in West Texas
Store offers dream decor plus deep-rooted hospitality
STORY BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND
Joe and Ann Thacker cultivate West Texas style in every aspect of their business. The design of the store, the sales approach and the advertising all must be authentic; pretension and hype aren’t exactly selling points in down-to-earth West Texas.
“We have very extensive training with our people in how to communicate and be real and at the same time guide the customer to the piece of jewelry they are looking for,” Joe says. “When you do it properly, people leave feeling pleased and happy with their selection.”
OWNERS: Joe and Ann Thacker (pictured with daughter Ann)
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2015
AREA: 6,500 square feet
BUILDOUT COST: $2 million
TOP BRAND: Gabriel & Co.
ONLINE PRESENCE: Facebook: 22,200 likes; 91 reviews on Google with an average of 4.9 Stars
Although the store’s interior is Old World elegant and genteel with Queen Anne style cases and an ethereal cloud-inspired lighting structure overhead, it’s also laid-back, comfortable and casual. But it makes a statement of permanence in the neighborhood. It’s the fourth location they’ve had in Lubbock, but this is the first one they’ve owned; and this one is the finale, the ultimate in their dream sequence. “We have the store we’ve envisioned for years. We achieved what we were trying to do,” Joe says. “As you grow, you can afford to do more.”
Cobblestone paths lead shoppers through different sections or neighborhoods within the store, from colored gems and diamonds to engagement rings, pearls or fashion.
“The stores around us don’t look anything like ours,” Joe says. “We used an old door that we found as a focal point and built all the archways out from that. When you walk in through a big wrought iron door, there’s a nice Old World chandelier hanging right there.
“It all works together. My wife Ann has that artist’s touch and the eye that can bring it all together.”
Joe and Ann now have the facility to make the shopping experience fun and inviting for the customer. “We try to keep a light air about everything, even though it’s a serious business to work with gems handed down through generations.”
The previous showroom was 2,000 square feet. The extra space doubled the number of showcases, from 27 to 54, and just about doubled the inventory, too.
“We did add American Indian jewelry,” Joe says. “ I had a lot of it left from different times when I would have an opportunity to buy a closeout. People kept telling me there is none being sold in this area. So I filled two showcases, added silver, and increased our engagement ring displays.”
The primary focus though was adding depth to the previous inventory that had sold well before. They make about 20 percent of what they sell.
The Thackers started off in manufacturing and wholesale in 1979 based in the tiny town of Roaring Springs during one of those boom times in Texas.
“Of course initially it was just me and my wife, but slowly and surely we started adding jewelers and training people, and within three years, we had 42 employees,” Joe says. “That many jobs in a community of about 350 people had a huge impact.”
They tried hiring jewelers from out of the area, but their spouses, he says, had a hard time adjusting to the small town. So, instead, they concentrated on sending homegrown talent to outside training programs and also hired teachers from Paris Junior College, which had a school for jewelers.
“Most of our jewelers were farmers and cowboys before they were trained at our factory.”
When the recession of 1983 hit, they changed their focus from wholesale and opened their first store in Roaring Springs. The manufacturing operation in Roaring Springs became their in-house shop. They drew customers from all around the region, including Lubbock, because they had low overhead and could price merchandise competitively.
Today the Lubbock metropolitan area has a population of around 375,000, including 35,000 students at Texas Tech, which supplies a steady stream of engagement-ring and class-ring customers. Engagement rings remain the focus of the business. A “Digging for Diamonds” event has won them publicity on a nationally televised football game. Two couples win a drawing to compete for an engagement ring in the end zone. Sometimes, the winning couple gets engaged immediately. Everyone who signs up becomes a likely customer for the Thackers.
PHOTO GALLERY (22 IMAGES)
Five Cool Things About Thacker Jewelry
1. Tourist attraction. While they have a jeweler on staff and a shop for general bench work at the Lubbock location, custom work (both hand carving and CAD/CAM) is done at their factory in Roaring Springs. The Thackers offer curious clients a behind-the-scenes education. “If you get lost and you happen to find yourself in Roaring Springs, we do give tours of the factory,” Joe says. “It’s very much off the beaten path. But it’s amazing that busloads of people will go there to tour the factory, to see the gold poured, to see them setting diamonds.”
2. Thoughtful displays. The Thackers make each showcase a work of art by incorporating antique display elements such as classic romantic books and lanterns collected over the past 40 years. “The idea is to draw your eye to each ring, each piece, not to have all these rings sitting there together,” he says.
3. Congenial team. Joe makes sure the two divisions of the business mesh. “The thing about Roaring Springs is I know these people, their parents, their grandparents. You have camaraderie here. I take all the people who work in the Lubbock store to the factory to develop that team effort.”
4. Riding in style. The Thackers purchased a 1963 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud in 2016. Engagement ring purchasers are treated to a chauffeured ride in the car to or from their weddings.
5. Shotgun wedding promotion. A three-day promotion offering a Remington 12-gauge shotgun or a Winchester rifle with the purchase of a $3,000 engagement ring has led to quite a few precipitous proposals and noteworthy purchases. Says Joe: “It’s amazing how many guys think, `I was going to do this in January, but man, if I do it now, I can get a shotgun and hunting season starts next week.’ We always take it very seriously when we’re helping somebody pick out their wedding set, but at the same time the tongue-in-cheek promotion of a shotgun wedding does make it a little more lighthearted.”
Service Hero: Read a 5-Star Google Review
Read this actual 5-star Google review from a customer: “My boyfriend and I drove over four hours to look at engagement rings. When we stepped into Thacker Jewelry, we felt at ease and they made us feel like they had known us for years. Their customer service is the best I have ever encountered in my life! They are accommodating, friendly and patient. We were fortunate to meet Mr. Thacker and he is so awesome!! I can’t wait to get engaged. I am so glad we made the trip and also that they will be a part of our forever love story. I highly recommend them! You will not be disappointed!”
Try This: Create Your Own VIP Club
About a thousand customers, who have enrolled in the loyalty program, receive a $100 gift certificate on their birthdays and anniversaries. They are also eligible for a weekly discount and to enter a monthly drawing for a birthstone of the month and a piece of jewelry. They stay in touch with Twitter, a requirement for VIP status.
True Tale: What's Up With Joe's Mustache?Joe is known as the man in the Irish cap with the great mustache. “We’re casual. We don’t wear suits and ties. I wear banded collar shirts and a vest. The image I use on TV is kind of an English countryman.” They hear as much feedback about Joe’s mustache as on the decor. A favorite comment came from a 4-year-old boy who walked up to him and after pulling on his trousers leg to get his attention announced, “Mister, that’s the coolest beard I’ve ever seen.”