Connect with us

Store Owners Bring Glitter and Goodwill to Manhattan’s Lower East Side




Yaf Sparkle Boutique , New York

OWNER: Abby Jakob, OD;; FOUNDED: 2012; EMPLOYEES: full time, 2 part time; AREA: 2,100 sq. ft.; ONLINE PRESENCE: 9,118 Likes on Facebook; 5 Stars on Yelp; BUILDOUT COST: $50,000

SKIES MAY BE DARK, but a walk by Yaf Sparkle Boutique on New York’s Lower East Side promises an instantly brighter day. Passersby smile at the enticing sparkles dusted onto the sidewalk around its front door each morning and the glow of gold in its grid-designed windows.

True Tale

A German couple who came into the store had no trouble communicating because Torsten is from Hamburg, Germany. They were so charmed by the spot and the people that one of them proposed to the other on the spot. “There were tears all around,” Torsten recalls. “Luckily, we had a bottle of Champagne in the fridge, too.”


Yaf Sparkle Boutique has its hand in social media from Twitter Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest and Facebook to its own blog. It includes favorite pieces, inspirational sayings and news about life in the Lower East Side to bring its community to its buyers. It rates close to five stars on Yelp for its service and selection.

“There’s a skateboard shop next door, and we have a lot of skateboarders who roll their boards by us to pick up the sparkles on their wheels,” says founder Yaye Fatou Boye-Flaegel, laughing.

Yaf, as she’s known, and her husband, Torsten Flaegel, built a business from the ground up. She welded her experience in retail sales and jewelry design to his motivational skills and discipline as a basketball coach.

The couple admits they were flying blind. None of their parents had been in retail, and Yaf’s experience was largely behind the counter, although she sold her designs at gatherings on weekends to raise money for children’s needs in her native Senegal.

Four years later, Yaf Sparkle Boutique glitters among New York’s crowds of jewelry stores, grabbing eyes and bringing lovers to proposals right at their counter. Designer Yaf shows her work, but in the boutique, the customer’s needs come first.

“Most important to me is to provide what my clients want. If I need to go to an outside designer I will,” she says.

Being the Boss

Yaf doesn’t think in terms of insurmountable obstacles. She sold her designs at trunk shows and parties for years to fund outreach for her ASB foundation, which helps the children of lepers in Senegal.

But she knew when she became pregnant that she wanted a life in which she could set her own hours, still show her jewelry designs and work with her husband.

A friend told Yaf the Lower East Side was the emerging shopping district, that she should forget her original destination of Tribeca. But the couple had no money for site research and Yaf was still working at another jewelry business.


So Torsten became a sidewalk sleuth that summer, watching foot traffic in various locations and talking to local businesses. A veteran UPS driver told him what days were slow —Mondays — and other locals talked about shopper demographics.

That shoe leather survey paid off. The store they finally moved into is in a high-traffc area. The iconic Katz’s Delicatessen is around the block. It’s two blocks from the picturesque, muraled First Street Garden, and the nearby Tenement Museum draws hundreds of thousands annually to learn about the city’s immigrant heritage.

The Orchard Street store had a further advantage. On summer Sundays, the street is closed to motor tra c and becomes a pedestrian mall. Its Old World plaza-like ambience lures browsers and fosters outdoor social events.

Yaf’s location requirements included vintage architecture with character. The lean 15-by-50-square-foot space they secured had that: brick walls and a high ceiling that would be perfect for an exposed beam look.

But their old building still held the bones of its history. One shared wall was sheetrock; only the opposite wall could be exposed brick. Further, all of the previous businesses’ pipes snaked above the ceiling facade they planned to tear out, and its electricity was strung inside, along a wall.

“It had a couple of walls (inside). This was, before us, a hair salon. When we came in there was a counter, and there was a pipe in between that and the wall,” Yaf recalls, remembering her dismay.

“The electricity was on the left side. We had to bring all the electricity in through the basement,” adds Torsten. An inside door led to another business; the building had once held apartments, too.

