At first, Marc Williams didn’t like Dave Matthews Band that much. “I just couldn’t get the taste for it,” he remembers. Back in the early ’90s, he would go on annual trips with his brother, some friends, and his then-girlfriend—whom he later married—and rent a house in Killington, VT. He recalls his brother blasting DMB over the house’s intercom, driving him insane. And then, a few years into their tradition, he changed his mind. Something clicked, as it does for many DMB fans, when he went to his first live show. Two decades later, he calls DMB his favorite band and, oh, yeah, he wound up designing jewelry for them.
For Williams, the whole experience has been a blend of a lifetime calling and a recent passion. The son of a lifelong jewelry salesman and maker, Williams grew up in Swoyersville, PA, working on jewelry since early adolescence. He cut his teeth doing repair work for Bartikowsky’s, a jewelry store established in the nearby Wilkes-Barre over a hundred years ago. Feeling like there wasn’t enough of a future in doing repairs, and growing bored with the monotony of sizing rings, Williams taught himself how to manufacture jewelry. He later transitioned to a quieter, more secluded workplace, operating out of the solitude of a workshop he set up in his father’s basement. For years, he took a steady succession of custom orders and worked steadfastly in his windowless office. Eventually, business grew and he was able to open his own shop, Marc & Co. Jewelers, currently located on Main St. in Luzerne. Though Williams keeps some retail jewelry on display, the bulk of his focus and business is still in custom orders.
Along the way, one constant in Williams’ career has been an adventurous attitude towards new business opportunities, as well as a restlessness with basic jewelry work that yielded a burgeoning creativity. From his early decision to explore manufacturing and design, to his ahead of the curve recognition of the need to start utilizing computer programs to aid in his process, Williams hasn’t stayed still for long. The same holds true for his recent collaboration with Dave Matthews Band, a business relationship that grew out of a random side project of Williams’ and blends the appeal of a small, locally based business with the reach of a massively famous rock band.
Back in 2009, Williams designed a pendant featuring DMB’s famous Firedancer logo. He did it for fun, and figured, why not, let’s sell a few on Etsy, but more or less grew bored with it. After what he terms an “errant Facebook post” with a photo of the pendant, he received hundreds of emails within days, each inquiring about where they could buy the pendant. He also got another kind of email: an acknowledgment from the people in charge of DMB’s marketing. It was not, as one might expect, a cease and desist; this email actually featured an offer to work together—officially, licensed, with a far greater reach than Williams could have attained alone—on some new designs for DMB jewelry.
He started with a few sample pieces, in the form of an official design proposal, and they commissioned an order for the 2012 holiday season. Between October and December, Williams made 1,250 Firedancer pendants and 655 of the lyric beads, a new product he had pitched to DMB’s people. Each bead features a lyric from one of the band’s most beloved songs, including “Best of What’s Around,” “Bartender,” “Crush,” “Tripping Billies,” “Dancing Nancies,” “Cry Freedom,” and two from the warhorse “Two Step.” All the products were sold directly through DMB’s Warehouse shop as well as at shows. There was so much demand during the Black Friday presale that the beads were declared entirely sold out in two days.
Building on that success and his always present tendency to look forward, Williams is full of ideas of other things to explore with the DMB jewelry, as well as other ventures entirely. For starters, he’d love to do lyric beads borrowing from two personal favorites of his, “Don’t Drink the Water” and “Warehouse.” Drawing simultaneously from DMB fans’ very personal connection to the band’s lyrics as well as the unique tour and destination-based culture the perpetually on-the-road band inhabits, Williams also has some ideas of totally new variations on the bead concept. He fantasizes about other artists whose lyrics would lend themselves well to similar bead projects. Currently, he’s also collaborating with Charles Ferri of Star Vodka, another entrepreneur featured here on Levity Ball, to create Star Vodka-inspired pieces.
Befitting a man at the center of a story revolving around small-town ingenuity coming into contact with the mass-marketing of jam band superstardom, Williams’ success hasn’t gone to his head. He’s a warm, humble person, and, most importantly, is still just as prone to the fanboy geekout moment as the next of us. He fondly recounts his experience of experiencing a 2012 DMB show in Hershey, PA entirely from backstage, mingling with members of the band’s inner circle. When one of his colleagues at DMB’s marketing company took him across the stage before the opener, he was floored. “I got a little bit of a taste of what it’s like for the band, to see what they see,” he says, describing how the already accumulated thousands cheered simply because people were walking across the stage. Williams couldn’t contain himself and called out to his friend in the crowd, and was promptly chastised and stopped by his escort. Who could blame the guy though? In combining his two passions he’s got what any DMB fan would rightfully deem the best of what’s around.
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