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ACS 2002 2nd Place: Continental Diamond



Continental Diamond, St. Louis Park, MN

OWNER: Continental Diamond; ADDRESS: 1600 Utica Avenue, St. Louis Park, MN 55416; PHONE: 952-593-5602

IN CONTINENTAL DIAMOND, our runner-up Coolest Store, James and Helain Pesis have created an upscale shopping experience that makes the customer the absolute priority — and it really shows. The granite-top coffee bar at their locally-owned, family-run store serves various flavors of coffee and hot chocolate, and cookies are baked at the bar throughout the day. As Helain says, “The aroma fills the store and we always receive compliments on how great they taste!”

Continental DiamondShoppers with children are welcomed with open arms at Continental Diamond. Explains James of their specially-designed playroom, “We had the walls designed and hand-painted by a local artist to make the room inviting.” The room has something for everyone, with computer games for the older kids, videos for the rugrats, and a host of fun giveaways like candy, jewelry-themed fake tattoos, and pens with light-up gems. Mom and Dad are then free to browse the wooden showcases, which are placed to allow customers to wander freely around them. There’s also plenty of natural light from the large ceiling-to-floor windows.

Our judges were impressed with the high-quality feel of Continental Diamond, and they were also swayed by the obvious friendliness of the staff. As Anne Sowden points out, “While your store may be ‘cool’, your staff are just as important. The staff here are dressed to reflect the image of the store.” Karen Karch agrees, saying, “The friendliness of the staff seems great!”

Bob Olmstead felt their identity and the ‘extras’ the store offers to customers are the keys to Continental’s success. “The power of this brand is a name … and unique ‘special touch’ service that combine to create a meaningful offer,” he says. The Pesis’ branding efforts impressed Gwen Carrington as well: “There’s a wonderful congruency between the name, merchandise, design and customer service in this store. I especially like the transcendence of the brand through the store from the staff.”

Continental Diamond interior

And the little “extras” offered at Continental Diamond add up. Anne Sowden observes, “This is the first jewelry store I have heard of that serves coffee and cookies. The aroma would draw me in.” Karen simply proclaims, “I want a cookie!”

Bob suggests that the store could use a “more dynamic exterior build out,” while Karen feels the interior could do with more original features.

Copycat Tips:

  • Well-stocked playroom for kids of all ages
  • Imaginative ‘extras’ help to brand the business

Watch Out For:

  • Layout might be overly traditional
  • Exterior could exert more pulling power



This Third-Generation Jeweler Was Ready for Retirement. He Called Wilkerson

Retirement is never easy, especially when it means the end to a business that was founded in 1884. But for Laura and Sam Sipe, it was time to put their own needs first. They decided to close J.C. Sipe Jewelers, one of Indianapolis’ most trusted names in fine jewelry, and call Wilkerson. “Laura and I decided the conditions were right,” says Sam. Wilkerson handled every detail in their going-out-of-business sale, from marketing to manning the sales floor. “The main goal was to sell our existing inventory that’s all paid for and turn that into cash for our retirement,” says Sam. “It’s been very, very productive.” Would they recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers who want to enjoy their golden years? Absolutely! “Call Wilkerson,” says Laura. “They can help you achieve your goals so you’ll be able to move into retirement comfortably.”

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