“We took out a full truckload of garbage,” Yaf recalls.

There were some other disadvantages with its size. The boutique does some repair, but Yaf has to send her designs out to various craft experts for molding and setting.

Yaf and Torsten moved pipes, tore out the walls, covered the unused door and ripped out ceiling tiles to expose beams. Still-exposed pipes were painted copper to give it the panache of intentional décor.

“We were all hands on deck 24/7,” Yaf remembers of the remodeling, Some of those hands belonged to Torsten’s father, who came to New York to help build their cases. They were done in a little more than six weeks.

Space That Moves

Within eight weeks, Yaf’s boutique was ready to sparkle. But she was still committed to her former job for another week, so Torsten moved into sales, stang the store.

“Having finished up the space and transformed it so much, the moment of actually opening the door and actually o ering merchandise, the pride and joy of it, was exciting,” he says.

The grid-style front window display exponentially expands what Yaf Sparkle Boutique can show passersby.


To work with the long, narrow space, the pair angled some cabinets, giving customers a sense of exploration. Cases jut out in a gentle serpentine pattern, allowing the treasures within to unfold.

“As a jewelry store, the way I believe my stuff has to be shown is in movement. Everything has to be moving all the time,” Yaf says. It’s in tune with the young, active crowd moving into the Lower East Side, along with robust tourist traffc.

Yaf carries handmade bags that hang on the wall or from gold-tone chain-suspended mahogany bars. Multilayered display cases hold Yaf’s own designs, but also Buddha to Buddha, Yelena Noah and Monika Knutsson’s Gilded Lace collection.

A creamy ivory color predominates, broken only by the brick wall. There’s creative display, but no fussy detail work.

“We wanted both genders to feel comfortable in here,” Yaf explains.

Her previous work was in a jewelry store that specialized in men’s jewelry, and she has a special feeling for it: She met Torsten, in fact, when he came to look for a bracelet.

The two love the sense of community around their location and feel strongly about contributing to it, working with other businesses through the Lower East Side Improvement District. “We are really involved in supporting each other,” Yaf says.

Yaf is happiest, however, about her weekend customers being able to visit her all week. “People were very excited to see the girl with the table and jewelry now actually have brick and mortar,” she says.

ONLINE EXTRA: 6 Questions with Yaye Fatou Boye-Flaegel

1. Who is your most significant mentor? to millennials?
My father. He’s just an amazing, well-rounded person and he was the first person to buy me How to Win Friends And Influence People in French, before I studied English in college.

2. What advice do you have for a new store owner?
Make sure it’s your passion. Make sure you love what you do.

3. How do you stay current?
Being on Twitter helps. Facebook helps. Having INSTORE Magazine, and going to trade shows. I don’t necessarily like listening to the news. I have a belief that if it’s really important somebody will tell you.

4. If I were a precious stone, I would be …
A diamond. I definitely feel like I am one in a million, too.

5. What is your dream trip?
I would go to Paris. There’s just something about that city that makes you feel so nice and wonderful.

Five Cool Things About Yaf Sparkle Boutique

1. THEY BRING ROMANCE TO THE COUNTER. Yaf and Torsten met when she was selling men’s jewelry at another store and he was a tourist looking for a bracelet. They’ve encouraged romance in their own store with
a Valentine’s Day party featuring chocolate-dipped strawberries — “But you can’t feed yourself. You have to feed someone else,” Yaf insists.

2. THE STREET SCENE. Yaf Sparkle Boutique is located in an area popular for moviemaking in the Big Apple — a famous scene of When Harry Met Sally was filmed in nearby Katz’s Deli. But Yaf admits everyone’s jaw dropped when Robert DeNiro walked in one day: “‘Just call me Bob,” he told us.

3. THE GLOBAL EFFORT. Yaf Sparkle, the original jewelry line, began as an outreach project. To this day, Yaf says, 10 percent of her jewelry’s net proceeds go to nonprofits, including the ASB Foundation she founded in 2007 to share with children in need in her native Senegal.

