A new generation has taken over the management of Peapod Jewelry in Edgecomb.
Joe Lugosch, of Wiscasset, took over the business from his mother, Peapod founder Ronna Lugosch, of Round Pond, about a month ago.
The mother and son have prepared for the transition for the last few years, setting a goal to have Joe Lugosch take over in January 2020. Ronna Lugosch left the business early for health reasons.
“But things are looking good,” Joe Lugosch said. “The diagnosis is positive in general.”
Ronna Lugosch has stage one multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. “The good news is that it has a good chance of going into remission for a number of years,” she said.
Joe Lugosch said they are working toward the formal transfer of the company in January.
Ronna Lugosch has been designing jewelry since the 1970s, according to her son. After wholesaling her jewelry for a while, she opened Natural Expressions in a one-car garage at the family home on Route 32 in 2001.
“Later she changed it to Peapod Jewelry because a bunch of people were coming in and saying, ‘I love the peapods; the peapods are so cool,’” Joe Lugosch said of the business’s trademark line. “So she realized that was really attractive to people.”
She changed the name to Peapod Jewelry in 2007. In 2011, she bought the property at 40 U.S. Route 1 in Edgecomb, near the Wiscasset bridge, and moved the business.
Peapod Jewelry sells necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, and charms, offering personalization of most products. The shop also offers men’s rings, cuff links, and tie tacks.
“There’s sort of an instant gratification aspect in that we’ve made the jewelry beforehand, and all we need to do is string the pearls on a wire and wrap it off, and people get their high-quality, made-in-store jewelry right there when they’re watching,” Joe Lugosch said.
The shop’s most popular item is the “Mother’s Peapod,” a personalized pendant for a necklace, bracelet, or pair of earrings. The peapod-shape pendant can be made out of a customer’s choice of precious metals. In addition, the pendant can be customized with dyed pearls or gemstone beads that match the color of birthstones.
Although her son is taking over, Ronna Lugosch will continue to work at Peapod once in a while.
She plans to continue to design about one item of jewelry a year, work at the shop sometimes to talk with customers, and take care of the Edgecomb property, which she still owns.
“I consider it a gift,” Ronna Lugosch said of turning the business over to her son.
“My other option was to either to sell the business, which whoever bought it, I don’t think I’d ever be happy about that,” she said with a laugh. “Or (I would) close the doors, and this has been my baby for my whole life, so now my baby is taking it over.”
Joe Lugosch started working at Peapod Jewelry in summer 2016, after he moved back to Maine from Chicago. He worked in the shop for a little over a year before he began designing jewelry.
He made a piece for the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest that became popular in less than a month.
“I think at that point I realized I really had something real to offer,” he said. “I wasn’t that confident about it before, and then I started designing jewelry and really loving it.”
Prior to taking designing seriously at Peapod, his only experience was spending time in the workshop as a child, making a few pieces.
“She’s been a wonderful role model,” he said of his mother. “I feel extremely lucky to have had such a dynamic figure as a mother.”
Fans of local theater know Joe Lugosch for another creative pursuit – acting in local productions. He went to school for theater, and his work at Peapod gives him the flexibility he needs to continue this involvement.
In his new role at the business, he has already started to implement some changes. He has hired a new employee and has been working on improvements to the website.
“I have been working with our programmer to make it so that people can choose their peas online (and) they can personalize their peapods online,” he said. “Any piece, they can go in and choose the design they like and go down a list of different stones and click it and it will appear on the screen.”
He wants online shoppers to be able to select different colors of pearls and see what each color would look like in a piece of jewelry. The website has only had this option available for the “Mother’s Peapod.”
Online shoppers expect to be able to view options in this way, he said. In addition to these changes to the business’s website, he is focusing more on online advertising to reach a larger base of customers.
He wants to branch out the company’s jewelry design from a lot of Maine-themed and nautical-themed jewelry to more designs that people elsewhere might enjoy. This could include customized jewelry for another region, as well as for a group or event.
One potential plan is to design jewelry for members of a bridal party, which is a growing trend.
“We want to be the Build-A-Bear of jewelry,” Joe Lugosch said of the company.
In the future, Joe Lugosch wants to begin wholesaling the “Mother’s Peapod” to companies in other parts of the country. At this time, Peapod Jewelry almost exclusively sells its products online and in the Edgecomb shop. It only sells wholesale to one store, D. Cole Jewelers in Portland.
Joe Lugosch believes customers enjoy Peapod Jewelry because it is made in-store and they can customize it.
To keep the process of buying jewelry at Peapod personal, he has considered offering video recordings of customers putting together the jewelry they ordered.
He is doing a lot of behind-the-scenes computer work for the business at the moment, but will continue to design more jewelry.
For more information about the company, go to peapodjewelry.com or call 882-9500.