The smell of refurbished wood fills the room, and light fixtures illuminate the walls of intricate, handmade jewelry. Although walking down South Congress Ave. may be an adventure in itself, stepping into The Gifted is an experience. Story and Photos by Kristen Hubby
A jewelry boutique on South Congress Ave., The Gifted is owned by Martha and Hugo Reta. Martha started out in the fashion industry in 2006, working for labels like Yves Saint Laurent, Channel and Cacharel. She then owned her own bridal store in San Antonio where she designed gowns and created different kinds of flower arrangements, head pieces and jewelry. However, Martha made the move to Austin six years ago when her husband's work with a global company required they leave San Antonio for the "Live Music Capital of the World."
After receiving yet another opportunity to move cities once in Austin, Hugo and Martha decided to stay and take advantage of all the area has to offer as an “artistically inclined city.” Martha began working from jewelry booths — ten different locations in Austin and San Antonio. Meanwhile, Hugo did what he could to help her in between his jobs. In 2010, the couple decided to open up their own jewelry store when a prime spot opened up on South Congress.
The business-savvy twosome has been together for 22 years — Martha being the creative one and Hugo being the business administrator. Hugo recalls what it was like when they first opened up their store on the historic block, saying it was a dream come true for his wife. It took longer than planned because Hugo was always busy with work, but they finally did it — together.
The Gifted features 35 different local artists, including Martha’s own jewelry line. Her handcrafted jewelry can be tailored to the customer, but it takes time and a lot of thought. “When I’m making a design I always picture in my mind the person who is going to be wearing it, how my pieces can enhance her or his allure, but above all, their inner beauty through natural metals, gems, and stones,” Martha says. She starts by drawing out the pieces on a piece of paper and adds more design to the jewelry as she sees fit. She then uses tools like blowtorches and needle-nose pliers to complete techniques, like beading and crocheting, and work with metals. Some of Martha's pieces include stones from around the world, her favorite being the Mexican Fire Opal, that she has collected from a gemologist.
When customers visit, the Retas share tidbits of background information on their own pieces and the local artists featured in their store, because the shop attracts just as many tourists as it does locals. The Retas are big believers of “word-of-mouth,” crediting the store's hype as the reason for most of their business.
The Retas share their story with a great sense of pride. They know what it takes to open up a store and they want to invite other people to be a part of it. For this reason, there is not a single mass-produced item in The Gifted. “Supporting our local artists is our main ingredient — our core,” Hugo says with satisfaction. “And it’s a part of Austin,” Martha adds, with a warm smile.