4. THEY LOVE ARTS. Yaf Sparkle Boutique will hold openings for artists’ new works
and authors’ book signings, hosting receptions in the store. Not only does it bring in new customers, Yaf says, the artists sometimes create scarves with their designs, enhancing the boutique’s jewelry, belts and bags inventory. “That gives us more to offer,” she says.


“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. But their favorite sparkle is the reaction from passersby, who may be halfway down the block before they notice the sparkles on their shoes, and smile.


  • Ruth Mellergaard: A simple store with a dynamite logo, ever changing windows and sparkle dust. How cool is that? Suits the Lower East Side.
  • Benjamin Guttery: Culture, community, and charity causes are what makes this store cool in my book. I can totally relate with the owner on being an entrepreneur and wanting to give back to causes near and dear to her heart. Special events that not only focus on sales, but giving back to a worthy cause, are a hallmark of this store’s branding and identity.
  • Peggy Jo Donahue: A very unusual collection of jewelry makes it well worth a visit and the affordability of its selection makes it even friendlier for today’s millennials. Its dedication to nonprofits and care for the environment also probably attract the younger crowd.
  • Christine Medawar: I love that she makes her own jewelry and started off as a designer doing trunk shows in her friends’ apartments. I also love that 10 percent of the profits go to help others. Beautiful.



Gene the Jeweler

Gene the Jeweler Gets Kicked Out of the Studio

In the latest episode (#42) of Gene the Jeweler, Gene is going about his business, recording a new episode. But that doesn’t last long. Four-time NFL Pro Bowl leading rusher Ahman Green walks in, and Gene finds that his time in the studio is over — whether he likes it or not. (See more Gene the Jeweler episodes at

Promoted Headlines

America's Coolest Stores

America’s Coolest Stores 2019 – Winners Revealed!




Check out America’s Coolest Jewelry Stores of 2019!

Congratulations to the winners of the 18th annual America’s Coolest Stores Contest! In the following pages — and in the months ahead — discover why these stores earned the stamp of approval from our judges. As in past years, we divided the entries into two categories — Big Cool (six or more full-time employees) and Small Cool (five or fewer). We asked two six-member teams of judges to evaluate stores based on their back story, interior, exterior, marketing, online presence and what we here at INSTORE believe is the most important intangible: individuality.

Our six America’s Coolest and additional 10 Cool Stores — each of which will be featured in INSTORE issues through June 2019 — represent creative approaches to doing business as well as aesthetically pleasing retail environments. Each of the six winning stores also offers an omni-channel shopping experience, with merchandise available for purchase online.

If you haven’t taken the time to enter yet, why not give it a shot in January 2020? Retailers have told us that the entry process alone can be inspiring and motivating because it requires them to assess all aspects of their businesses. And if you entered and weren’t chosen this time, fine-tune your entry and try again. That’s proven to be a winning strategy.

Check out America’s Coolest
Jewelry Stores of 2019!

Congratulations to the winners of the 18th annual America’s Coolest Stores Contest! In the following pages — and in the months ahead — discover why these stores earned the stamp of approval from our judges. As in past years, we divided the entries into two categories — Big Cool (six or more full-time employees) and Small Cool (five or fewer). We asked two six-member teams of judges to evaluate stores based on their back story, interior, exterior, marketing, online presence and what we here at INSTORE believe is the most important intangible: individuality.

Our six America’s Coolest and additional 10 Cool Stores — each of which will be featured in INSTORE issues through June 2019 — represent creative approaches to doing business as well as aesthetically pleasing retail environments. Each of the six winning stores also offers an omni-channel shopping experience, with merchandise available for purchase online.

If you haven’t taken the time to enter yet, why not give it a shot in January 2020? Retailers have told us that the entry process alone can be inspiring and motivating because it requires them to assess all aspects of their businesses. And if you entered and weren’t chosen this time, fine-tune your entry and try again. That’s proven to be a winning strategy.

