By Bill Forrester
llison Rhymes was quite content making art and jewelry as a side hustle before the pandemic hit. She was building a following through a Facebook page and pop-up shops around town. “For several years, I have been doing art and jewelry as Allison Rhymes Designs,” she said. “I call myself ‘the oyster artist.’ Whether I am painting or making jewelry, there’s an oyster involved. When I started making jewelry, it took off.” That boost gave her the confidence to participate in the Red River Revel and Les Boutiques de Noel in 2019. “It was awesome,” she said.
Then COVID shut down the Revel, Les Boutiques, and the pop-up shops in 2020. That’s when Rhymes took a leap of faith. It was a golden decision. “I never thought about doing a shop,” she said. “I have a regular day job. That summer, a girl who was an acquaintance of mine had a space for rent. On a whim, I decided to take it. Without the Revel or Les Boutiques, I didn’t have any other good avenue. I needed a place to set up my stuff.”
Rhymes went straight to work designing her boutique. On Oct. 3, 2020, Rhymes opened The Gilded Oyster on Montrose at 818 Montrose off Line Avenue. “It was phenomenal,” she said of the launch. “I didn’t have any fancy advertising, it was just social media. I had great support among my friends. They wear it, people see it, and they want to buy it.”
Oyster jewelry is Rhymes’ primary creation these days. She uses all shapes and sizes of oysters in her creations. Each piece features a unique touch — Rhymes gilds the edges of the oysters before completing each piece. Jewelry is not all shoppers can find at The Gilded Oyster; Rhymes also creates purses, charcuterie boards, and more. But there is one constant in all her creations. “Oysters are my thing,” she said. “I have my oyster paintings printed on tea towels, mugs, anything. I love pelicans, too. I incorporate south Louisiana into all my designs. I won’t sell anything without an oyster.”
Rhymes believes in collaboration over competition. So when she met fellow jewelry designers Jenny Gauthier and Anna Dickson, she knew it was time to take another leap. “They were taking the local jewelry market by storm,” Rhymes said. “I had two rooms in my shop. I invited them in, and they decided to join me. It has not hurt either of our sales. We just work together great.”
Gauthier and Dickson’s line of jewelry is called Sandy + Rizzo. And yes, it is straight out of Grease. “They went to a Halloween party dressed as Sandy and Rizzo,” Rhymes said. “All of their followers are called the Pink Ladies. They have a huge following.”
Rhymes said the creative blending of their personalities makes shopping at The Gilded Oyster a unique experience. “We love our little store,” she said. “It’s small and quaint. The building is so cool. So much of it is about the personality. We serve mimosas and nibbles. We like to spoil our ladies.”
The Gilded Oyster on Montrose is growing, too. As the boutique adds staff, it plans to extend its hours of operation. For the latest information about the boutique’s hours, special events and more, visit its Facebook page.
With the support the boutique has received, Rhymes is eager to see what the future holds.
“It’s a total God thing,” she said. “It’s really been a blessing. The ladies in this community are awesome supporters. It’s the only reason I keep doing it.”