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A Store for All
(Five) Seasons

Siebke Hoyt has that wholesome, traditional-values vibe.

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Siebke Hoyt Jewelers, Cedar Rapids, IA

URL: siebkehoyt.com; OWNER: Jay and Tom Hoyt; FOUNDED: 1889; REMODELED FEATURED LOCATION: 2001; BUILDOUT COST: $1 million-plus; EMPLOYEES: 14 Full-Time, 2 Part Time; AREA: 5,600 square feet; YELP RATING: 5 stars; FACEBOOK LIKES: 1,321


NOT TO MAKE A sweeping generalization about a whole state, but it’s hard to imagine Siebke Hoyt Jewelers existing anywhere but Iowa.

A family business for almost a century, Siebke Hoyt has that wholesome, traditional-values vibe. But its business strategies also suggest a more progressive sensibility than other places in America’s heartland are credited with. In short, the store’s philosophy embraces the honest, practical populism embodied in the Hawkeye State’s famous presidential caucuses.

“We’re for everyone,” says Joseph Hoyt IV, who joined the business in 2011, representing the fourth generation of his family to come on board. “We do not discriminate. Anyone who walks through that door, we’re going to treat them like they’re worth a million dollars.”

Some of them are. Cedar Rapids — the City of Five Seasons (the fifth is “time to enjoy the other four”) — boasts executives from major companies like Rockwell Collins, Quaker Oats and Archer Daniels Midland.

But, as Hoyt notes, “We’ve also got farmers who come in in overalls, dirtier than heck, with a backpack full of cash.”

One such farmer was Hoyt’s grandfather, also named Joseph. He fell in love with Marilyn Siebke (that’s pronounced SEEB-key), whose father, a German immigrant watchmaker named Gustav, had joined the business in 1914, when the store’s name was Ludy and Taylor Jewelers. In 1921, the shop became Siebke and Taylor Company.

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“Gustav said, ‘If you want to come into the business, you’re gonna go to watch school.’” The young pig farmer proved more than up to the challenge, Hoyt says, chuckling. “He was a little schmoozer. It came very easy to him.”

The store took its current name in the early ’50s, and almost another half century would pass before the next big change.

Siebke Hoyt Jewelers had been a fixture in downtown Cedar Rapids for decades. It had two more locations, but after a rash of robberies and hearing about the new superstore built by a fellow jeweler from their buying group, owners Jay and Tom Hoyt — Joseph IV’s father and uncle, respectively — decided to close those shops and regroup elsewhere. They opened the new location in 2001.

“We have the best location in Cedar Rapids,” Joseph Hoyt says of the spot at the intersection of highways 100 and 151. “It’s the busiest corner in eastern Iowa. Seventy thousand cars drive past every day.”

The 5,600-square-foot space boasts an elegant but not ostentatious exterior, with gold-painted columns flanking the entrance. A tall clock, reappropriated from the original downtown location and dating back to the store’s beginnings, stands off to one side. It doesn’t keep time — “To restore the dang thing was going to cost like six figures, so we let it go,” Hoyt says — but it does catch the eye, especially since it was painted bright pink to raise awareness about breast cancer.

“A whole bunch of people take pictures of it. Maybe once or twice a week, I’ll be leaving work and see someone taking a photo,” Hoyt says. He laughs. “I say, ‘Just tag us on Facebook, please!’ They never do.”

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Bold curves dominate the interior of the store, which is appointed in posh grays and browns. Posters from various designer collections line the walls behind the cases.

If the atmosphere is at all imposing, though, the feeling behind it is welcoming. Kids who come in with their moms and dads make a beeline for the playroom. “They know exactly where they’re going. That saves parents,” Hoyt says. “We’ve got a whole wall that’s a chalkboard, Legos, hopscotch. It definitely helps with a lot of sales.”

Also popular with the younger set is the giant saltwater aquarium, which for about two years after its installation was the largest in Iowa. (A sushi place in Iowa City now holds that honor, Hoyt says.)

For the adults? The full bar. “It’s a great way to ease a guy’s mind,” says Hoyt. When asked if they want a drink, customers often jokingly request something like a rum and Coke. “I go, OK, would you like it in a tall or rocks glass? It breaks the ice really well.”

As for getting people into the store in the first place, since coming on board, Hoyt has done away with most of Siebke Hoyt’s traditional advertising through TV, radio, and newspapers, and focused on billboards, direct mail — and Pandora Internet radio. “We cut the marketing budget in half, and we’ve been doing twice as much business.”

It’s a little unconventional, but what matters is that it works. Call it that uncommonly Iowan old-fashioned common sense.

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Five Cool Things About Siebke Hoyt Jewelers

1. MAKING THEMSELVES HEARD: Joseph Hoyt, who majored in marketing before joining the family business, saw no point in spending big bucks on TV ads, especially to target younger bridal customers. “You have a DVR; you fast-forward through commercials,” he says. Instead, he has saturated Pandora Internet radio with ads covering Linn County, where the store is located, and Johnson County, home to the University of Iowa. “I buy 400,000 impressions,” he says. “I get a lot of snide comments: ‘Joe, I hear you 10 times a day!’ It’s literally every four or five songs.” But it’s cheaper than TV and far more effective.

2. DEDICATED SERVICE: Siebke Hoyt has a specialized customer service department. They’re not salespeople (except in a pinch), but they work on-site at the store taking in repairs, checking in with clients about their latest purchases, letting people know about events and other news, and calling customers to remind them to come in for a ring checkup to keep their warranty valid. “Once we sell somebody,” says Hoyt, “we don’t want to let them go.”

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3. PLENTY OF FISH IN THE SEA: The store’s aquarium is so large — approximately 9 feet long — the company that installed it (Sea of Marvels, in nearby North Liberty, IA) did so with a lifetime guarantee of free cleaning every two weeks. They switch out the fish with every cleaning too. “Kids love it,” Hoyt says. “We had Nemo (a clownfish) in there for a while, and they went crazy for him.”

4. HAVE IT YOUR WAY: A large set of windows lets clients watch Siebke Hoyt’s two bench jewelers handle repairs and custom work. They can do just about anything — and will. Recently, when a salesperson ordered the wrong wedding band due to style number confusion (it was one of two that went with the customer’s engagement ring), one of the goldsmiths worked for 48 hours to replicate the correct band. “We put in extra hours to make things happen,” Hoyt says.”

5. RUBBING SHOULDERS (AND SHOULDER RUBS): Since moving into the current location — and particularly because of its full bar — the store has been a hotspot for events. Of special note are the annual ladies’ and men’s nights, which fall, respectively, on the Thursdays before and after Thanksgiving. Amenities include massages and wine and spirits from nearby Cedar Ridge Vineyards.

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Siebke Hoyt has such high retention that it doesn’t need to seek out new employees often, but when he needed someone, Joseph Hoyt secret-shopped the local competition and found his man at Kay’s. “He was trying to sell me a chocolate diamond, and I almost bought it!” Hoyt says.

Josh WImmer has been a contributor to INSTORE since 2006. He has coordinated the annual America's Coolest Stores contest for several years. The job mostly involves pestering jewelry store owners to start their contest entries, pestering jewelry store owners to finish their contest entries, and figuring out computer problems over the phone from hundreds of miles away.

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