Bethany Clough

Retail Therapy: Fresno jewelry maker Make Pie Not War grows

Fresno-based jewelry maker Alana Little in her workshop.
Fresno-based jewelry maker Alana Little in her workshop. jwalker@fresnobee.com

You wouldn’t know it from the outside of the little house with a white picket fence in northwest Fresno, but inside is a booming business.

Make Pie Not War ships out necklaces, bracelets and rings made in the converted garage to about 40 boutiques nationwide and one in Japan. The business is a finalist in the Martha Stewart American Made awards.

Still small enough to be nimble, the company is staying on top of trends and customizing orders for stores in different parts of the country.

Necklaces that feature tiny tacos and pretzels, bracelets with writing in Braille, and jewelry that can be personalized with dates, initials, coordinates or sayings round out the selection of jewelry.

“People are surprised that we live in Fresno and we do this,” says founder Alana Little. “We’re trying to change that stigma here.”

The garage where Little and an assistant make, market and ship the jewelry is decorated with gold polka dots and stocked with drill presses and soldering equipment.

It’s dirty work. It looks pretty when it’s done.

Alana Little, Make Pie Not War

Little, 33, is a 2004 Fresno State grad with a degree in accounting and a fashion design degree from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles.

She had a job as a corporate accountant, but it was “soul crushing,” as she says in her Martha Stewart award nomination, so she quit.

Making jewelry was a hobby Little started at age 10. Her husband Cameron Little was running Ephraim Clothing. When he sold his clothing at festivals and shows, she’d sell her jewelry from a little corner of his table. That little corner got bigger and bigger as sales of the jewelry took off.

She quit her accountant job to focus on Make Pie Not War.

Now, the 8-year-old business is gaining steam. It will be featured in a gift guide in the December issue of Country Living. Make Pie Not War jewelry has been sold through Zappos.com and Little is pictured on the October cover of the Enjoy Magazine based in Visalia.

And of course, the business is in the running for the Martha Stewart award. Make Pie Not War was picked by the competition’s judges as a finalist. The public now votes on a winner, who gets $10,000 to grow their business, at www.marthastewart.com/americanmade until Oct. 19.

You can buy the jewelry locally at Pum Bum stores in River Park and at Champlain Drive and Perrin Avenue, Enjoy the Store in Visalia or online at Etsy.com.

One benefit of Make Pie Not War being a small business is its ability to stay on top of trends and meet needs of stores around the country – an agility that giant manufacturers don’t have.

“I can tailor my line to their customers,” Little says. “That’s what makes me different.”

So that pretzel necklace with little sterling silver beads of salt is aimed at New York audience. Portland likes its jewelry modern and minimalistic.

“The Southern chicks, they love bar necklaces and they’re really die hard into football,” Little says, adding that she’s made necklaces with “#gunsup” printed on them, a saying used by Texas Tech University referencing its mascot.

We’re from California so we had to have a taco (necklace).

Alana Little, Make Pie Not War

Fresno-based Pum Bum owner Alma Wolverton sells a Make Pie Not War necklace that features tiny constellations punched into a metal pendant. Some are associated with Zodiac signs and customers buy the necklace of their birth month.

The pendants were originally the size of a quarter, but since “the dainty look is in,” Wolverton says, she encouraged Little to shrink the pendants. She did and they’ve been selling well ever since, Wolverton says.

“People are just flocking to them,” she says. “Those will be continue to be a staple in our store.”

In addition to selling at boutiques, Make Pie Not War also customizes individual orders through Etsy. One customer bought a necklace for a friend who is blind after the friend’s husband passed away. The husband’s initials are written in Braille on the necklace.

Initials, dates, sayings and coordinates of meaningful places – say, a favorite vacation spot – can all be added to jewelry.

“You can take something and make it so personal and you have it forever,” Little says.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough

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