Learn from some of the best in the industry.

As the principal editor for America’s Coolest Stores contest coverage, I have the privilege of learning first-hand about some of the most inventive independent jewelry stores in the industry. I’m always impressed by each store’s individuality and unique recipe for success.

Here are just a handful of tips gleaned from Cool Store articles featured in calendar year 2016 in INSTORE.

1. Help with proposals. Perry Sporn of Devotion in Garden City, NY, partners with Paparazzi Proposals, a company that documents wedding proposals with professional, surprise photography. (paparazzi-proposals.com)

2. Create a loyalty program. To avoid discounting, Kevin Seele of Kevin’s Fine Jewelry in Totowa, NJ, has a loyalty program called “Forever Starts at Kevin’s” which gives a percentage back in store credit for future purchase.

3. Play around with displays. At the Goldsmith in Fond du Lac, WI, Ron and Terri Emanuel use torn pieces of bright, handmade paper to display jewelry. “We had a merchant here who sold handmade paper, and I started purchasing it from her,” Terri says. “Everyone really liked the look, and it’s easy enough to change for spring or for Christmastime. It may not work for everyone, but it just works for us.”

4. Choreograph your setup. Don Baide of the Gem Gallery in Bozeman, MT, inspired by a system used by Robert Lynn of Lynn’s Jewelry Studio in Ventura, CA, is able to completely tear down the store in less than 10 minutes and set it up within 20. Everything comes out of the cases in trays and rolling carts and the carts go in different directions.

5. Offer appraisals. At Star Jewelers on High in Columbus, OH, Rachel Howard and her family brought in a jewelry appraiser for the PBS TV show, Antiques Roadshow. The guest met with delighted customers by appointment.

6. Wrap it up. At Edmund T. Ahee Jewelers in Grosse Pointe Woods, MI, the 6,500-square-foot store is wrapped with a huge burgundy velvet ribbon at Christmas time, with an oversize bow above the entrance. It has more than 100,000 LED lights hand-sewn into it. John Ahee says it causes a traffic jam as drivers slow down for a good look.

7. Make a grab bag. At Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO, stray, forgotten gemstones are gathered up and placed in satin grab bags, priced anywhere from $25 to $500, and sold to adventuresome, gem-loving clients. “It’s fun to move the gems and then help clients design jewelry around their buys,” says owner Jennifer Farnes. 

8. Find your voice. Al Louis of Designing Jewelers in La Cross, WI, trades banter once a week with the hosts of the lighthearted local “Lead Balloon Show” on AM radio. Its long-running holiday special is broadcast from the store, where the local rabbi sings Hannukah songs and other performers deliver their own Christmas carols.

9. Personalize repairs. Betteridge in Greenwich, CT, offers concierge watch repair. Clients get to meet the watchmaker who is going to work on their watch. Betteridge has five watchmakers and 10 jewelers on site. “He will take the customer through the testing process and show him how it’s performing,” says Win Betteridge.

10. Invent a theme for window displays. At Onyx II in Watertown, CT, brand manager James Michael Murphy uses his design and merchandising skills to design windows worthy of Madison Avenue. In 2016, “Moroccan Around the Christmas Tree” was the grand finale to a year of windows with the theme “A Trip Around the World.” Other showcased locales included China for the Lunar New Year, the Amalfi Coast of Italy, birdwatching in Bolivia, the Olympics in Brazil and an African safari — and all featured traffic-stopping looks.

11. Promote your high-profile hobby. Nick Boulle of De Boulle Diamond & Jewelry has created buzz for the business with a racing team, sponsored by de Boulle Motorsports and Vista del Mar of Perdido Key, FL, in the 2016 ROLEX 24 Hours of Daytona, where his team finished second.

12. Enlist advisers. Each Vermont-based Von Bargen’s Jewelry location has its own customer advisory board, made up of savvy, fashionable women, who meet quarterly to discuss inventory, merchandising and marketing. Wherever they meet, the store serves serve food and beverages — cheese, fruit, chocolate or a vegetable tray. Participants receive gift bags, including $100 gift certificates. The group is very influential in buying decisions. If 15 of 20 women suggest a particular SKU, for example, it will definitely be on the store’s shopping list.

13. Host happy hour. At the Gurhan Atelier in Manhattan, Gurhan Orhan’s hospitality is a big draw. He jokes, “After 5, people come for the bar.” It houses a fully equipped wine refrigerator, a cache of rare spirits and plenty of snacks. As the day progresses, a clubby atmosphere prevails: friends drop in and students come by to show off works in progress. “This is just a place where people can relax.”

14. Offer classes in an area of expertise. Thomas Mann of Thomas Mann Gallery I/O in New Orleans, teaches jewelry-making fundamentals to everyone from little kids to senior citizens. “The teaching aspect of my career has become a really important part of who we are,” Mann says. Last year, studioFLUX offered a metal-smithing summer camp for 9- to 12-year-olds.

15. Feed them. If a client of Caitlyn Wilkinson’s at Renaissance Fine Jewelry in Brattleboro, VT, shows up hungry, staff members will dash to the second-floor kitchen to whip up plates of olives, pate´, cheese, fruit and crackers and serve it all on a silver platter.

16. Add sparkle. At Yaf Sparkle Jewelry Boutique in Manhattan, every purchase comes with a little something extra, say owners Yaye Fatou Boye-Flaegel and Torsten Flaegel. “Our tissue paper has golden specks in it, and if I’m sending a card, if it’s a woman, I’ll throw some sparkles into the envelope,” Yaf says.


This article is an online extra for INSTORE Online.


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