As she spent nearly a decade staking out a corner of Brooklyn’s design community, you’d think it would be easy enough to come up with a simple, catch-all description for Erica Weiner’s designs. But with a line that encompasses engagement rings, found and reworked vintage pieces, an entire vintage-inspired collection (“1909”), and even pieces from subway tokens, Weiner’s work remains stubbornly—and delightfully—hard to pin down. “There’s never been a long-term business plan, or even really a short-term one,” says Weiner, who started as a patternmaker in the design world before transitioning into jewelry. “When I first started, the focus was sort of on charms and chains, and we’re still developing that. But we also find old boxes of dead-stock stuff and design the collections around it; most of the original parts are from the 50s, 60s, 70s. I’m probably more excited about the antiques right now. But I’ll focus on this, and then in a year it’ll be another idea.”
Which is not to say the line’s success has been by chance. Having started as one of the original vendors at both Artists and Fleas and the Brooklyn Flea, Weiner, who’s based in Red Hook, has expanded the business slowly and cannily, so that she’s only just opened her first brick-and-mortar Brooklyn location within the past six months. She also has plans to move the company’s offices to Greenpoint later this fall.Tucked into the ground floor of an Atlantic Avenue building that’s been around since the 1800s and once housed an Italian food importer (they’ve been known to find century-old olive oil bottles out back), the store has a mood that’s palpably different from that of her Elizabeth Street location, which has been thriving since 2011. “People here want to come in and talk for a while, then they come back, and they tell their friends,” says Weiner. “We get more loyal people here. In the Manhattan store, you never see the same face twice.”After years in such a rapidly changing business (and borough), Weiner is careful to keep her options open. But with planned pop-ups in Portland and LA and nascent plans for a full-blown West Coast branch (she’s still considering different cities), she should have many more loyalists soon.