Continue Reading

America's Coolest Stores

Here Are This Year’s America’s Coolest Store Honorable Mentions

These 10 stores will be featured over the next year in INSTORE.




Big Cool Honorable Mentions

Day’s Jewelers

Nashua, NH

The Coreys

Jeff and Kathy Corey opened a 5,000-square-foot destination store, their eighth location, in 2018. With updated branding and imagery, the store design grabs millennials’ attention while maintaining a reputation for representing fine jewelry. A two-story vestibule creates a transparent glass wall along its curved exterior, establishing a theme that carries throughout the casework and ceiling. The curves create a free-flowing traffic pattern that leads patrons throughout the interior while also maximizing linear-display space.

John Atencio

Lone Tree, CO

John Atencio

Jewelry designer John Atencio’s sixth store was designed to create a visually compelling and luxurious experience while maximizing display space within a 600-square-foot footprint. The most striking aspect of the location is the large, transparent facade crafted from oversize panes of tempered glass. From the outside, the store looks sleek and inviting, and inside, the space is flooded with natural light.

Provident Jewelry

Jupiter, FL

Geoff Fear, Rob Samuels, Nick Linca, Seth Berman, Scott Diament

Owners Seth Berman, Scott Diament, Nick Linca and Robert Samuels teamed up to create a Dream Factory luxury lounge inside their flagship location. Clients can mingle, relax and enjoy a cocktail for a memorable in-store experience. Custom experiences for clients extend far beyond the store’s walls and have included test driving one-of-a-kind cars, meeting the CEOs behind watch brands, racing a car at YAS Marina Circuit, golfing with pro golfers, sailing on the America’s Cup committee boat in Bermuda and flying to Switzerland to tour a watch factory.


Princeton, NJ

Hamilton owners

Under the leadership of owner Martin Siegel and store manager Lea D’Onofrio, H1912 is part of the Hamilton Jewelers family of brands. It’s on the same street in the same small town as one of its parent locations of Hamilton Jewelers, but since its 2015 inception, it’s carved out a niche for itself that it backs up with a cutting-edge website, charity partnerships and a digital-first marketing plan. The 1912 in its name references the year Hamilton was founded and plays up the vintage angle of its inventory. H1912 buyers travel to estate shows, antique shows and auctions to handpick one-of-a-kind vintage pieces. Every vintage item at H1912 is refinished, refurbished, polished, or overhauled in-house before hitting the showcase.

Mitchum Jewelers

Ozark, MO

Mitchum jewelers

Mitchum Jewelers, owned by Randy Mitchum, doubled its size in 2018 in an upscale renovation orchestrated by store designer Jesse Balaity of Balaity Property Enhancement. One eye-catching element of the new building is the illuminated diamond prominently displayed on the building’s exterior. Mitchum has also set itself apart marketing-wise with a hugely successful TV commercial campaign that features customer testimonials. Use of the slogan “Your Jeweler For Life” in all of Mitchum’s ads has added to the branding surge, as has a related jingle that customers love to sing whenever they happen to run into Randy.

Small Cool Honorable Mentions

Yaf Sparkle

New York, NY

Yaf Boye-Flaegel

This is the second Lower East Side location and second America’s Coolest Stores Award for Yaf Sparkle, owned by Yaf Boye-Flaegel and Torsten Flaegel. When the couple moved into the new spot and peeled off layers of cement, they were excited to find old bricks in good condition crowned by an arched brick ceiling. They added a wooden floor and brought in furniture made of reclaimed wood for a vintage rustic look. The neighborhood is full of life and excitement, to which Yaf Sparkle contributes by spreading glitter across the sidewalk outside the store. Marketing benefits from an in-house photo studio. Customers have voted Yaf Sparkle as among the top three shopping experiences in New York City on Trip Advisor.

JC Jewelers

Jackson Hole, WY

Jan and Jeter Case

Jan and Jeter Case greet visitors from all over the world in their 240-square-foot log-cabin showroom in a gateway town to the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Three to 4 million people visit the area every year, and of those, about 1 million are from China. They’ve gone to great lengths to be hospitable, learning Mandarin phrases and labeling gemstones with translations. They also use Google Translate to communicate with non-English speakers. These efforts have gone a long way, they say, toward making international guests feel comfortable.

