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WE ASKED THE daredevils among our Brain Squad survey group to talk about what makes them tick when it comes to their adventures that many would consider downright risky. Several confided that not only were their off-hours interests thrilling, diverting and cathartic, but those activities have also benefited their jewelry retail businesses in some way.

For example, endurance race car driver Nick Boulle of Dallas-based de Boulle Jewelry notes that there is a shared passion between people who love watches and cars. “It’s done a lot for client crossover,” Boulle says. “We’ve built great relationships over a shared passion. We’ve had groups of up to 25 people with us at the races.”

Stephenie Bjorkman of Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills, AZ, who competes in risky sports involving horses, says her passion for horses has become an integral part of her business by recognizing the potential of that horse-loving customer niche. “My staff gets excited if someone walks in the door with horse s— on their boots!” she says. “Horses are expensive, and horse people can afford jewelry!”

Hockey player Michael Kanoff of Michael’s Jewelers in Yardley, PA, decided to sponsor his team by buying jerseys, which turned out to be a great idea because he’s picked up many new customers who play in the league and sold an engagement ring to one of the league referees.

At the very least, these 10 jewelers have something to talk about, whether or not they consider themselves to be daredevils.

Nick Boulle, president of de Boulle Diamond and Jewelry in Dallas and Houston, TX, in his racing gear (left) and with sister Emma, father Denis and mother Karen.

Nick Boulle, president of de Boulle Diamond and Jewelry in Dallas and Houston, TX, in his racing gear (left) and with sister Emma, father Denis and mother Karen.

Race-Car Driver
Nick Boulle, de Boulle, Dallas, TX

Endurance race car driver Nick Boulle has raced at famous tracks across the United States and Europe, from Daytona Beach to Le Mans. Highlights of his racing career include winning the ROLEX 24 Hours at Daytona in 2017 and finishing 7th at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

“I truly love to compete in all ways, and to me, motorsports brings together a lot of the things that I love,” Boulle says. “It requires physical fitness; you have to find solutions to complex problems with your teammates, engineers and mechanics; and it also involves creativity as you work to navigate and ‘see’ the perfect line and driving techniques to drive a car around a racetrack with constantly changing conditions at the absolute limit.

“Then you throw in the fact that you’re all alone in the car, under immense pressure, and the track is filled with people who want the exact same thing that you do in that exact moment, and it makes for a great show and an unbelievable test of one’s skillset.

car

“I find the feeling of being in the car fairly calming. Sometimes at the start of a race, I might get some nerves, but once the race begins, you are so focused that it all becomes really quiet. None of our daily worries are able to invade the space, and even after a driver change in the middle of a 24-hour race, you get out and immediately debrief with the engineers and the next driver on standby to figure out how we’re going to keep improving the car and our standings in the race at that moment.

“I think what’s made me stay so in love with the sport is that when you are at the racetrack, you are working with your teammates and the car in absolute sync towards a common goal. Life can be complicated, but with motorsports, when you are competing at the racetrack, everything is suddenly very simple. You want to win and succeed and move the car forward; life becomes binary.

“You’re so focused that it’s almost cathartic because it’s very calming being around a situation that’s so simple. You want to win.”

Ellie-Thompson

Ellie Thompson

Trail Rider
Ellie Thompson, Ellie Thompson & Co., Chicago

“Over the last 10 years, the challenge of riding technical trails and keeping my fitness optimized for long days on my bike has been a great source of inspiration and a way to reinvigorate my energy. I enjoy racing as well as joyriding, both as a solo rider and with friends! The sport is not without risk and peril: I have come back to it again and again despite three collarbone breaks, a broken leg and multiple surgeries.”

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Racing and Heli-Snowboarding
Steve Quick, Steve Quick Jewelers, Chicago

Steve & Melissa Quick

Steve & Melissa Quick

Melissa Quick says while her husband, Steve, is no longer racing powerboats (the most dangerous of his hobbies), he is racing cars and heli-snowboarding. “He never makes it to the Arizona shows because he is back-country snowboarding from a helicopter in British Columbia or Alaska!”

Steve concedes he is an adrenaline enthusiast with a competitive streak, but doesn’t consider himself a daredevil, since he takes every safety precaution possible.

“I have friends who base jump and wingsuit; they are daredevils in my estimation. I want at least half a chance if something goes awry. Roll cages, oxygen, rescue teams above in helicopters, six-point harnesses are all part of my comfort zone.

Steve Quick’s high-powered catamaran, below, before it was badly damaged in a wreck, left. He has since moved on to car racing with strict safety protocols.

Steve Quick’s high-powered catamaran, below, before it was badly damaged in a wreck, left. He has since moved on to car racing with strict safety protocols.

