A stunning jewelry store has opened in Allentown. At least that is what you might expect this place to be upon initial inspection. The Parlour is actually a piercing and tattoo studio that has been dressed up to mimic a gallery-esque boutique that one might find on Rodeo Drive, or Fifth Avenue for that matter. To tell you the truth, The Parlour just might be the most exquisite retail experience I have happened upon in Buffalo.
Piercer-owner-artist James Wisniewski has outdone himself with this shopfront, which is a radical departure from anything else in the area (other than Lace & Day, which happens to be located a few steps away). Stores of this nature signal an elevated shopping experience that puts an emphasis on simplicity, design, quality and customer service.
James hails from West Seneca, but his keen aesthetics have been molded in various locations, ranging from Melrose to Brooklyn. At the same time, he has created a studio and design gallery that he feels is singular in its appeal and attitude. I would have to agree. Not that I’ve spent much time in piercing studios… though after an initial visit to The Parlour I feel that I might actually be missing out on a divine experience.
At the age of 18, James headed out to Huntington Beach, California, where he honed his piercing skills at a studio that took him under its wing. “I have always been fascinated by stretched ears,” he explained. “I saw the first person with stretched ears at Disney World when I was nine years old – they were stretched to the size of a penny. I got my first piercing at 16 – at that time I was hanging out and being a little punk. When I left Buffalo, I mostly found myself working on the West Coast, which is where I came across many of the jewelry designers that I feature at the studio. I never thought that owning my own business was something that I would undertake, until I came back to the East Coast. I ended up working for a short time in Brooklyn, which is when I decided that it was time to go into business for myself. I was seeing the growth in Buffalo, and I wanted to be there – I felt that I needed to be back home. I also felt that Buffalo needed (and deserved) a place like this.”
At first, James began to look at the usual suspect places to open his studio. Then, out of the blue he came across a building on Franklin Street that he says, spoke to him. It was an office at the time, that looked nothing like it looks today – the office was sterile and clinical, according to James. As soon as the ink was dry, James spent long hours building out a space that is now heavily dictated by lighting, classic furniture, stellar modern design twists, and voyeurish touches that would make 007 do a double take. From the gold mirrors and art frames that lead clients from room to room, to the classic Kittinger desk found in the waiting area, to the breathtaking jewelry cabinet (originally from The 747 Club) that beckons browsers and buyers to look closer… closer, James has put his best foot forward in order to show people the glamorous side of the piercing industry.
In order to flesh out the studio, three bad ass tattoo artists were brought onboard to amplify the offerings – Rob Alsheimer II, Ken Dumas, Thea Duskin. “I’m not just bringing just any artists into this space,” said James. “Everything that we’re doing here is top of the line. It’s unusual for an effort such as this to be led by a piercer – typically piercing is an afterthought, and tattoos come first. This time it’s the other way around – the artists that work here came onboard because they liked the vision that I was creating. There’s really nothing else like this place – I’m talking about the quality of the work, and the atmosphere of the studio.”
Speaking of quality, The Parlour’s selection of jewelry – earnings, studs, navel gems, rings, tunnels, plugs – is some of the best found anywhere in the world. All of the lines are handcrafted in the US, elegant, simple, and stunning. James picks up each jewel with a pair of tweezers, holding it up to the light for the customer to gaze upon. “I geek out about jewelry,” James told me [laughing]. “And when it goes to a good home it makes me happy. I purchase precious metals and gemstones that are made by the best craftspeople. You can’t typically find these lines… the artisans are very particular who they sell to. This is top echelon, created for people who care about what they are wearing – all of the jewelry has a lifetime warranty. I polish the pieces every week so that the stones shine – I like keeping it blingy.”
Down the road, James is looking to expand the business to the second floor of the building. There’s a private elevator that he has access to, which he feels will be pretty cool to offer to artists and clients who want to lounge around and relax upstairs. “Some of our clients will be flying into Buffalo to get tattoos and piercings,” James pointed out. “We want people to experience the best that this city has to offer. I’ll never have an ‘open’ sign in the window. What we do here travels by word of mouth. I wanted to create something that would make Buffalo proud – I feel that I’ve accomplished that with The Parlour.”