The showroom of Être Design was dark and its doors locked for most of the past year, but the little jewelry store hadn’t gone out of business. In fact, business was so good that there wasn’t time to open the store except by appointment. “We started as a retail space,” says Audrey Chung, who along with her husband, Glen, co-owns Être and a jewelry manufacturing and distribution company called Beliza Design. “Then we landed all these manufacturing gigs, and we had to close [the store] because it was too hard to manage both.”
Last month the Chungs moved to a new space near the Colonnade with enough room to handle their booming wholesale business and still keep a small retail showroom up front. Être Design still exists, but now the Chungs are running both operations under the Beliza Design name.
The Chungs, both thirty-five, started Être Design in 2002, working out of their home. At the time their day jobs were beginning to bore them—Greg was an engineer at General Motors and was a management consultant to the U-M treasurer’s office. So they started looking around for a business of their own. Both had artistic tendencies, so they decided on jewelry. “It’s lightweight and something we could both wrap our arms around,” Audrey says.
They started out doing the trade show circuit while both were still working full time. At first they thought two people could manage it. They were wrong, but that turned out to be a good thing. Today, Beliza makes anywhere from 65 to 80 percent of the alternative metal—that’s titanium, tungsten, and steel—jewelry sold in the United States, and employs 200 workers in a factory in Chagan, Dongguan, China.
Audrey just landed the collegiate license for the U-M after two years of negotiations. So now Beliza is also producing and distributing steel jewelry and other metal products bearing the U-M logo.
Être Design, 905 Eisenhower Circle, suite 104, 794–9847. Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–
4 p.m. (tentative). etredesign.com/cgi-bin/contact.cgi