GROWING FROM A SINGLE JEWELRY EXCHANGE BOOTH TO SPARKLING CEDAR GROVE EMPORIUM, THIS CUSTOM FINE JEWELER CONTINUES TO SHINE IN ESSEX COUNTY
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY ERIC COLEMAN
Yanina Fleysher, president and founder of Yanina & Co. Fine Jewelry, was a mere 19 years old when she decided to launch her own business. Her vision was born from circumstance; a movie theater advertisement for a budding jewelry exchange prompted what would eventually become a 33-year-old (and counting) custom fine jewelry boutique in Cedar Grove, attracting customers from all over the world, nabbing numerous “best jeweler” awards, and even getting airtime on hit TV shows like The Real Housewives of New Jersey. But it would take tenacity, grit, and the support of her family to get the brand where it is today.
“My whole family came from Russia, so we really didn’t have any money,” explained Branden Sheehan, Yanina & Co.’s operations manager and the founder’s son. “She started in this booth at a jewelry exchange and worked her tail off while taking classes in college. It took off and boomed.”
Early success yielded enough capital to move into a dedicated storefront, and Fleysher and her mother, Claudia, acquired one-third of a building in Cedar Grove. There, the owner transitioned from a humble booth to high-end gallery, where iterations in diamonds, precious stones, platinum, and gold glisten under a crystal chandelier.
“They just did it,” continued Sheehan. “This team of women from the ‘80s and early ‘90s pulled it together and got everything going. There was a lot of work to be done in this small space. It was tough in the beginning, but we were also in a unique position as one of the first women-led custom jewelers in the area. Customers felt immediately comfortable.”
Business continued to swell, and eventually Fleysher and team were able to procure the additional two spaces to fill the entire building, giving the boutique ample space to grow and showcase its collections of custom couture jewelry. Of the inventory, 85% is made on site, and the team meticulously selects a few special pieces to bring in finished.
The three jewelers’ workbenches are subtly on display, allowing customers the opportunity to see them in action as they hand-craft one-of-a-kind pieces.
The enterprise remains a family-run affair today; Fleysher still sits at the helm and her brother, Alex Fleysher, a certified diamond grader by G.I.A., serves as her VP. Sheehan, a graduate of Muhlenberg College with a bachelor’s degree in Russian studies and international studies, joined the management team five years ago, though he lightheartedly admitted that was never his plan.
“Actually, I was trying super hard not to [laughs]. I studied politics in college and thought I wanted to get out there and change the world.”
But after only his second day of work, he was hooked. “This guy comes in, full of energy, and tells me I need to design three necklaces for him,” he recalled. “So we drafted up these beautiful designs, and he ended up ordering all three. I was taken right then and there.”
Jewelry redesign is also a thriving area of business, one that the operations manager pointed out is especially rewarding. The design team works with the client to conceive something new from an old or outdated piece of jewelry.
“Every piece of jewelry has a story to it. That piece is always treasured by that person and the whole family. You’ll look back and think, ‘Grandma always had that necklace,’ but as time goes on, things get passed down for special reasons, and the piece might become outdated, which happens. For us, the biggest shame is to have something sit in the drawer. Redesign allows us the opportunity to take the most important piece of it, say the diamond or something else, and make it something special for you. You will then build a story one day and think, ‘We made it into something that I now treasure and hold.’”
Once a design is agreed upon, the creation process typically takes two to three weeks. Sheehan explained that the design stage can occasionally take some time as the team will work with the client for as long as it takes to create the perfect aesthetic. One piece of technology that has streamlined this process over the past 15 years is computer-aided design software, or CAD, which brings jewelry to life before a tool is ever used. The boutique was one of the first in the Garden State to master and implement this technology.
“Now we can make something brand new quickly. Twenty years ago we used sketches on a piece of paper; now we can get into the fine details and change anything beforehand. There’s transparency. We show clients a great picture from every angle so they can see every piece of it.”
After more than 30 years in business, word of mouth continues to be one of the boutique’s most fruitful marketing strategies, its reach extending to all corners of the country and beyond. Per Sheehan, clients will see an example of Yanina & Co.’s work on social media, a TV show, or on someone they know, then make the journey to Essex County. He once had a customer from Switzerland cross the Atlantic solely to visit the store without even a pre-journey phone call.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is when I have a complete stranger call or come into my store and ask for me specifically to say, ‘I saw what you did for X, and I fell in love with that piece.’ We work really hard to come up with these ideas and spend hours and hours making them for clients, and for the piece to be appreciated by strangers is so gratifying.”
Yanina & Co.
451 Pompton Avenue, Cedar Grove / 973.857.5544 /