Find Rony Vardi’s recommendations for bars, cafes and restaurants on our app Supper.
If you’ve ever found yourself on Instagram coveting stacked knuckle rings, you can thank Brooklyn-based local Rony Vardi for that.
As the founder and owner of the small but oft-crowded store Catbird in Williamsburg, she’s made big waves in the market for small and delicate jewelry that gets coveted by locals, tourists and celebrities alike.
We spoke to Rony about the success of Catbird and life in Williamsburg.
What inspired you to start Catbird?
I hopped around a lot after college, working as a seamstress first and then a graphic designer. In 2004, I was living in Williamsburg and had a small savings nest. There was a retail space available on Metropolitan on a pretty busted block that I could afford to rent. I had known for a while that I wanted to work for myself, so I opened a few low interest credit cards and just went for it. At the time, the store was very different from the jewelry we’re known for today. I had no clear idea of what I was doing, but it was my own project.
What was the journey like from day one to now?
I was the only one at the store for a long time – the shop girl, the buyer, the visual merchandiser. As we’ve grown and found our niche, it’s become a team effort. We’ve narrowed the store down to what we’re really passionate about – jewelry. When designing a new piece or looking at new lines to bring in, we take in feedback from almost everyone in the company. And each part of our operation depends on the other. Even physically, our store is only a few blocks from our jewelry studio, which is down the hall from our office and web department.
How many pieces of jewelry are produced at Catbird each day?
We make anywhere from 400 – 500 pieces a day, each made in Williamsburg by our 17 jewelers.
Do you conceptualize and create everything yourself? What is your creative process?
It’s entirely collaborative. Because our studio is in-house, we can gradually add pieces to our core collection as the timing feels right. I work with Leigh, my Co-Creative Director, and Candice, the studio manager, to play with different sizing, metals, stones. Then we pass around prototypes to wear, taking in a ton of feedback from everyone.
Where have you lived before Brooklyn?
Brooklyn has been my home for approximately forever. As a kid I lived in New Jersey and Israel.
Do you feel like Williamsburg is an inspiring neighborhood? What do you love about it?
It is inspiring! Despite all the big stores and high rises that are here now, there are still a ton of interesting and creative businesses and restaurants cropping up all the time.
What are some local tips you would give tourists or travelers looking to explore the area?
Walk everywhere – not just Bedford Ave. Or rent a bike! There are lots of unexpected pockets to explore off the main avenue. And the waterfront is lovely too.
At Supper, we’re all about the role of music in creating an experience, or vibe. Is music a big part of the Catbird studios?
It is a big part of the store experience where we try to balance out the rather feminine selection with heavier music. My favorite is Exile on Main Street, or Pink Floyd playing in the store. The jewelers rocks out to great music all the time. Today they were listening to Roy Orbison.