Unikat Fine Jewelry opened its doors in Las Vegas, N.M., in May of 1998. Owner Andrea Gottschalk has been a self-employed jeweler since 1988 and subcontracted with many jewelry stores in the Santa Fe and Las Vegas area prior to opening her own gallery. Her store at 160 Bridge St., provides space for seven large showcases and plenty of room for paintings, Navajo rugs and other wall art.
Andrea studied to become a jeweler in Germany, her home country. Most of her skills stem from hands-on training with various master jewelers around the globe. She traveled to countries around the world from 1985 to 1987, seeking out jewelers to teach her new skills. In this way, she became versatile in technique and skill level. It is her strong suit as she moves into an uncertain new normal.
“I offer custom design, repairs, watch services, and ear-piercing. I have showcases filled with jewelry from many local artisans and of course, my own designs,” Andrea said. Unikat Fine Jewelry sells wedding sets, antique jewelry, men’s and children’s jewelry. Items are available in gold, silver, copper, titanium, stainless steel and just about every precious and semi-precious gem stone set in jewelry. If Andrea doesn’t have what you’re looking for, she will order it, or make it for you.
Andrea made Las Vegas her home in 1996. “I’m happy to have been able to maintain my store here for 22 years.”
As with many stores deemed non-essential in the early days of COVID-19, Andrea had to close her doors to the public in mid-March.
“There was no guarantee of re-opening. I remained closed until June 15, three months of no business,” Andrea said. “I am open by appointment and at reduced hours because business has been slow and spotty.” She encourages customers to call ahead (contact information below) to make sure the doors are open.
As a self-employed owner-entrepreneur, Andrea used a strategic approach to keep her business as financially secure as possible, while accessing much-needed income. She received money from an emergency relief fund through the Small Business Development Center and state unemployment when it became available for those who are self-employed.
“Without that I would have had to consider closing for good should the pandemic and resulting restrictions to small businesses continue for many more months,” she said.
Andrea’s other “job”, albeit a volunteer position, continues to further the support efforts of the Las Vegas First Independent Business Association (LVFIBA). As its president, Andrea coordinated weekly Zoom (virtual) meetings of the association.
“LVF has been a good source of information on what financial assistance people can apply for since they stay in close contact with the small business administration office up at Luna, and were always able to update business owners on what help is available,” Andrea said.
Zoom meetings helped LVF members stay connected, supported, and sometimes acted as a place to share grief and anxiety during COVID-19’s uncertain times.
“It’s also nice to be able to join a meeting wherever you are in the moment. That has attracted more members to participate and bring in leaders from other organizations,” Andrea said. “This way we were always able to share helpful information with each other and every organization, and City of Las Vegas staff Through Zoom, we were able to provide guidance and help to each other.”
With positive energy running through her comments, Andrea notes that she is current on ALL her repairs and custom-orders. That means that turn-around time for pick-up is minimal.
“My customers will be most happy to hear this news, since in very busy times waiting has been as long as six weeks!”
The common challenge for owner-operators of small businesses going forward is having revenue coming in the door. Andrea feels it deeply for herself and others who are in the same financial boat.
“Once you go over the amount of your base unemployment, you get thrown out of the system. You make some money now, but still not enough to cover your expenses, and then unemployment runs out. It could take months for businesses to return to normal and be financially stable,” she said.
Andrea encourages everyone to engage in the MainsStreet de Las Vegas shopping experience Cash Mob, an online live shopping event held every Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Local stores will be featured each week.
“The first one with New Moon Fashion was an incredible success,” Andrea said. “Items for sale are presented by a host and viewers on Facebook reserve the item they want to buy, then pick up and pay for the item in the store the next day.
“It’s a great way to avoid crowds and still support your local economy! All store owners who are interested will get a turn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to sign up.”
Andrea continues to be a strong advocate for small businesses and expressed deep appreciation for the small town she chose as her home 24 years ago.
“I appreciate all my customers who give me so much positive feedback all the time, but especially now for hanging in there. I love this little town and have made the most precious connections and friends out of my client base,” Andrea said.
“I am planning to be open full time soon, but for now I appreciate the patience and understanding for limited hours and calls for appointments until the crisis has stabilized.”
Unikat Fine Jewelry
160 Bridge St.
Las Vegas NM 87701