by Lou Mancinelli
Last September, when Po Flanigan’s four-year-long tenant informed her the tenant would not be renewing the lease, she wondered what she would do with her property located at 1520 Bethlehem Pike, next to the Flourtown Fire House.
Four years earlier, in 2006, Flanigan had retired from her 25-year career as a jeweler and retailer in favor of taking up working as an artist at her home in Naples, Florida. Before that, Flanigan opened Popo Designs (PD), a fine jewelry store, first in 1989 in Erdenheim. She relocated the store to the Bethlehem Pike location in 1996, before leaving 10 years later.
But her friend and former PD manager Andrea Naticchione had recently lost her son. She had an itch to work again. When Naticchione heard the tenant at the old PD location was leaving, she contacted Flanigan to see if she was interested in opening another jewelry store.
As a result, Popo & Co. is the new fine and custom jewelry shop located in the old PD location. It opened for a few weeks last June and celebrated its grand opening in September.
In addition to the jewelry sales, the shop specializes in fine-engraving, consignment, estate or pre-owned jewelry and repairs. Its staff represents years of industry knowledge and experience on Jewelers’ Row in Philadelphia and Manhattan. Emphasis is placed on featuring American-made products, from designers like Susan Shaw and Chewbeads, a Connecticut-based company that makes non-toxic jewelry for moms to wear that babies can chew. Inside there are sustainable approaches like recycled cases that have been turned and painted.
“It’s different from the store before because she is doing more affordable custom jewelry,” said current store manager, gemologist Laura Kaplowitz, a University of the Arts graduate who has worked in fine jewelry for 27 years. Her own line of jewelry is available online at www.fightorflightjewelry.com. “The product is different because we are really searching for jewelry you don’t see everywhere.”
Naticchione scans jewelry shops from Italy to Miami to Bucks County in search of unique pieces. Flanigan, who was raised in Chestnut Hill, transitioned into the world of silver, gold and rubies in 1984, when she decided she “would get a career.” Before that, she worked as a secretary, a discipline she studied at Marymount University in Maryland, then an all-girls school.
She took a number of courses in New York and Philadelphia, where she met other sellers and merchants in the industry and began buying and selling jewelry out of her Gwynedd Valley home.
Towards the late ‘80s, a recently divorced Flanigan, with her children out of the home at college, thought “so who am I? I might as well get a store.” She eventually purchased the building in Flourtown that was built in 1787 to house a family of barrel makers.
“I always wanted to be an artist,” Flanigan said about retiring in 2006. Over the years, she used to close PD during the summer and travel or spend time at the Jersey shore. She studied art in Italy and France, as well as at the Philadelphia Institute of Art and Springfield High School.
Flanigan still owns a home in Naples, where she spends six to eight months a year. This year her studio is part of the Friends of the Naples Art Museum studio tour, which brings around 2,000 people through an artists’ studio in two days. While in the Philadelphia area, she paints in her Flourtown studio, The Art Snuggery, or at her Brigantine, New Jersey, getaway. She works with acrylic paint and often paints still life. Her work can be seen online at www.zoloftism.com.
At Popo & Co., the locally-raised Mt. Saint Joseph graduates, Flanigan (’67) and Naticchione (’76), want customers to feel more like friends.
“We want them to feel like when they come in, they know everyone,” said Kaplowitz. “We try to get things that are a little different, but we also have basic pieces. And there is a lot of color in the store.”
They have initiated things like the Clipper Club, a selection of about 50 pairs of earrings for those who prefer to remain without pierced ears.
As far as coming out of retirement, “Why not?” Flanigan said. “As long as I have time for my art career.”
(Regarding her unusual first name, Po was born Joan Helen Flanigan. She was dubbed Po by her mother, who was watching “On the Riveria,” a 1951 musical comedy, on television with a friend. A young Flanigan ran into the room just as the character Popo the Puppet appeared on the screen. From then on she was known as “Po” Flanigan.)
Popo & Co., 1520 Bethlehem Pike, Flourtown, PA . Tuesday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., open until 7 p.m. Wednesday. For more information visit www.popoandco.com, call 215-233-3888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.