Upstate New York. Aug. 26, 2020. Jeffrey Feero is at it again. First it was his dark comedic take on the pandemic, and now it’s how to sell jewelry during it. Enter, the van.
Feero, one of the principals at the helm of the New York City–based jewelry brand Alex Sepkus, bought a used 2002 Dodge Ram van with 204,000 miles on it and pimped it out for light living and road trips for the jewelry brand. The van’s interior has a Porta Potty, a freezer and refrigerator, a pressure cooker, and a two-burner stove. Additional amenities include an outdoor shower, a fire pit, and a popup tent. He parks at campsites at night to cook and sleep. Feero made about $11,000 worth of renovations to the van; the last thing he wanted to do during the pandemic was get on an airplane, stay in a hotel, or go to a restaurant.
“I could easily spend that much on airplanes in a typical summer,” he says. “I’m saving a ton of money on rentals and gas, which will help because this will be a thinner year. Plus, the novelty of this matches the weird times.”
The van’s exterior, meanwhile, serves as advertising for Alex Sepkus, with magnetic graphics. For real. An industry friend asked him if he was insane, driving around with pictures of jewelry emblazoned on the sides. His response? Relax, they’re only visible when Feero is parked at a store. Before he leaves and returns to campsites, he swaps them out for signs for his blueberry farm. He even brings blueberry bushes with him to cement the ruse with nosy neighbors.
“I’ve never stayed at an RV park, but the other campers all want to know way too much about you,” he says.
To date, he’s taken a 10-day, 2,200-mile trip to Wisconsin and back, and there’s a second one being planned. Customers are happy to have Feero visit since his means of travel doesn’t put anybody at risk of virus exposure. They’ve even sold a few jewels. At one Midwest shop, Feero and the owner did a zoom presentation with a client, closing the sale in person on her porch. Everyone was socially distanced and wearing masks. That trip netted $30,000.
“Some people’s choices now are based on fear, but I can’t sit home and hide,” he says. “It used to be that retailers were sick of seeing dealers walk through the door, but now they’re happy to see someone. We have to do something creative to find business. If you’re waiting for the old way to come back, you’re crazy.”
Another peer rang Feero to say he admired his gumption. Feero’s reply? “I have no choice; I don’t want to starve.”
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