Hidden Gems: The story behind the jewelry salesman outside DSU

The back of the van Shakin lives in holds all of his inventory, his tent and his array of hiking shoes. He packs up at the end of each day and typically sleeps in his van only to set his shop back up in the morning.

Taylor Metcalf

For most people, packing up and traveling around the country is just a dream. For David Shakin, it’s a dream he’s living.

Shakin travels across the U.S. to different colleges with his business, “Shake on the Move,” which sells jewelry under a pop-up canopy. His tables are full of beautiful and intricate rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets that he imports from a wholesaler.

The name of Shakin’s business is appropriate considering he has lived on the road for the past 40 years, driving an RV all the way. He’s now onto his third RV.

At each destination, Shakin stocks up his fridge with local organic food and moves on.

Last week, Shakin visited WKU on Thursday and Friday, greeting customers with a smile and positive attitude. He arrived on campus each day around 6:30 a.m. to set up his vending area and wait patiently for students to gather.

Behind the show tables were bags upon bags of rings in various styles and sizes, each labeled carefully with a price and size. Among the variety Shakin laid out for students to peruse were Celtic-style rings, faith rings, toe rings and even rings made out of spoons.

“I’m at another college every week all the way through Christmas,” Shakin said in between assisting students.

Shakin has been traveling school to school since around 1979, but he hopes to retire in the next year. He used to visit WKU for several years in a row, but 25 years ago the school stopped allowing vendors on campus. His first year back was 2018, and he quickly became a hit among students.

“I remember him coming here last year,” student Brooke Koenig said
as she stood beside the tables. “I
love how it doesn’t turn your finger green, and [he] also has a really good attitude.”

Many cheaper rings are made of nickel and other materials that cause the skin to turn green — a reaction that happens when the cheaper metal oxidizes. But all of the rings Shakin sells are made of nickel-free 925 silver. He prides himself on his product’s quality.

While Shakin is originally from Brooklyn, New York, his jewelry journey began in Santa Rosa, California, where he worked for a clothing company that sent him to flea markets in a van and trained him how to sell at college campuses. He said he’s wanted to do this type of work ever since he left the company.

While the lifestyle is fun, it definitely keeps him on his toes.

“It’s always super busy for me, and that’s why I have no hair left,” Shakin said jokingly as he stood behind the displays.

Doing yoga every day helps keep him fit and able to manage his hectic job, and in his spare time he enjoys nature, bird photography and traveling outside of the U.S. Though he travels and works alone, he still has friends scattered about the country.

Lew Schiffman has known Shakin since he was 5 — a friendship 65 years in the making. Schiffman lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but the two grew up together in Brooklyn and often travel together when Shakin has free time.

“He enjoys the opportunity to see people enhancing their look and beautifying themselves,” Schiffman said. “He really enjoys his business and seeing people happy.”

Schiffman mentioned Shakin is socially conscious and concerned about the environment and social rights of people.

While his time at WKU is over, the chance of seeing Shakin again next year is possible. If he returns, just look for the friendly vendor with an abundance of stories to tell and jewelry to sell.

Features reporter Taylor Metcalf can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected].