From Chicago With Love
FROM CHICAGO WITH LOVE
How my experiences in the Windy City sparked the birth of Zjoosh, by founder, Kellie Rigney
Around 11 years ago our family moved to Chicago. We purchased a home in the pretty neighbourhood of Kenilworth Gardens and soon fell in love with our life in the USA. I still cannot believe our luck at landing amongst such incredible neighbours. Both to our left and right, as well as directly opposite across the street, we made wonderful friends who continue to draw us here from across the globe to see them again.
Anyone who knows me is aware of my obsession with jewellery and accessories. I’ve always been an avid ‘collector’: New, vintage, high-end, low-end… I seem to never have quite enough! A lady always has more room for jewellery, right? I instantly connected with our next door neighbour, Annie O’Brien, who shared my love of pretty baubles. Annie had experience in the industry, having worked for her sister-in-law, the well-known designer, Tracy Porter. Both of us had just had babies and weren’t working. Before long we got to talking and hatched a plan to turn our passion for baubles into a business.
We began to source pieces from wholesalers in Chicago and created a party-plan model which our friends and neighbours supported with great enthusiasm. I took the role of buyer and, thank God, Annie with her head for business and an accounting background ran operations. I still laugh when I think of her saying regularly, “You spent WHAT?!”.
Of course, all good things come to an end and at the end of 2009 we decided it was time to return to Australia to be with our families. Oh, the tears. I think my heart actually broke the day we said goodbye. We sold our home to Amy and Brad Black, who were dear friends from the neighbourhood. It was like we were simply passing the baton on as we left, and it still warms my heart to see how they have loved our home and our neighbours as we did.
I struggled to settle in Australia. We had been on the move for the better part of 15 years, and without my friends and business I was lost. However, with the encouragement of my husband Wayne, the Bauble Nest was reincarnated as Zjoosh. I started importing directly from all over the world, sold at local markets and developed an online store and wholesale business. Soon stores followed.
The business has now evolved to include furniture and homewares, another unbridled passion of mine which I shared with friends in Chicago. I really believe my time fossicking in antique markets and stores in and around Chicago was key to developing the Zjoosh aesthetic. My American friends and I were (and still are) on an endless search for beautiful pieces to Zjoosh each other’s homes.
It is so great to share my passion with people I love, which now includes my beautiful Zjoosh family, and you, our wonderful and loyal customers.
- Irene Rayment