During a road trip, most people buy t-shirts and trinkets to commemorate the journey. When Lisa Knapp and her husband Dave toured the Pacific Northwest last year they purchased a jewelry store.
Lisa and Dave Knapp are one of those rare power couples that don’t let the sources of power go to their heads. Raised on Old World work ethics, good schooling and sound family values, Lisa and Dave have worked diligently over the decades to create their hard-earned breaks in life that not only produced good opportunities but good fortunes.
Fortuitous timing also played a role in their successes, especially as the owners of Oden & Knapp Jewelry and Watches in Jackson, Wyoming – one of the nation’s leading tourist destinations.
Dave earned a master’s degree in engineering from Cornell. He went on to invent Ketra lighting, has roughly 100 patents to his name, and created two companies and sold them. In addition to being “the worst IT guy in the business … he’s all I have,” says Lisa. Dave supports his wife’s jewelry business with lighting, technical support and day-to-day operations where applicable.
The jewelry expertise comes from Lisa. In her early teens she worked at her aunt’s jewelry store in Westport, Connecticut. By 15 she was managing the sterling silver department where she “sold copious amounts of copied Elsa Peretti necklaces and cobra chains,” says Lisa. In time Lisa taught herself to do engraving and minor jewelry repairs.
As a young professional Lisa landed jobs as a road rep for some of the leading names in the watch industry – Tiffany, Cartier, LVMH, Breitling and TAG Heuer. While Dave segued from lighting and engineering to land development, Lisa’s three decades as a sales director were winding down. The couple had nothing but favorable options for retirement. There was just one problem.
“I was bored out of my mind after a week,” says Lisa.
Doing a complete one-eighty, Lisa decided to pursue another lifelong fervor – helping children that are victims of human trafficking. “Since I was a little girl, I always had this drive to help children, even as a kid,” says Lisa. “It wasn’t so much a passion, but more of a calling.”
This calling in life came early for Lisa. When she was four Lisa and her family traveled to Mexico. When she saw little kids selling Chiclets (chewing gum) on the streets she used her birthday money to buy them food. In sixth grade a woman came to Lisa’s elementary school to talk about migrant workers. Upon learning of their plight, Lisa organized a clothing and furniture drive for migrant workers. She continued organizing other such drives until she graduated.
This innate empathy never left Lisa. And, helping children that were victims of human trafficking became a cure for a retirement that didn’t offer the daily drive and push Lisa craves from dawn to dusk.
She chaired several initiatives as a member of the National Charity League, while also chairing several other non-profits dedicated to helping children. She organized many events to produce proceeds for these groups. Lisa saw a need to serve children that wasn’t being met by established non-profits, so she founded the non-profit www.theaust20.org.
After seven years of working for non-profits Lisa decided it was time for a break. The couple packed up the car and took a Pacific Northwest road trip to visit friends as well as some of Lisa’s favorite jewelry store owners, one of which was Robin, who had worked in the family retail jewelry business in Jackson for nearly 50 years.
“Robin was nearing retirement and just wanted to spend more time with her daughter who is working to be a rodeo star,” says Lisa. “I volunteered to help her for a while. And, before I knew it I bought a jewelry store in one of the hottest resort towns in America.”
Jewelry retail was a natural fit for Lisa and Dave, but the rural life of Wyoming was going to take some adjusting for two East Coasters. To smooth out the corners of the square pegs and fit in around Jackson Hole, the couple started with the basics: identifying your market and catering to them accordingly.
Jackson may be a leading resort town, but 80 percent of their customers are local. Similar to any jeweler in any town, Lisa and Dave provide the essential services of gold buying along with watch and jewelry repair. “We’re the town’s only access for these services,” says Lisa.
Given Lisa’s background in watches, Oden & Knapp is big into timepieces going “narrow and deep” with leading Swiss brands (Omega and Norquain) as well as plenty of pre-owned vintage watches in the store’s estate section. Bridal jewelry was by most measures non-existent until Lisa brought that product category in. The store’s inventory also includes designer jewelry, loose diamonds and an assortment of loose colored stones.
Being the consummate caregiver, Lisa also helps customers in need. “I made sausage and peppers for one client who lost his wife, and delivered meds for another customer,” says Lisa. “It’s like Mayberry RFD around here.”
After getting to know their market and what drives their local demographics, the store needed some freshening up – Lisa style. “The store hadn’t been renovated for 25 years,” says Lisa. “My husband’s lighting was transformational. It makes all of the jewelry look amazing. Color choices in the showroom for me were to make everything bright and white.”
Ever vigilant for the next challenge, Lisa learned that the neighboring retail space, 1,400-square-feet of a historical building, became available. The couple is currently working to convert that space into a Swiss watch boutique, giving the couple a jewelry store totaling 3,400-square-feet.
A jewelry store in Jackson wouldn’t be complete without a former rodeo queen as a store manager. In addition to being skilled in all things rodeo, Cara Rose hails from one of the families that originally homesteaded the Jackson valley. “And she’s related to everyone,” says Lisa.
Store mascots are another hometown quality that engenders and endears the locals. The couple’s dog, Angelica Pickles, is a unique makeup of breeds that looks like a “lion/Ewok,” says Lisa. The store also has an eclectic group of exotic birds. They greet customers coming and going. And, a macaw is perched outside the store and utters learned phrases to passersby.
Most importantly, at this time in their lives, Lisa and Dave enjoy being jewelers in Jackson. “What I like most about this store is hearing people’s stories and getting to know them,” says Lisa. She also plans on doing more to give back to the community and enjoy one of Jackson’s favorite local pastimes, fly fishing.