Malka Diamonds & Jewelry

Portland, OR

David and Ronnie Malka

Malka Diamonds & Jewelry, owned by David and Ronnie Malka, is a 1,000-square-foot boutique shop in downtown Portland that specializes in engagement and wedding jewelry. David is a graduate gemologist, who enjoys educating clients in a no-pressure atmosphere. The shop also highlights the work of two master jewelers on site. The store houses a collection of modern designs, antique and vintage jewelry and unconventional options, such as salt-and-pepper, rose-cut and unique-shaped diamonds. The store is bolstered by a cheerful staff and robust digital presence.

Talisman Collection

El Dorado Hills, CA

Andrea Riso

With a 3,300-square-foot showroom, this Small Cool store lives large! Owner Andrea Riso designed the floor plan to accommodate wide-open spaces, plenty of seating and a meandering river-style path that creates a sense of discovery. Décor is surrealistic and includes massive blown-glass fixtures, a library-lounge man cave, a tech oasis for kids, a bar and interactive areas that engage and enchant people of all ages. They’re known for designing and rendering original custom pieces for clients within 48 hours, as well as offering the custom-design services of 78 independent designer brands represented in the store.

Welling & Co. Jewelers

West Chester, OH

Bill and Daniel Welling

Father and son owners Bill and Daniel Welling built a modern, industrial-style jewelry store on a well-traveled road between Cincinnati and Dayton, in Ohio’s booming Butler County. The family-owned store, founded in 1920, makes its most recent home in a hangar built in the 1940s by a pilot to house a folding-wing airplane. Interior designer Leslie McGwire retained original interior brick from the building to set the tone for the renovation, which is complemented by an open slate-gray painted ceiling and a textured wood plank floor. A wide range of merchandise and price points adds to the welcoming ambience.

Continue Reading

America's Coolest Stores

Nautical-Themed Vancouver Store Finds Room for Imagination

A more relaxed Erik Runyan Jewelers is rejuvenated in its new location.



BIG COOL 1ST PLACE: Erik Runyan Jewelers, Vancouver, WA

Finding Their Sea Legs

Erik and Leslie Runyan feel at home in a new store with nautical notes and a casual ambience.

OWNERS: Erik & Leslie Runyan | URL: | FOUNDED: 1917 | OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2017 | EMPLOYEES: 11 | AREA: 2,350 square feet | BUILDOUT COST: $300,000 | ARCHITECT: Wilson Associates Architects | DESIGN FIRM: Strong Associates | TOP BRANDS: Gabriel & Co., Mark Schneider, Bergio | ONLINE PRESENCE: 873 Facebook likes, 735 Instagram followers, 4.9 stars with 22 Google reviews

TO HAVE YOUR SEA LEGS is to be able to walk calmly and steadily on a tossing ship, or to become accustomed to a new or strange situation. For Erik Runyan, a licensed ship captain and fourth-generation jeweler, being at sea is natural. And being able to express himself in his new store has made him ready to navigate the vicissitudes of a changing jewelry market that unsettles many a mid-career jeweler.

He and his wife, Leslie, have found their sea legs at work.

Runyan is not a suit-and-tie kind of a guy at heart. So after spending decades buttoned-up, figuratively and literally, the couple let their personalities shine through when they moved to their new Main Street location in Vancouver, WA. They hunted for and then hung a canoe upside down from the ceiling, and it became a chandelier. They flooded the space with natural light. They played music they like, including Lyle Lovett, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash and Van Morrison. They celebrated customers’ special occasions with their own wine label. And one day, Erik announced that he was finished with a business-attire dress code and began wearing jeans and polo shirts to work. Leslie was happy to follow suit.

If you want to be current today, you have to be old to be new. Our interpretation of the space as nautical took off like a ball of fire.

