By Kaitlin Murphy
Old Town boasts history and charm. Tim Shaheen and Meaghan Foran perfectly capture those ideals in their life, work and marriage. The founders of Alx&Co. delight in merging the past into new beginnings through their craft.
Located at 121 South Royal St., the independent jewelry workshop specializes in bespoke pieces like engagement rings, heirloom redesign and jewelry restoration.
It was in this very shop where the couple met for the first time. In 2005, Tim began working for jeweler Lawrence Miller and Co. As he developed as a craftsman, he took over the business in 2007. The workshop had a great foundation, reputation, location and neighborhood vibe.
Meaghan had just moved to Alexandria when a friend and neighbor planned a visit to the store. The real reason behind the pop-in was for Meaghan to meet Tim.
“I didn’t know it was a set-up,” Meaghan said. “I knew,” Tim added.
After getting to know each other at the studio, their relationship grew personally… and professionally. Meaghan shared, “I started working with Tim in 2010. By getting to know his business and clients, I started giving my input on designs and the shop in general. Tim welcomed the added perspective.”
When the time was right to propose, Tim had an entire wanted workshop and breadth of experience at his disposal. He understood how personal a piece of jewelry could be and knew the meaning had to be clear and present. Having worked with clients on their custom designs, Tim knew he had to make a piece that would honor Meaghan’s style and personality.
He decided on a simple gold engagement band with a small stone in the center. He wanted to propose with a ring she would enjoy, celebrate and wear. This philosophy is foundational to their business. They believe creating or selecting an engagement ring should reflect the person.
“If you don’t see yourself wearing the piece, don’t make it. Make sure it is important and meaningful to you and that you enjoy it,” Meaghan shared.
In Meaghan’s case, her engagement ring perfectly captured and suited her. And so the couple began planning their wedding.
They arranged for a ceremony and celebration in Charlottesville. When Meaghan saw a tiara that she liked and wanted to wear on her wedding day, Tim told her, “Don’t buy it. I can make it for you.”
He returned to the workshop once again for his bride. Tim created a stunning sterling silver-and gold-plated tiara surrounded with handmade flowers and leaves. It was in the workshop that the couple also fashioned their wedding bands.
Their planning culminated in a celebration with a gathering of family and friends in a place special to their family.
“Tim’s aunt and uncle own a family property with a stretch of land that we always hike as a family on the holidays. We were married at the top of what we call ‘Mount Ralph.’ Tim’s mom grew up in Charlottesville so it was very special to have our wedding somewhere so meaningful to us,” Meaghan said.
Meaghan shared, “Our wedding was very special for its location and for the joy that our guests brought to celebrate the occasion. In the end, it was a very simple set up but being outside in the Virginia countryside on a gorgeous late-spring evening with people who really just wanted to celebrate and have fun really made it exceptional.”
Meaghan and Tim believe wedding planning is good for any couple.
“It creates the space to be thoughtful and begins the process of working on something together. Weddings can be stressful and expensive but are more than a party. They establish a narrative that conveys your relationship,” Meaghan said.
Their wedding planning also served as a foray into an even stronger working relationship. Meaghan joined Tim in a larger professional capacity. She began running the business and marketing side of Alx&Co. which allowed Tim time to focus on the vision of the workshop and his craft.
Design is an intense process and the creative partnership of the couple and their growing business highlighted their innovative and adaptive qualities. Rebranding felt like an important step in their new chapter of their business and personal life.
They settled on Alexandria & Company in January 2018. Their shop is known as Alx&Co. The name encompasses all facets of Meaghan and Tim’s life. Alexandria is the location where they met, where they live and where they work. Old Town represents a lifestyle that is a fundamental part of their story.
“It was a way to reframe the business away from what Tim and his old business partner Lawrence were known for, which was sterling silver restoration, and towards what Tim and I really wanted to focus on moving forward, which was custom jewelry design,” Meaghan said.
Understanding their clients’ history and personal narratives is an important aspect of their partnership and collaboration on design. When a client wants to design an engagement ring, there is a lot of effort to understand the personality of the recipient of the ring.
Tim helps his clients transform their narratives into special pieces. And through computer aided design, or CAD, they can see their idea come to life, make edits or tweaks to the design and end with their desired results. Finally, the piece becomes a part of the couple’s story.
Heirloom redesign is a particular favorite experience for Tim. He said it is challenging because each piece is unique, has its own history and comes with a new set of design parameters. When these valuable family pieces come in, Tim and Meaghan help by assisting the customer in writing a new chapter of the jewelry itself.
During the time it takes for a piece of jewelry to be designed and created, the customer is in the driver’s seat, helping lead to a beautiful and exciting result. Meaghan and Tim are the guides to the experience and their own relationship and history serve as a guide to the process.
They supply the expertise, recommend options, educate the customer on the materials and research gemstones that might enhance the piece. Since Alx&Co. is a small business, Meaghan and Tim are a part of the design relationship from start to finish.
As their family grew – they have one child and a dog – they needed additional support to continue the growth of their business. The couple structured their store’s hours and created a business plan that has helped them create that aspirational work-life balance so many people strive to attain.
Over the years, they moved their showroom and offices to the second floor and opened another venture in the original storefront space. The Seedling Collective, a full-time popup shop space, has allowed other creatives in Old Town to launch their ideas and test the waters. Although the pandemic put a pause on retail for a while, this space has proven to be a tangible example of how adaptability is key to a growing and thriving business. And marriage.
The quintessential Old Town mom-and-pop jewelry workshop took a solid foundation and enhanced the story. They did the same for their own story. And they continue to help clients tell their stories, too.