“I am rarely as focused and exhilarated as I am behind the wheel or on my snowboard. I have been racing boats most of my adult life. The fascination with speed on the water culminated with a 17-year career racing Powerboats Offshore. They were large high-powered catamaran hulls that are more aircraft than boat.

“A few years after my last boat race, Manos Phoundoulakis [of EXEC] suggested I join his Gem Besties automobile racing team. Melissa was always uncomfortable when I was at a boat race, rightly so as we saw many competitors die. Not so with the cars. Accidents can and do happen whenever you are going very fast in competition, but our safety protocols are very robust.

10 Jewelers Share Stories of Larger-Than-Life Adventures

“Most people presuppose that I must love skydiving or motorcycles. Not so much. I do a lot of helicopter skiing. That would be the only thing I do that if a really bad day happened it could be the last one. Everything is relative, and to many people, I would fit the definition of daredevil. In my mind, I’m a reluctant one.”

Fireworks Expert
Chris Wattsson, Wattsson & Wattsson, Marquette, MI

Chris Wattsson works for the company that conducts Marquette’s official Fourth of July celebration complete with choreographed music and a laser light show at Marquette’s Ore Dock, an event that attracted more than 7,000 people this year.

“I’ve always loved fireworks ever since I was a kid,” Wattsson says. “Even at 6 years old, I was always playing with firecrackers. I’d take a coffee can and a soup can, drill a hole in the top, and when you light it, it shoots itself out of the water. I like the concussions and choreographing it to music.

Chris Wattsson of Wattsson & Wattsson helps set up and operate the o icial Fourth of July fireworks display in his hometown of Marquette, MI.

Chris Wattsson of Wattsson & Wattsson helps set up and operate the o icial Fourth of July fireworks display in his hometown of Marquette, MI.

“I just love the explosions. People are parked all the way out watching it from the shoreline. It’s a four-day setup. We close for a while, too, because I’m gone for a week. I take a week off to work even harder: There are heavy racks to move around, 60 to 80 pounds, a couple hundred of them that you have to move.

10 Jewelers Share Stories of Larger-Than-Life Adventures

“I have to board my dog, Echo, a Norwegian elkhound, across town. He hates my hobby!”

Pyrotechnics
J. Mason Cutchin, JMason Custom Jeweler, Chapel Hill, NC

“Pyrotechnics!!! Rockets, cannons and fireworks are all very satisfying after hours. As a goldsmith, I play with fire every day. The rules are the same. Planning and building for successful performance apply to jewelry and pyrotechnics. Great fun! I wonder how many jewelers want the term daredevil as part of their profile? Pyrotechnics is no place for a daredevil. Cycling and water-skiing days are over. Riding my old unicycle would be a daredevil stunt these days!”

J. Mason Cutchin

J. Mason Cutchin

Skydiving and High-Altitude Hiking
Denise Oros, Linnea Jewelers, La Grange, IL

“My wonderful engineer husband, who is a licensed IFR pilot, loves flying planes, but me, well I love the adrenaline high of jumping out of them. The peacefulness of floating once that chute opens is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. You can see for miles, and you can hear every little thing when you’re coming down. Amazing!

10 Jewelers Share Stories of Larger-Than-Life Adventures

“And I’m extremely fortunate that my best friend is an endangered-wildlife biologist. As soon as Vegas is over, she plans our hiking trip through the Zion Narrows, which were shut down because of the snow melt this year. Bryce Canyon, which is high altitude hiking, and we often carry oxygen with us. Escalante and the Grand Staircase are just endurance venues, and this year we hiked and became familiar with the flora and fauna of Capitol Reef. You can’t beat southern Utah for incredible views and amazing scenery!”

Motorcycle Racing
Tom Duma, Thom Duma Fine Jewelry, Warren, OH

“I used to race motorcycles professionally; in fact, I told my dad, who was in the jewelry business, ‘Don’t count on me coming into the business, because I’m going to make lots of money racing and retire by the time I’m 40.’ Well, the professional racing was true. The making lots of money and retiring at 40 didn’t happen! I got really injured (fell off at the Indy Mile at 120 mph) ending my dreams of a national championship. But I still race at an amateur level in the 60-plus class, and I just did a two-seater ride at Road America on a Suzuki 1000. Chris Ulrich was at the controls, and I was on the back. It is called a Two Up ride! We did 155 down the straightaway. I have video and pictures to prove that!”

Tom Duma on motorbike

All-Around Adventurer
Jennifer Hornik Johnson, Miller’s Jewelry, Bozeman, MT

“Oh, I’m a big risk-taker. Love the thrill! Call me an adrenaline junkie. Have been bungee jumping, sky diving, canyoning, rappelling, rock climbing. A couple years back, I ran off the side of a mountain in Jackson Hole, WY, (paragliding); it was awesome. I have also paraglided off the coast in Lima, Peru.