Although the previous location, where they’d been since 1991, was just blocks away, it was considered a more established commercial area, so moving to a new place seemed risky to some observers. “I had worked there all my life,” Runyan says. The store was beautiful, in a 1980s kind of way with oak cases, a false ceiling and brass track lights. “In my mind it was a proper 1980s mall jewelry store,” Runyan says. It was beginning to show wear, however, and although they had attempted to remodel, it just wasn’t working.

And then, with a new store in the works, Erik lost his father, Steve, just months before the move, making the transition seem even more of a significant milestone. “He was steadfast in his work, and came in every day until his passing. His jubilant spirit still surrounds the place,” Erik says.


The new location is at the forefront of an unprecedented $2 billion Vancouver waterfront revitalization that has brought restaurants, wine-tasting rooms and nightlife to downtown.

The big brick building with 18-foot ceilings and lots of natural light beckoned to Runyan when it was being built out by family friends. “I walked in and I was blown away by all the wood on the ceiling and the height of it,” he says. “If you want to be current today, you have to be old to be new. Urban lofty is what people are looking for. We took the space, and because of my quirky background, it just organically happened. Our interpretation of the space as nautical took off like a ball of fire.”

That ball of fire was set in motion once they had found a canoe to purchase and Steve Strong of Strong Construction crafted it into a chandelier. After that, it was natural to install a galley coffee center under the stairs, to hang a ship wheel on the wall and make sure it actually spins, and to greet customers with an exotic-wood compass rose inlaid in the floor near the entrance. Other nautical notes include plank wood flooring, a “welcome aboard” sign, and visibly marked latitude and longitude coordinates.

The store is adjacent to the Columbia River, and the canoe is a powerful symbol for Runyan, for several reasons. The river and access to the ocean created the city of Vancouver and still define both the city and the store. When not running the store, Runyan can be found crewing aboard motor yachts from Mexico to Canada, as a licensed Merchant Marine 100-ton captain.

Erik and Leslie also tracked down the magnificent early 20th century Queen Anne ball-and-leg jewelry cases that Erik’s dad had discovered in Butte, MT, on vacation and used in the family store in the 1980s. When the 1991 store was built, those cases didn’t fit the space or the motif, and so were donated to a museum, and when the museum closed, the cases were mothballed. “We got them back and found craftsmen to refurbish them,” Erik says. He had complementary cases hand-built for the middle of the store by a carpentry shop, creating a cohesive look.

The company’s original cash register and safe look comfortable, too, in a store loaded with digital accoutrements and laser welders.

Staff members Kelsey Price, left, and Conor McHale enjoy the natural light on a June afternoon.

The combination of well-made furnishings and the lofty atmosphere set clients at ease, including young engagement ring shoppers who bring new energy. “Bridal drives it. That’s the first purchase. Between bridal and estate, that’s how I’m making a living,” Runyan says. “We purposely built it to be a more casual environment and to interest the next generation. Having food and drink and a comfortable environment, social media and digital platforms are all important.”

Along with eschewing business attire, Erik and Leslie have improved the quality of life for themselves and their staff by closing on Sundays and Mondays. “We had been open six days a week for 101 years. So the routine I was used to was Monday to Friday, 10 to 5:30 and 10 to 3 on Saturday, but I couldn’t get happy with that here,” he says. So they began closing Sunday and Monday, and now are open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. “I’ve made a lot of decisions in 30 years or so, and that was the best choice at a personal level, a quality of life level. We really enjoy that. Being happy at the end of the day creates a better result, and Saturday has become an important day for us in the business.”

Erik’s great-grandfather, W.L., started the business from a watch bench in the bus depot in the early 1900s, where the Pacific Coast Highway stopped at the Columbia River for the ferry crossing. In 1917, Runyan’s Jewelers was born.

The store is fun for Leslie and me. It’s an absolute rejuvenation. With a new environment, it feels like I almost have a new job.

