The Rebirth of Brother Wolf

IndependentsSep 14, 2017

The Rebirth of Brother Wolf

How a pair of 26-year-old twins from Pittsburgh are reinventing a line of religious jewelry that, they say, has mass potential.

The Brother Wolf pendant depicting St. Gabriel, the Archangel, in sterling silver with 14-karat yellow gold ($700 retail). The virtue assigned to St. Gabriel is strength, as his name means “God is my strength.” Gabriel is considered to be the patron saint of those who work in communication.

Pittsburgh--It’s a well-worn proverb that patience is a virtue.

But so are a strong work ethic and vision, both of which are possessed by the brother-and-sister team of Jonathan and Lauren Tesauro, who bought and essentially reinvented the Brother Wolf brand.

The Tesauro twins, who are now 26, grew up in the jewelry business. Their parents, Jack and Tina, have owned and operated Chapel Hills Jewelry in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, since 1989.

Their story will not sound unfamiliar to many other millennials who are now stepping in to take over their parents’ stores or manufacturing firms.

“As babies, Lauren and I crawled on the floor of all of our parents’ stores,” Jonathan said, noting that Chapel Hills Jewelry had three locations at one point.

Jonathan and Lauren Tesauro behind the Brother Wolf display at Lyle Husar Designs in Brookfield, Wisconsin. “We did a very good business [with Brother Wolf] at Chapel Hills Jewelry, and Lauren and I saw a really big opportunity with this collection. We thought it could go far,” Jonathan said.
But as they got older, both set their sights on careers outside of jewelry.

Lauren was supposed to go medical school while her twin brother planned to attend law school.

But, a family medical emergency--their mother had a brain aneurysm--in 2013 meant they had to change course. They both canceled their plans for post-college education in order to help their father with the family business while their mother recovered.

“When family business calls,” Jonathan said, “you jump and go.”

While working at Chapel Hills Jewelry, the twins, who were searching for a career path outside of retail, took notice of one line that was a consistently strong performer, and one that both they and their mother believed in--Brother Wolf.

Then owned by a Connecticut woman who wishes to remain anonymous, Brother Wolf was a relatively narrowly distributed line of Catholic-centric religious relics reproduced as pendants, but the Tesauros saw potential for so much more.

Jonathan said they wanted to give the line broader appeal, to expand beyond Catholicism to encompass other religions, and also go beyond specific faith to include pieces that are spiritual in nature but not tied to any one religion. They also wanted to make the line more fashionable.

In 2014, the Tesauros bought the company and spent the next year and a half turning Brother Wolf into a brand: “We always say, ‘We didn’t buy a company,
we bought an idea,’” Jonathan said.

They began having the dealers, who had been sourcing relics for Brother Wolf for years, broaden their searches.

Located in places like Barcelona, Prague and Israel, these dealers comb churches, temples and antique shops in search of old pins, coins and pendants; they know, the Tesauros said, what type of relics work for the brand.

Once the relics are brought back into the United States, a mold is made of it. It is this first-generation mold that is used to the make the pendants, which are then put on a sterling silver chains, sometimes with 14-karat gold touches and pearl drops.

“We always put that Brother Wolf touch on everything,” Lauren says.

The Tesauros also had proper photography done (high-resolution images, white background) and opened up social media accounts.

By mid-2015, they began opening doors. Today, they have 60 accounts and just added a national sales manager, Tom Byelick. Both Jonathan and Lauren said while there is no ceiling to the number of stores they will open, they will not oversaturate any single market.

When asked about selling online direct to consumers, Lauren answered with a quick no, adding that, “We’re really trying to steer away from that out of respect for our retailers.”

The Tesauros also just moved Brother Wolf’s operations from an 800-square-foot space to a 3,200-square-foot space in Pittsburgh. It is here, in the former Steel City that is expanding rapidly just like the Brother Wolf brand, that all the jewelry is made.

It is also here that the Tesauros trace the history of the relic and assign it a virtue.

Take, for example, one of Jonathan’s favorite pieces, St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582), the patron saint of Spain who was a mystic and one of only a few women elevated to the status of Doctor of the Church, a title bestowed on saints of particular importance. Her virtue is charisma.

There’s also St. Cecelia, the patron saint of musicians and poets who is pictured in the relic used for the pendant with her harp. Her assigned virtue is creativity.

And it is in these virtues that lies the strength of Brother Wolf, and the reason Jonathan and Lauren saw so much potential in the line.

Each piece has a great story behind it that people can connect with, whether they want to wear the pendants as an amulet of protection, a nod to their profession or in memory of a loved one.

And that is one of, if not the, single most important elements of selling jewelry--eliciting genuine emotion.

“We always say, ‘A jewelry store is like a bar, you always hear everybody’s story,’” Jonathan said. “Wait until you have Brother Wolf in your store; you’re really going to get to know that person.”
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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