“One of my favorite trips was to Switzerland in college, where I went canyoning, mountain biking and bungee jumping in the Swiss Alps.

“Another uber-memorable trip was to Peru in my mid-20s. After spending some time living and volunteering in/near Cusco, I traveled the country with my dear friend, Allison. Our days were filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We did stuff like whitewater rafting the Urubamba River and sand-surfing on the dunes of Huacachina! We also competed a multi-day Inca Trail Trek to Machu Picchu, of course. It was incredible.

Jennifer Hornik Johnson (left) with two friends at Machu Picchu in Peru.

Jennifer Hornik Johnson (left) with two friends at Machu Picchu in Peru.

“A final story I’ll share was a special skydiving trip taken with both of my siblings. My brother and I took our sister soaring as her college graduation gift. All three of us did tandem jumps for the first time that day in Southern California. Talk about family bonding! (We didn’t tell our parents about the risky (ad)venture until it was over and we were all three safely back on the ground, of course.)

“My next big adventure could be in Africa. I have been trying to schedule a trip to Tanzania to (hopefully) summit Mount Kilimanjaro and experience a safari.”

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Reined Cowhorse Competitor
Stephenie Bjorkman, Sami Fine Jewelry, Fountain Hills, AZ

Stephenie Bjorkman holds five world titles in the sport of reined cowhorse.

“I compete and show horses all over the United States. I currently compete in the National Reined Cowhorse Association where I show in cutting, reining, and cow boxing. I also show in the American Quarter Horse Association, where I show in reining, cow boxing, ranch riding, and ranch rail.

Stephenie Bjorkman, owner of Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills, AZ, competes in the National Reined Cowhorse Association competition.

Stephenie Bjorkman, owner of Sami Fine Jewelry in Fountain Hills, AZ, competes in the National Reined Cowhorse Association competition.

“In the reined cowhorse, lots of people get hurt. Horses fall on their riders at almost every show. Being around horses and cattle, you cannot control your environment. Both are animals and will kick, bite, buck, and do lots of unexpected things. Cowhorse is a dangerous sport where you show your horse in reining and then chase a cow. I have gotten bucked off, kicked in the head (concussions), bitten and dragged. I still love riding horses! My sport is very high speed and dangerous and gives you an adrenalin rush. I can’t get enough.

“I also raise miniature horses that I use for therapy, team-building events, etc. I have tons of horse clients (that I have met competing) along with our jewelry store clients who visit my miniature horse ranch (snugglefarms.com).”

Hockey Player
Michael Kanoff, Michael’s Jewelers, Yardley, PA

“I played hockey as a kid all through high school and loved it. I stopped playing once I graduated. Every year, friends would ask me to play men’s league ice hockey, but I had no interest. But one day, one of my buddies called and convinced me to start playing again after an 18-year break. I started playing in my mid-30s and quickly realized I was in awful shape. Hockey completely changed my life, as I started working out for the first time in my life and eating better just so I could keep up with kids 10 years younger than me.

Now in his late 40s, Michael Kanoff (center) of Michael’s Jewelers still plays competitive hockey.

Now in his late 40s, Michael Kanoff (center) of Michael’s Jewelers still plays competitive hockey.

“I have had my share of injuries. I broke my collarbone from playing and swore I was done playing at that point. But I missed it and went back to playing after a year. I’ve been playing men’s league ice hockey for 14 years now, and I feel like an 18-year-old kid when I play and a 70-year-old man for the next two days, but it’s worth all of the aches and pains. As I am getting older, a lot of the time I don’t feel like playing. But when it’s time to leave, I blast hip-hop, Metallica or Rage Against the Machine in the car ride over and I am good to go.

“I refuse to stop playing because that would make me old, and I think age is a state of mind. I have way more energy in my late 40s than I did in my 30s. I am now chasing kids around the ice who are 20 years younger than me; I can’t catch them, but I hold my own.”

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Moving Up — Not Out — with Wilkerson

Trish Parks has always wanted to be in the jewelry business and that passion has fueled her success. The original Corinth Jewelers opened in the Mississippi town of the same name in 2007. This year, Parks moved her business from its original strip mall location to a 10,000-square foot standalone store. To make room for fresh, new merchandise, she asked Wilkerson to organize a moving sale. “What I remember most about the sale is the outpouring excitement and appreciation from our customers,” says Parks. Would she recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers? “I would recommend Wilkerson because they came in, did what they were supposed to and made us all comfortable. And we met our goals.”

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