Twenty years ago, Randy and Barbara Hervey were living in southern California, where she worked in the jewelry industry and he was immersed in an aerospace career. The stress of the aerospace industry had the couple on the hunt for a business they could call their own.
“Every day, people in aerospace were getting laid off and fired, and the stress was just horrific,” Barbara Harvey recalled. “Randy was looking to buy a business in southern California, and kind of in a joking way, I said ‘I have an associate who has three businesses for sale in the Virgin Islands.’ He told me to send him the info and we’d take a look.”
One of those businesses was Freebird Creations, a jewelry store that started in 1978 in Key West, where the founder sold jewelry from a bicycle. Freebird relocated to St. John in 1986.
The Herveys quickly booked a trip to the V.I. to check out the business. Barbara spent a week working in Freebird and learning about silver, one of the facets of the jewelry she wasn’t yet familiar with.
“I’ve been in jewelry since I was in ninth grade; I don’t know anything else,” she said. “I started making jewelry then I worked in retail for years, and after school I worked with two different manufacturers in California.”
The Herveys decided to pull the trigger and purchase Freebird Creations. Over the course of six months, they sold their California home, their car and their furniture, arriving on St. John Nov. 1, 2000.
Freebird reopened under their ownership the very next day.
Business ownership has not been without its challenges. Less than a year after the Herveys took ownership of Freebird, 9/11 happened.
“That was our first big rude awakening,” Barbara Hervey recalled. “We dealt with that, we survived it, we carried on and did really well. We’ve enjoyed the business and we always have a lot of fun with it.”
Freebird also made it through the devastating 2017 hurricane season, and now they’re wading through the coronavirus pandemic.
“These last few years have been really crazy,” she said. “I’m just grateful we’ve been able to survive it and we have a good loyal customer base. It’s changed and it’s evolved. It’s been really fun to help make that evolution happen, because you can see how the store has grown, but in many ways it’s still the same.”
One big change happened in 2009, when Freebird moved from Wharfside Village to Dockside, in the building located by the Cruz Bay ferry dock, giving the Herveys the opportunity to personalize their space and make it what they always wanted it to be.
The couple owes their longevity to numerous factors, they said, including a corner of the store featuring items that are $6 apiece or 2 for $10, along with $20 rings and $20 earrings.
Other popular items include hook bracelets, ancient coin jewelry, Larimar, and independent watch lines.
“The bigger designers are exclusive to us, so you can’t find their items anywhere else,” said Barbara Hervey. “It’s unique and fun for people who come in wanting to get that special memory.
I always say, if you want ordinary stuff you’d shop at Jared; if you want extraordinary stuff, you shop at Freebird.”
Barbara Hervey keeps her creative side active by occasionally designing pieces that Freebird’s stateside designers make for the store. She’s a hands-on owner who is in the store nearly every day, including during COVID-19 lockdowns, when she and her trusted employees cleaned and refreshed every display case and every inch of the store.
Randy, her semi-retired husband, deals with the back of the house. The couple’s dog, a pug named Pink Martini — Pinky for short — also pulls long hours at Freebird, acting as the shop’s mascot and friendly greeter.
Freebird Creations will mark its 20th anniversary tomorrow with a sale from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., when everything more than $20 will be 20 percent off.
“Typically we don’t do too much for the anniversary but I want to let everybody know we appreciate their business,” said Barbara Hervey. “We really appreciate all of the support through the years, and we have every intention of carrying on and being here so that the children of those who grew up shopping here can shop here as well.”
To learn more, visit www.freebirdcreations.com or follow Freebird Creations on Facebook.