“My first memories of the family business are looking out the windows of our house to see my impeccably dressed grandparents, who were our neighbors, headed off to work,” Erik says. “The jewelry store seemed to be a magical place. The first generation used watch repair to sustain the store; the second, William, used business skills to create a viable modern jewelry company; the third, Steve, was a trained bench jeweler who focused on the shop. Now it’s my turn. As the fourth, I’ve focused on diamonds, custom work, and Internet marketing. Certainly W.L. Runyan could not have imagined his great-grandson introducing the family business to the world over the Internet.

“This new store, built using century-old techniques, is the culmination of four generations and 100 years, and has been relocated back to its original neighborhood, in conjunction with its 100-year anniversary.”


Erik describes the business as a living piece of history ready to move into its second century of business.

“Embrace change,” he says. “People — and my customers are no exception — resist change. It has taken time getting them accustomed to finding us at 501 Main. My payoff comes when they walk in the front door ready to complain about their ‘cheese being moved,’ but then stand there at the front door and start to smile and then audibly sigh, saying, ‘OK, now I get it!’”

“The store is fun for Leslie and me,” he says. “It’s an absolute rejuvenation. With a new environment, it feels like I almost have a new job. It’s made a difference. Life’s gotten a little better.”

Judges’ Comments

Benjamin Guttery: They really embrace their history and surroundings. From the nautical compass inlaid in the floor when you walk in, to the custom canoe chandelier (that has a hashtag and campaign around it: #underthecanoe), you know you’re in the Pacific Northwest. Again, the theme of today’s “coolest big stores in North America” is think, act, and be local minded.

Elle Hill: Love it! This is a COOL store. The rustic warm wood, the canoe light fixture, the feel of this man and how he loves the water can all be felt from the website to the store interior to the marketing materials. This is the type of authenticity all retailers should strive for!

Michael Roman: I like the history behind the Queen Anne display cases and the ornamental compass rose. Creating a wine label to promote business is a nice tie-in to the wine events held within the store.

Bob Phibbs: I love the sense of place in this location with the canoe chandelier as well as the refurbishing of the fixtures. The out-of-the-box idea of the wine and opening it with shoppers as well as sending it home is very creative. The online is a great mix of education and product.

Mark Tapper: The canoe chandelier is just so cool and so connected with the nautical theme of the store and the community.



1 Under the canoe. It’s the store’s tagline. and event theme. The canoe symbol is also used in ERJ’s advertising and social media. Erik has designed a canoe-motif necklace, as well, which will be made in sterling silver as well as in gold.

2 Proprietary wine. A wine label is part of the ERJ branding plan. “It gives me great pleasure to open and share a bottle with a customer or send them home with some to enjoy later,” Runyan says. They also introduced Wine Wednesdays, when light appetizers and local seasonal wines are used to create a fun and casual environment, under the canoe.

3 Reinvented inventory. The inventory is a mix of bridal, diamonds, custom and estate. Beyond that, the Runyans look for jewelry that isn’t found anywhere else. “There’s something unique about it that drives me to want to buy it,” Runyan says. “Prior to 2008, we had zero estate jewelry. It was 2010 or 2011 that I started acknowledging that it existed and that helped tremendously. Fifty percent of sales were lost during the recession and we had to find a way to reinvent ourselves, other than just nurturing the bridal.”

4 A spirit of adventure. The Runyans’ roots in the community and spirit of adventure offer an authentic brand experience. Erik and Leslie’s three daughters, now adults, grew up boating and riding dirt bikes on weekends. Erik continues to regularly pursue both of those hobbies, providing him with material for storytelling in the store. His staff, too, has a gift for gab, he says, in the tradition of life aboard a ship.

5 The shadow. Rae is a German shepherd who follows Leslie around the store like a shadow — all day. While she likes about 80 percent of the people she meets, she will simply ignore the others. She takes her job seriously, though, and will lie in front of the entry door while the staff is setting up for the day. When it’s time for her compensation, she will sit and stare at the treat jar, conveniently placed at her eye level.

Continue Reading

Most Popular