It all started with six plates. Native Houstonian Sara Kelly found them at a ceramics factory in a seaside Italian village on a 2013 trip to Europe she took after earning her MBA. Kelly took the plates home, and they quickly became treasured pieces. "Whenever I was using them, they just made eating at home feel that much more special," she says.
Looking to build a collection, she went to home decor shops to look for additional pieces but came up empty. "I felt a disconnect from the industry," Kelly says. "I'm a single professional, and I felt like the industry really wasn't speaking to me in my current life stage and was really focused on couples and entertaining."
She conferred with friends in a similar life stage and learned she wasn't alone: Plenty of others who hadn't received tableware from a gift registry were also struggling to stock their cabinets with quality pieces that spoke to them. Kelly began to research what it would take to create her own product line and, in 2017, she left her corporate marketing job to do just that with Rigby.
She returned to Europe to visit dozens of factories and eventually hand-picked three to partner with in Portugal, a country renowned for its ceramics since the 13th century. "I was excited to be able to work these suppliers to really honor heritage production methods," Kelly says. "They're just really known for quality."
Unlike most modern tableware on the market today, which is largely mass-produced with the help of automation, Rigby products incorporate human touch at every step of the manufacturing process. Dishes and cutlery are hand-finished, while glasses are individually hand-blown.
The result is a minimalistic, modern line of stoneware, stemware, and glassware Kelly envisioned for everyday use, all of it dishwasher-safe. "The product is contemporary but timeless," she says. "My goal was to develop product that's really pretty but not overly decorative. I really wanted it to be able to live in peoples' homes for many years."
Rigby stoneware includes mugs, dinner and salad plates, and pasta and breakfast bowls, all available in four colors Kelly hopes will "fit seamlessly" in someone's home: off-white, mint, charcoal-navy, and soft grey. Glasses come in a short and tall design, and flatware sets come in polished stainless steel, satin black, satin gold, and satin copper finishes. Sets of four range from $48–64 for dishware, $56–64 for glassware, and $180–28o for flatware.
"I wanted to make it really accessible—I think that price point is ideal for the consumer that I'm targeting," Kelly says. That person is a lot like her: generally unmarried, in their 30s, and looking for high-quality product to use every day.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive since Kelly officially launched Rigby as a direct-to-consumer brand this summer. "I've been learning so much about who's buying the product and for what reasons," she says. "I've gotten orders from a lot of people who are in the same life stage as I am, but also from people who are a little bit older; orders from different parts of the country. It's been really fun to see."
It's also been fun to watch her vision come to life from paper designs to tech samples and prototypes to, finally, a warehouse full of finished product. "It was so exciting," she says.
For now, Rigby is available only online—being direct-to-consumer allows Kelly to get real-time intel from her customers, she notes—but there are plans down the line for possible collaborations and pop-ups. So far, she says, it's been extremely gratifying to launch her small business in her hometown: "I feel like the community has been super supportive and excited about Rigby."