter Sara graduated with a degree in Business Management in the middle of the pandemic. I knew she had the skills and experience to help me pursue Sarafina in a different way for the modern customer. We partnered up and fully rebranded into Shop Sarafina Jewelry online.
3. How and when did the two of you realize that you could relaunch Sarafina Jewelry together?
After Sara graduated from college, she was struggling to find job opportunities due to the pandemic. She had a business degree and internships in social media marketing, but the job landscape was tough. Since COVID hit, I knew consumers were shopping online more than ever and thought it could be a great and timely opportunity to relaunch the brand with Sara’s expertise. Sarafina was ‘reborn’ in July 2020. Sara immediately got to work revamping our social media platforms. We decided to go back to the basics and launch our e-commerce with the gold-filled beaded stack bracelets that were best sellers in the original Sarafina store. They’re good quality, reasonable in price and everyone loved them. Sara decided to call them “Sara’s Stacks.”
4. What does being a mother-daughter duo bring to the table compared to a partner-partner business? Pros and cons?
Our mother-daughter business relationship is a completely different dynamic than a traditional partner-to-partner relationship. Being that we’re family, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well. It makes dividing up certain tasks a no-brainer. Most importantly, we know that we can trust one another, which is crucial when you’re in business with someone.
From a mother’s point of view, I knew that Sara always had an entrepreneurial spirit. This was the perfect opportunity to pursue her passion. The biggest challenge we face is separating our work life from home life. As we’re all working from home now, it’s tough to turn off sometimes. And, of course, there are days we get on each others’ nerves and argue just like any mother and daughter do, but we wouldn’t change a thing.
5. How do you pick your designs and is it a collaborative effort? Some pieces feel very classic and timeless, others feel incredibly trendy like they’re throwing it back to the ‘90s and early 2000s.
We choose our designs collaboratively and every business decision is made together. That’s why we have such a great assortment of both timeless and trendy offerings. Sara has her finger on the pulse of all things new and trendy, while I find it important to incorporate those great, classic pieces that I’ve seen sold and worn over and over again throughout the years.
6. Your brand has taken off in a big way with social media influencers and public figures. In what ways has that impacted your business? How has e-commerce changed the way you operate?
From her background, Sara knew that influencer and celebrity outreach was a popular and effective marketing tactic, especially for small and emerging brands. She introduced this concept to me! When you have the right influencer with a large and loyal community of followers representing your brand, and that person truly loves the product, it sparks interest in their community. Their followers will go purchase exactly what they saw their favorite influencer wearing or give our brand a follow so they can see more styles and news. Sara has done an incredible job at discovering influencers who look great in our accessories and who help tell our brand story effectively.
E-commerce changed the way we operate tremendously, and it just makes sense in this day and age. We can reach more consumers than ever before! Logistically, it is more difficult. Previously, products would simply be inspected, marked and put on display. Now, every single product gets inspected, checked in and added to our files. Then, Sara shoots all of the product content for the site and social media and, finally, we can upload everything onto the site.
7. How has it been relaunching your business during the pandemic and what can we look forward to from Sarafina Jewelry in the upcoming year?
Relaunching during the pandemic was challenging, but I’m no stranger to persevering during tough times. We were prepared and we knew that, since jewelry is not a necessity, people would see it in a different way during the pandemic. In the storefront, we ensured that we covered every price point. We offered fine jewelry and engagement rings to more costume and fun jewelry. The whole reason we decided to go with sterling silver, gold-plated and gold-filled pieces was so we could deliver affordable price points as well as pieces that can be dressed up or down, from work from home to dinner.
Now that COVID restrictions are opening up, we’re looking forward to participating in more pop-up events. We love doing them! It’s so fun to meet new faces and introduce them to our brand. It brings me back to the days of selling pieces in the original store. Of course, you can look forward to new jewelry styles and pieces as always, Instagram giveaways and more! In the future, we would love to expand past retail into wholesale and have a showroom where we can put our pieces on display for people to come shop. Who knows, it could come sooner than we think! Until then, you can find us on shopsarafinajewelry.com and @sarafinajewelry on Instagram.
Main image of owners Stacey and Sara Benz / Rachel Gordon Photography