Tonawanda News

January 6, 2013

Crystal for a cause

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Michele Krienbuhl’s new shop is a dream come true for the North Tonawanda resident, but in some ways it’s what behind the scenes that matters the most.

Twenty-five percent of the proceeds from Michele’s Motif, located at 305 Robinson St. near the NT City Market, will be donated to Roswell Park Cancer Institute through her Ride for Roswell team, combining two passions of her life — jewelry and fighting cancer — into one combined effort, all located in the little boutique with its bright pink walls.

“My father was a jeweler for 40 years,” Krienbuhl said. “I grew up around jewelry, but went the other way, to fashion jewelry. It’s in the blood, I guess ... and also that I just love jewelry.

“I’ve wanted this all my life. I’ve wanted my own little shop. It was one of those things: If you wait for the perfect time, it will never come.”

The business has existed in the form of handmade jewelry, lessons and home parties since July 2010, but the shop opened in early December. The front half is store space, offering items from jewelry to hats and purses to items from local NT vendors, including locally made Mama Bair’s Candles and more. She also hopes to start building a consignment business for prom gowns, making prom season a little more affordable for parents with teenage daughters.

However, the jewelry, mostly designed and made by Krienbuhl herself, is the main focus. She particularly loves to work with Swarovski crystal, mother of pearl, jasper and other stones, but there’s a little bit of everything.

“I just love the sparkle of it,” she said of the crystal. “There’s bigger jewelry to little post earrings. Pretty much, if you wear jewelry, I think you’ll find something here.”

The rear half of the business Krienbuhl’s work space and class area, where she offers jewelry-making lessons including beading and wire-wrapping and children’s birthday parties. The first class in the new shop is set for Jan. 22, when people can learn to make a leather wrap bracelet. (She also offers home parties and lessons.)

She particularly enjoys teaching children’s classes, giving kids a creative outlet and showing them that they can design things on their own.

“It’s not like a cookie-cutter class,” she said. “I don’t even show them the example I’ve made until after they start designing. I want them to be creative. I don’t want to tell them, ‘This is how it has to be.’ “

Tina Nappo of Buffalo, whose 8-year-old daughter recently took a jewelry class from Krienbuhl, said she was amazed at what the children learned.

“She’s amazing,” Nappo said. “Her heart goes into everything she does. It’s something inside of her that’s a passion, and it shows.”

That passion doesn’t just extend to jewelry.

Krienbuhl has supported the Ride for Roswell for years, riding for the past 10 years and serving as a committee member for several. Her 15-person team raised $7,500 last year and she’s hoping to increase the amount to $10,000 this year.

While she started out riding simply “for the sake of riding,” it quickly turned into a personal quest. She lost three friends in 18 months to cancer. Her brother rode in the Ride for Roswell even after having half of his lung removed for treatment. 

“It’s affected every part of my family,” Krienbuhl said. “One by one, family members and friends started getting cancer, one after another. This just makes me feel like I’m doing my part. It’s just going to benefit everyone, I think.”

Bridget Burns, senior marketing coordinator for the Ride for Roswell, said Krienbuhl is a “very dedicated rider.”

“It’s so nice, because this is a grassroots effort,” she said. “Our riders ... they all have a connection to the cause. They become our family as well. We are very fortunate that they bring their lives into this. Michele is very generous and has a very strong following that rallies behind her.

“The things that she does ... it provides inspiration.”

For her part, Krienbuhl hopes the some day her efforts are unnecessary ... but until then, she’s going to keep them up.

“Hopefully there will be a day when kids will say to their parents, ‘What was (cancer)?’ “ she said. “There was a time 10 to 20 years ago when it was a death sentence. Today people are living. There’s always that hope.”