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by Janis Fontaine, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013

Businessman Jack Van Dell knows an opportunity when he sees one, so he opened the Wellington Equestrian Gallery and Mall in December. Tucked into the corner of the Publix’s shopping center at the intersection of Wellington Trace and Greenbriar Shores Boulevard, it’s a place where local business owners can lease space to display their work and their wares.

The cavernous room has been a Halloween store, a consignment shop, even a Hollywood Video. Now the fine jeweler has filled it with a bounty of eclectic equestrian art, fashion and furnishings. And it’s convenient too: Van Dell’s jewelry store, specializing in custom fine and equestrian pieces, is in the same plaza.

“There was a need for a place like this,” Van Dell said. “Equestrians lead fashionable lives.” They need a store where they can buy a $5,000 bronze horse sculpture and a $1,200 rhinestone-studded belt at the same time. A partnership with the Chisholm Gallery has worked well to fill the walls and windows of the 6,800-square-foot space. Airy, with an appealing industrial ceiling, manager Robin Carr spent dozens of hours painting everything a bright, crisp white and installing partitions to divide the space.

Van Dell believes the health of the local equestrian community is critical to the success of the town he’s come to love, and to Palm Beach County as a whole. Certainly you have to offer unique goods to a unique market, but you need people who can afford them, and the elite equestrian community can. That logic has made Van Dell one of the top equestrian jewelers in the country — “we make more fine equestrian jewelry than anyone else in the U.S.,” Van Dell said. This new venture will cater to that same market; it’s good business.

Finding suitable artists and vendors hasn’t been a problem. “We’ve been turning people away,” Van Dell said. “We’re at the top of the food chain.” Artists from Europe and South America are on display beside artists from Montana and Florida. Van Dell has another 2,000-square-foot storage space, so they’re constantly changing what’s on display.

Van Dell’s father was an Italian immigrant, by way of Argentina, who achieved the American dream. He spoke no English when he arrived in the States. He started fixing watches in Maine and eventually opened his jewelry business in Salem, Mass., in 1935. Van Dell said he tried college, but he “was awful” at it, so he traded a diploma for standing room only in the school of hard knocks, and eventually, a leadership position in the family business.

Van Dell’s father passed on more than just his skill with rare metal and precious stones; Van Dell’s love of horses began at age 2, the first time his father put him on a horse. And horses brought Van Dell to South Florida 35 years ago to play polo. He planned to stay for four months but he loved it so much, he opened a store here and went back and forth from New England to South Florida until 1995 when he decided to stay put here. The next year, Van Dell founded the Wellington Chamber of Commerce “with three or four other businessmen.”

At 73, Van Dell lives in Loxahatchee with Tammy, his wife of nine years. He doesn’t ride or keep horses any longer, but he still loves everything about them. “Horses are the largest animal we’ve domesticated,” Van Dell said. “They’re incredible athletes.”

Outspoken and frank, he’ll tell you what he thinks, without apology. He’s happy to serve as a mentor, and will tell you showing up is the first step along the road to success, so he’s at his store every day, always in a dress shirt and tie, greeting people and keeping tabs on things.

Want to see for yourself? Visit The Wellington Equestian Gallery and Mall at 13920 Wellington Trace. Info: 561-333-3100;


Has the economy hurt your business?

People are still buying gold. It’s a good investment. As soon as they trade their cash for my gold, I go out and buy more gold.

How did you meet Tammy, your wife of nine years?

She was a customer at the store and we just hit it off immediately. We met in November and married in May.

What was special about her?

She has never said anything bad about anybody. Everybody likes her.

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