After years of working for a paycheck in the world of government IT recruiting, one born and bred Potomac resident decided enough was enough. After her last child finished college, Deb Shalom quit her IT job to open a jewelry and fine gifts shop in the Cabin John Shopping Center.
Leila Fine Gifts and Jewels, located a few doors down from the and next door to the Dunkin Donuts, sells about 50 percent jewelry and 50 percent gifts, but nearly all of the products originated in Montgomery County.
“I try to focus on local craftsman and designers, but if it's not local it's made in America,” Shalom said. “Most of the stuff is made in America.”
Her local artisans include Linda Kushner of North Potomac, who creates sterling silver jewelry and beaded housewares; Judy Bliss and Randi Kay, both of Potomac, and both beaded-jewelry artists; MyWalit of Silver Spring, which creates leather goods; Laura Silberman of Frederick, a ceramics artist, and Rachelle Ferneau, creator of Dear CoCo chocolate.
Customers walking into Leila’s will be greeted with colorful displays of sparkling glass, stone and beadwork, something in which Shalom says she takes great pride.
“I just love beautiful things,” she said. “I stand here and I look around and I know that I chose all of it. It’s very validating for me when customers walk in and tell me how much they love a certain piece.”
Shalom’s products range from $30 to hundreds more, with various special occasion gifts, Judaica, jewelry and housewares selections in different price ranges.
Residents may remember Shalom from the now closed Potomac Teen dress shop in Potomac Woods Plaza Shopping Center during the early 2000s. With her second foray into the world of retail, Shalom says she followed the dream of her late mother, who often talked about opening a joint venture and for whom the store is named.
“We always talked about opening a store and doing this together. Life gets in the way,” Shalom said. After putting her last child through college, she decided the time was finally right. “I said I want to do something for me now. I want to do something creative.”
She called the Cabin John Shopping Center in May looking for shop space and opened in June.
“The summer was very quiet, but it was OK. It gave me a chance to tweak things, figure things out,” Shalom said. “It’s definitely picking up now that everyone is back from summer and looking to birthdays, weddings and gifts.”
Shalom says her inspiration stemmed from the now-closed Zyzyx store in Bethesda, and her years of experience with the Potomac community.
“The average Potomac resident is somewhat sophisticated and has a very sophisticated sense of style – they love unusual, creative and different things,” Shalom said. Pointing to her favorite item in the store, a fiery red glass bowl, “I see this in a center hall of a big Potomac house,” she said.
Have you been to the new store? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!