Bravo! Three Cheers
Young brothers set themselves apart with a DIY
approach to retail and jewelry making
STORY BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND
To say Edward Notovich and his younger brother, Eugene, are resourceful doesn’t really explain all the ground they’ve covered to get where they are today, with a thriving retail and wholesale jewelry business in a fashionable Southern California neighborhood.
OWNERS: Edward Notovich and Eugene Notovich)
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2016
AREA: 1,200 square feet
As Edward says, “Every day was a struggle, but now it’s good.”
After the family moved to the United States from Israel in 2000, their dad, a bench jeweler, began working at Continental Diamond in Minnesota. Edward and Eugene followed him into the business and into Continental Diamond, too: Edward as a bench jeweler/goldsmith and Eugene as a CAD designer.
Edward wrote down everything he learned and observed on the job at Continental. “It was an interesting store, because they really know what they are doing,” he says. “I was very impressed by that experience.” He knew he wanted to one day own his own store.
Although they enjoyed the work, the weather was another, chillier story. Although the brothers were born in Ukraine, they were raised in much warmer Israel. A decade after moving to Minnesota, they were still struggling with the winters, Edward says.
When Eugene made a trip to California to study at the GIA, Edward visited him there and they both fell in love with the San Diego area.
When Edward was 25 and Eugene just 21, they decided to relocate and launch a business, starting out in a garage, where they did trade work for local jewelers.
Next, they rented a small unit in an industrial park and began displaying some of their work there, too. But an industrial park — where neighbors worked on engines and crafted surfboards — wasn’t the best place for a jewelry showroom. There weren’t any window shoppers, for one thing. Marketing was a herculean task. And some of their local clients seemed more than a bit threatened by their initial efforts to sell their own designs. They lost wholesale accounts.
“So, with the little money we had, we decided to open a retail store but keep the trade work, too, which is our bread and butter,” Edward says. “Since we are known to do excellent work, we decided to reach out here locally to customers directly.” Now, 90 percent of the trade work is from out of town or out of state.
They found a place in a perfect, high-end location, and it took them six months just to negotiate a lease. That time wasn’t wasted though. During the negotiation phase, the brothers collected store design inspiration from restaurants and stores they visited, either in person or online. They were looking for something modern but not too far-out.
“We wanted people to say ‘wow’ when they walked in. I wanted to have a feel of a jewelry store, but make it more modern and unique. To make a store that doesn’t look like the 1970s,” Edward says.
Having a “wow” space creates a singular experience that makes the jewelry more valuable to shoppers, he says. “If the presentation and environment is not that nice, the product loses its value,” he says. “But with a great presentation and a great experience, there’s no reason to go to another jeweler.”
So by the time they had signed a lease, they were ready to roll out their store concept.
When they took possession it was a newly built, blank box with a cement floor and four unfinished walls. They designed every detail from the layout to the shape of the ceiling to the outdoor sign and the wallpaper. The showcases are sleekly modern and at a comfortable height for viewing jewelry.
"It was really hard to compete in the beginning, but we knew we had to be different and unique to put our mark on the area.”
“We designed our showcases down to the millimeter and had them custom manufactured. Rather than hiring a designer and conveying our ideas to them, we took advantage of the skills we each had and used them to design the store,” Edward says.
They did most of the work themselves, although they had to hire an electrician to comply with city building codes.
As they began hiring people to do some of the work, though, Edward, who describes himself as picky, began to feel that he could do it better himself. So he and his brother, cousin and a couple of friends built much of the store.
“It was a hassle to still do the trade work and also build the store,” Edward says. “What was supposed to be a two-month buildout wound up being six months. It was really a struggle. We even moved the safe ourselves. I injured my foot. But even with an injured foot, we were doing the work because we had to get opened; otherwise, we wouldn’t make it.”
They ran out of funding from a $60,000 loan, but their parents came to the rescue with an additional $20,000 to cover their rent while they finished the store.
After they opened, they realized they had a lot to learn. Although Edward had been a keen observer at Continental Diamond, he wasn’t privy to a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes.
“We didn’t know what we were talking about. We had never hired a salesperson before, we didn’t have a manager, we never really had dealt with employees. All of this was new to us. It was really hard to compete in the beginning, but we knew we had to be different and unique to put our mark on the area.
“Every day was a struggle, but now it’s good.”
IMAGE GALLERY (16 IMAGES)
5 Cool Things About Bravo Jewellers
1. Mentoring. The brothers give lectures at the GIA in Carlsbad about opening and running a jewelry store. Edward advises students to have a team of at least three people, so there’s always a majority opinion. “You’ve got to have a solid plan for funding, too, says Edward. “If one of your team has money or can get a loan, that’s very important. You need at least a year or a year and a half of money available, not just for rent but for inventory, for payroll and for yourself to live. Money to put aside until you begin to break even.”
2. One-stop shop. The brothers accumulated a lot of equipment before they opened their business and continue to collect it. Making use of 3D printers, casting machines, laser welders, computerized engravers, stone-setting microscopes, etc., allows them to be extremely precise in their work and also to be able to do virtually every task in-house, from sketch, to CAD, to casting, setting and finishing.
3. Bravo! When the brothers started out, they began collecting equipment, restoring it, and storing it in their basement. So they called their fledgling business Basement Designs, a name they decided later was unsuitable for the image they wanted to project. “Bravo” in Hebrew and Russian is similar to the English meaning.
4. Close-to-home marketing. Marketing efforts have been concentrated on making posters for display on the store windows and exterior areas. They also do marketing in gyms and health clubs to attract young people.
5. Unique inventory. “We sell mostly our own jewelry, but we do have some designers who are really unique and who we like — such as Daniel Vior from Barcelona for contemporary silver jewelry, and Precision Set, because their work is really good, really well made,” Edward says.
TRY THIS: OFFER A REALISTIC SAMPLE
Give customers a more realistic sample of their custom jewelry as it’s being designed. For the brothers, this means growing a sample wax model and then spray painting it the metal color of choice and even setting CZs where the diamonds will go. “Our clients always get such a kick out of this mock-up, and having the stones in place really helps them visualize what it’ll look like after it’s complete,” Edward says. Customers also get a collage of their renderings on paper that they can take home. “We find that often the second thing our customers will mention about their custom experience with us — after how much they love the final piece — is that sample wax they came in to try on.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 edition of INSTORE.