Little Crystal Bijoux is an unexpected shop in Dundalk for some, but for owner Laura Quintana it was a no brainer. The store sells handmade jewelry, art, soaps, and body lotions. Ms. Quintana has been a professional artist since she was 17 years old. She sells prints of her color pencils, pen, and paint artwork in her shop, but has learned to enjoy the creative process of jewelry making. “People like their accessories to be artsy. This is where I come in as an artist.” Ms. Quintana finds making a living as an artist without having work commissioned tricky. “Finding a clientele with the same aesthetic artistically can be tough. Jewelry, accessories, and making “useful” products from prints–that’s an easier market to ease into.”
Jewelry making allows Ms. Quintana to use her artistic skills to capture a moment or a scene. “As an artist, when thinking of a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers, I can select a variety of colorful gemstones like amethysts, pearls, citrine, rose quarts, and arrange them in a pattern for a necklace or pair of earrings that will have the same color palette of the flowers that inspired the idea. “
It’s been six years since Little Crystal Bijoux opened its doors and Ms. Quintana has no plans of closing shop. In fact, she and her husband have expanded. They opened their larger space at 7 Center Place in 2016 after purchasing and renovating the building. It was an investment in her work, in Little Crystal Bijoux, and in Dundalk. Friends and strangers alike often ask Ms. Quintana why she chose Dundalk. “Dundalk’s art scene is not unlike a blank sketchbook or journal,” Ms. Quintana said. “Dundalk can be whatever we want it to be. Let’s fill these pages with our vision!”
Ms. Quintana wasn’t raised on the Dundalk pride she now happily exemplifies and promotes. She didn’t grow up in Dundalk. In fact, she had no idea it was here before she moved here in 2007. Ms. Quintana and her husband, Cary, were renting an apartment in Bowie, Maryland so he could commute to Washington, D.C. for work. When she and her husband started looking to purchase their first home, she asked her Maryland-raised friends what the name of area surrounded by water was she saw every time she flew out of BWI. It was Dundalk. Ms. Quintana, her spouse, their two cats and dog eventually ended up buying a home in Dundalk, after renting a town home they absolutely adored and frequently tried to purchase.
Ms. Quintana enjoys the easy, peaceful kayaking, walking her dogs through the numerous parks, and the affordability of the area. “Dundalk is THE place to buy commercial real estate. It’s affordable.”
Little Crystal Bijoux was part of Dundalk Renaissance’s first pop up shop. “The pop up was great because you’re not in a 5-year lease. You have a chance to see if your business works with a three-month lease and you have access to resources through Dundalk Renaissance like small business counseling.”
The Quintanas then signed a regular lease with Blue Ocean for 1-A Center Place. Ms. Quintana brought a French Latin quarter vibe to the 212 feet. The space was easy to work with because of the high ceilings. She turned the store into her dream jewelry closet.
After two years, Ms. Quintana needed more space and began to look at commercial real estate in Historic Dundalk Town Center. When they sought to expand their business, Dundalk Renaissance was able to help the Quintanas build partnerships with local property owners, direct them to Baltimore County Small Business Resource Center for business plan help, and help them seek acquisition loans from Baltimore County and the State of Maryland. Dundalk Renaissance also provided some grant funds to help with needed renovations through DHCD and Baltimore County BOOST loan program.
Ms. Quintana has some advice to anyone looking to open their own business: follow your passions and open shop in Dundalk. “If we can do it, you can too. Let’s invest in and reinvent this Historic Town Center. Let’s turn this place into a great place to spend an afternoon gathering with friends and shopping and getting inspired.”
Be on the look out for Little Crystal Bijoux’s take over on October 4!
For more information on Dundalk Renaissance’s Commercial Improvement Grant, click here!
For more resources on starting a small business, click here!