After 40 years of building relationships in Poulsbo and the greater parts of western Washington, Blue Heron Jewelry will be closing its doors at the end of the holiday season.
Blue Heron Jewelry began 40 years ago with Leo Fried, 71, and has remained at its location in Poulsbo for 33 years.
Fried had previously worked in a metal shop in Detroit where he made prototypes for Ford, GM, and Chrysler.
“I knew I didn’t want to work in a factory for the rest of my life and I headed out west,” Fried said.
Fried had taken a jewelry making class in high school and with that as his foundation, he proceeded to teach himself everything else about the medium over a 30 year period.
Prior to arriving in Poulsbo, Fried spent time in Arizona where he learned to pound out silver to sell jewelry at flea markets, then he became a street artist in San Fransisco and eventually moved to Seattle where he spent 13 years making and selling jewelry at Pike Place Market.
“I saw there was an opening … the guy who had the jewelry store before me said was he going to move and I could stake over his store, so I did.”
The jewelry store was originally located in a 200-square foot shop just in front of what is now Boehm’s Chocolates in downtown Poulsbo. Fried was in that space for 13 years before moving to his current location which is now 2,000 square feet.
“We have clients today, that remember starting to do business with Leo when he was at Pike Place Market. He has a following from the other side of the water that still comes over here to buy from him,” Debbie Schneider, Blue Heron’s marketing manager said.
Fried has a few signature designs but his first was what he calls a “warrior” design, basically pieces made of silver that he could make at any shop anywhere.
“When I juried in at Pike Place Market, I showed them three to four pieces that I had done the night before so that I could jury in … I presented them to the juries and it seemed to blow them away that they were all handmade pieces and they accepted us,” Fried said.
At this point, Fried had only been in Seattle three days and had no money, so it was fortunate that the market master was able to find him a space to sell his wares, he made $43 selling five pieces that day.
Over the years Fried has developed a recognizable style of jewelry that is highly sought after. He had multiple lines of different pieces ranging from engagement rings to wedding bands to earrings and pendants.
The decision to retire was not an easy one, but it came down to the facts of life and time for Fried.
“I’m getting older, I’ve been at this 40 years … longer than that actually … There’s other things I would like to do. I’d like to ride my bike more, I’d like to learn new techniques … it’s just getting harder,” Freid said.
In terms of what will happen to the physical Blue Heron Jewelry shop, Fried wants to make sure that it goes to a person and a business that is as dedicated to forming relationships and participating in the greater Poulsbo community as much as possible.
“I’ve worked down here for 33 years and created a business and a culture and I would really hate to see that end. I went from no employees to 13 employees and I just can’t see closing the doors because I’m retiring and we’re trying to sell the business to the right person. Somebody who has a vested interest in the community, a vested interest in the culture that we have here,” Fried said.
Fried also indicated that he is on track to finding someone that fits those specifications, but could not say who yet.
In addition to being a business owner, Fried has also played a major role in community events with more than 20 years as a member of the Poulsbo Rotary club. Fried had a hand in the building of Poulsbo’s Fish Park as well as the establishing the Viking Tour bike race that takes place during Viking Fest.