As one of Boulder Creek’s longest running businesses, Blind Pilot Jewelers in many ways exemplifies the town’s spirit, from its DIY ethos to its vintage aesthetic, and from its appreciation for the connections a small community fosters to its enduring hippy legacy. Husband and wife Jerry and Sheila De Lany first opened Blind Pilot in 1968, near the university in San Jose on a “whole row of craft stores… pottery, leather, jewelry, and underground comics. It was ‘Freak Street,’” laughs Jerry, who says the name “Blind Pilot” came from a science fiction story but was also inspired by the naming trends of the times, with its Jefferson Airplanes and Grateful Dead. In 1974 the Blind Pilot came to Boulder Creek, and the rest, as they say, is history: “It’s kind of a museum in here,” says Jerry, referring to the “San Francisco Art Nouveau” inspired, recycled-barnwood-and-brass interior design.
About 50% of the items in the store are made in house, in a small and intriguingly industrial studio in the back of the shop. “We started with brass and glass beads and then made things in sterling, and over time we learned how to work gold and platinum, which is mostly what we do now. We grew into the diamond thing very slowly, in response to customer demands… it took awhile.” Jerry explains that they never took out any loans, but invested any profits back into the store - a business decision that enabled them to grow slowly but surely.
“Boulder Creek has a small population, but it’s good because we get to meet a lot of people. We do a lot of custom works, which are fun because we make people’s dreams come true. They get a piece of jewelry that becomes an emotional connection for them. They know the person who made it, they contributed to the design.”
The couple also practices what Sheila calls “Jewelry detection,” researching pieces that customers bring in for repairs or appraisal. “It’s like show and tell – we’ve seen some really amazing stuff, some really old things.”
Jerry’s favorite activity at Blind Pilot, however, is to make pieces “for the shelf.”
“Once in awhile it really connects… it’ll be right or ‘right on.’ It sings, it’s sweet… it’s just the perfect combination of dimensions. When that happens it’s magic. It feels really good.”