Annie Adams' jewelry business reaches beyond trinkets,
and adds a sparkle to the Elmwood strip
By ANNE NEVILLE
News Staff Reporter
Photos by Bill Wippert/Buffalo News
"She's got incredible foresight and vision, and she is not afraid. She truly believes that when the idea
is right, everything will fall into place.'
Amy McCarthy, co-owner of the Globe Market on Elmwood
It's too big to be a clique and too open to be a cult - but the thousands of women who wear Annie
Adams' distinctive jewelry have found that it's certainly a conversation starter.
Adams, a petite blond, perches at her desk in her showroom in her Neighborhood Collective at 810
Elmwood Ave., and says, "I hear this all the time: "I was at a cocktail party and a woman came over
and said, You know Annie Adams too!'
"My work is very distinctive, people know it."
The jewelry is both pretty and popular. But Adams' influence on other local artists, on the women who
work with her, and on the city she's made her home reaches far beyond beautifying fingers, necks,
wrists and lapels.
It may surprise people to find out that this rooted Buffalonian is a Virginia native who grew up in
Connecticut and moved here in 1992, that she has a degree in elementary education from Buffalo
State College, and that ceramics, not jewelry, was her first professional creative focus.
Her pieces combine asymmetrical geometric shapes, cast matte silver pendants, elongated chain links
and chunky semiprecious gems.
Jane Logue of Buffalo, who's worn Adams' jewelry for three years, welcomes the chance to tell people
who ask about her jewelry about the woman behind it. "I tell them about the Neighborhood Collective,
which I think is such a unique, cool place in Buffalo. It's such a great feel-good place."
Adams always seemed certain of the next step, says her friend Amy McCarthy, co-owner of the Globe
Market on Elmwood. "She's got incredible foresight and vision, and she is not afraid," says McCarthy,
who met Adams 10 years ago. "She truly believes that when the idea is right, everything will fall into
There were plenty of twists and turns in the road for Annie Martin, the oldest of four children of a
sales rep and a stay-at-home mother with an artistic background who fostered her children's
creativity. But if you had to pick just two turning points in Adams' life, they might be meeting her
husband and selling that necklace.
First, the husband: After attending Alfred University and the Maine College of Art in Portland, where
she studied ceramics, Adams decided she "didn't want to be a starving artist." She took a job at
Victoria's Secret in Boston. One night in 1990 at a Boston bar, she spotted Christopher Adams and
asked him to dance. The two hit it off. "We talked and talked . . . and then he told me he lived in
Buffalo," she says.
A promotion took Adams to Albany, then when they got engaged in 1992, she said, "I need to be in
Buffalo." They married in 1993; she ran the Victoria's Secret store at the Galleria, and earned a
degree in elementary education from Buffalo State in 1995. Adams is now in sales for Enidine, a
company with aerospace headquarters in Orchard Park, and they have two daughters, Lucy, 10, and
Next, the necklace: After moving to Buffalo, Adams became involved in the local crafts scene, setting
up sales in her home for her own works and those of other artists. "I did serving pieces, and I had a
pretty good following of customers," she says. Then in 2002, a friend told her about a new substance
called Precious Metal Clay, pulverized fine silver in an organic binder that can be molded like clay.
For the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts that year, Adams says, "I did half my booth in ceramics
and half in jewelry, and the jewelry was cleaned out. I even sold one necklace that I didn't want to sell,
so I priced it high, $380. It was a huge choker, with a silver piece on the front about the size of a
business card and three strands of carnelian, a fabulous piece. I sold that, and somebody came back
and wanted to buy it after I'd already sold it. That was more in that one necklace than I'd sold in all the
ceramics. So I thought to myself, "OK, this is really easy!' Ceramics went away completely and I
started with the jewelry."
After good sales at a few more shows, Adams realized she needed help assembling the jewelry. "I
called up a couple of friends who had little kids, and I asked, "Can you come over and hang out?' "
she says. They beaded together and Adams paid them in jewelry. "The kids played together, and it
was great," she says. "I had to climb over boxes if a customer came to the door."
Five years later, the name "Annie Adams" is well known in Western New York and around the country,
but some things haven't changed. Pam Logue, who was Adams' first employee five years ago and is
now her senior design assistant, appreciates the fact that workers have flexibility to fulfill their family
The table where Logue works with Jayme Becker, director of operations, and other jewelry fabricators,
is on the open mezzanine above the sales floor. Becker's 6-month-old son, Ashton, plays in a saucer
next to the table or naps in a crib in a nearby room.
Adams herself designs the silver pieces, but then she shows them to her workers, and they "choose
the things we love the most. We work together. I couldn't do any of this without them."
Then the designs are sent to a caster in East Aurora, who makes copies.
Taking a chance
The old days with kids everywhere and women beading in one room in her home ended when she
bought the then-vacant May Jen restaurant building on Elmwood Avenue in May 2004 for $275,000.
"Everybody looks at the building now and says, "Wow, she did a great job,' " says Newell
Nussbaumer, co-founder of Buffalo Rising, the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts and Buffalo Old
Home Week. "But nobody except for Annie can ever know the incredible risk that she took when she
started that collective. It was such a high-profile and expensive endeavor."
The first tenant in the Neighborhood Collective building was Trudy Stern's Tru-Teas cafe; the newest
tenant is Stern's husband, Michael Morgulis, whom Nussbaumer calls "the quintessential Buffalo
Last summer, Adams had the formerly junk-filled garage behind the Neighborhood Collective, now a
clean, bright space, opened to renters. They include Insite Gallery, Bryant Street Studios, Looped
Back, which offers handknits and unusual fibers, and the Elmwood Science Spot, a satellite site of the
Buffalo Museum of Science.
Jayme Cellitioci, manager of the Elmwood Science Spot, says, "We're seamlessly integrated with the
neighborhood in this site. This has been a wonderful incubator for this concept."
Adams' impact in Buffalo is firmly established, and her work is sold in 30 boutiques nationally. She
takes her silver line to a few wholesale shows a year, displaying her collections, many with names
taken from nature, such as "Caterpillar," "Tracks" and "Seeds," as place settings at a dinner table.
Her pieces range in price from $35 to $350, and range from "earthy designs" that reflect nature to
more sophisticated, simple lines.
Yet as her business grows, Adams knows that getting much bigger - having her wares in a catalog or
a department store, for example - might bring complications she doesn't want. She's not willing to
expand so much that she loses the family atmosphere in her workshop. "I don't want to grow out of
that," she says.
Whatever path her friend's business might take, McCarthy is not worried. "She's a risk-taker, but I've
never known her to ever second-guess anything she's done," she says. "It's totally about the journey
and helping and growing."