In 1973, Paul and Jackie Guay arrived in with a motorcycle, some clothes, and $36.00. Like two small tornados they came roaring through the French Quarter, leaving poeple spinning with their energy, enthusiasm, and confidence.
They are artisans by trade, specializing in handcrafted jewelry. They are ambitious and enjoy their work. With offices high up in the Pere Marquette Building on Baronne Street, they look out over the city that has seen them evolve into its fastest-growing manufacturers of jewelry.
Like many young people, they have become involved in a business which they had never considered during their college years. Jackie was graduated from Notre Dame College, Manchester, New Hampshire, with a degree in art and an interest in scupture, pottery, and design. Paul was a political science major at St. Anselm's College in Manchester.
We began by questioning the more outspoken of the two.
Paul G. Guay.
Community Standard: You studied political science in college. Why are you a jeweler?
Paul: I never had any intention of making jewelry; it's something that just happened. I used to be a manufacturer's representative for the Phillips Import-Export Company in New Hampshire. I decided to take a vacation up to Montreal and while in Montreal I met this charming girl…and somehow we got around to being engaged. I decided I was going to design the diamond ring and execute it myself. Of course, I knew nothing about jewelry-making.
I went to see one of the better jewelry-makers in Montreal, Gabriel Lucas, Ltd. I found out that Gabriel was dead and that Roger, his son, was the proprietor, chief designer, craftsman, and so forth. I went over to meet him.
Roger Lucas showed me the shop and told me where I could purchase the material I needed to do the design. I purchased a certain amount of gold and began trying to learn how to make a ring.
Community Standard: How long did you stay in Montreal?
Paul: About a month. I found out I wasn't going to marry the girl and left Canada for the United States. I kept my tools and when I got back to New Hampshire I went into a shop called Arthur LeMoine Jewelers and gave him my tools. He suggested that whenever I wanted to make jewelry I could come in and use them. Little by little I began taking him up on his offer. I would do it after work and eventually, when I left my other job, I decided to do it full time.
Community Standard: When did the two of you first meet?
Jackie: I met him in the fall of '70. His first words were, “Me Tarzan, you Jane.” Paul asked the guy I was going with if I was up for grabs; about four months later we got married.
Community Standard: Why did you choose to settle in New Orleans?
Paul: We chose to settle in New Orleans because we found it to be a very hospitable place. We also found that the French Quarter was a likely place to sell our handcrafted jewelry — which we decided was the way we would make our living.
Jackie: I had been here about eight years before and the community seemed to be aware of the crafts more than other cities I've lived in. It was a year-round kind of resort, not like Cape Cod or Hampton Beach.
Community Standard: When you first arrived in New Orleans, how did you go about setting up a jewelry manufacturing business?
Paul: The truth about the matter is we didn't. We had very limited capital — below two figures. I found a job with Pailet and Penedo and was soon hired away by Boudreaux Jewelers, so I did have some sort of income besides our jewelry manufacturing.
In the evenings, after I came home from work, I taught Jackie to solder and the basic skills and left her to her own devices during the day. On Saturday we would take her production for the week and go into the French Quarter and sell it.
Community Standard: Did it take much time to find a market?
Paul: As it turned out, we were very fortunate that what she designed and executed sold quite readily in stores. We always felt that it wasn't too important that we personally sold what we made, but it is very important that the storekeepers could sell what we made for them. We were very fortunate in that they began to sell our things for us. Soon we were in a volume that allowed expansion and allowed us to get off our kitchen table and to rent a space that would be adequate for future growth and expansion.
Community Standard: Were you still working at Boudreaux's?
Paul: No, I left Boudreaux's when I decided to leave the kitchen table. I think what most made it possible was an order from D. H. Holmes and some financial assistance from Allen Roussel at BNO. That, along with our regular business in the Quarter, showed us we could eventually make a living producing jewelry.
“Designs from Nature.”
Community Standard: How do you come up with ideas?
Paul: Most of my new designs are usually on sexual themes.…I like to abstract from my fantasies and create around these designs.…
Jackie: I get a lot of my designs from nature. As a matter of fact, one of our lines is called Designs from Nature.
Community Standard: At one time you became involved in the Glenn Turner program, “Dare To Be Great.” How did this influence you?
Paul: When we were in New Hampshire we were coming under the influence of a lot of people who were negative toward self-employment, toward finding their own direction. Glenn Turner happened to be in New Hampshire selling the “Dare To Be Great” course. When I saw this, I was already aware of the principles of the course and so forth. I had been living them for a number of years, but I felt it would do Jackie some good to be exposed to these principles.
The program was a motivational course in self-development. We subscried to it and bought one of the programs and a series of tapes for $300. We were entitled to go to Florida for further training at their sales schools. We took them up on it and we went down and it was the best thing that happened to us.
Community Standard: Jackie, aside from Glenn Turner, who has most influenced your life?
Jackie: I guess you can guess — it's Paul. He's taught me the joie de vivre, to be free of anxiety and fear. I watch him every day and I see how he responds to different situations, how we responds to people. He gives me a lot of self-confidence. Knowing how he responds, I can learn a whole lot about how to respond to other people.
You can have anything you want in this world. If happiness is what you want, it's attainable through the attitude of positive thinking.
Community Standard: With all your hard work and positive thinking, do you both share a long-range goal?
Paul: Instead of putting more machines to work, our goal is to put more people who enjoy it to work…whether they be designers, or technicians, or craftsmen. Ultimately, I'd like us to become the fastest-growing makers of handcrafted jewelry in the world.
Copyright © 1974–2006 Henry H. Mitchell.