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ACS 2003 3rd Place: Diamonds nʼ Dunes

White sands! white rocks!

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Diamonds nʼ Dunes, Manteo, NC

OWNER: Eileen Alexanian and Ken Kelley; DESIGNERS: Mark Camens; PROJECT COST: Around $100,000; ADDRESS: 207 Queen Elizabeth Avenue, P.O. Box 1247, Manteo, NC 27954; PHONE: (252) 473-1002; DESIGN ADVICE: “If you are a non-discount store like us, redoing your store is a great time to have a sale, and then you can promote the expansion as a reason for the sale.”


EILEEN ALEXANIAN isnʼt known for her timidity. From the icy white baby grand with its portrait of Liberace sitting atop, to the Italian chandelier beaming down onto a sculpture of Galatea, daughter of Neptune, to the pink marble floor set with white diamonds, everything about Diamonds nʼ Dunes screams out luxury, individuality — oh, and donʼt forget about the ocean!

Continental DiamondAGS Certified Master Gemologist Eileen and her co-owner, bench jeweler extraordinaire Ken Kelley, have been in this waterfront location, in historic Manteo on North Carolinaʼs Roanoke Island, for 11 years. Three years ago they acquired the adjacent stores, tripled their floor space to 2,500 square feet, and undertook a huge redesign, resulting in the coolly opulent store customers are wowed by today. Upon entering the store, customers are greeted by a huge mural of the storeʼs logo on the facing wall, showing images of diamonds dropping from an azure sky onto the sand dunes below. This ocean-and-diamond theme runs through every aspect of the storeʼs design and brand, thanks to Eileenʼs painstaking attention to detail. Companion sculptures to the magnificent bronze of Galatea are dotted throughout the store, featuring dolphins, whales, wild white horses, and one of the Sea God himself, armed with his trident lest anyone try to make off with the storeʼs wares.

Continental Diamond
The selling floor is neatly divided into two shopping tracks, using 25 pastel colored showcases, three built-in cases, and four window displays. Natural light combines with halogen, fluorescent, and incandescent lighting to contribute to the storeʼs “inner glow”. Eileen explains, “We worked closely with [designer] Mark Camens from South Carolina to bring the individual areas to life — bench area, separate polishing room, offices, gem lab, safe placement, lunch room, and so on. Then we put our personal touches in the customer areas with wallpaper, paintings, sculptures, and chandeliers.” Store regulars receive their own invitations to Eileenʼs “Jewelry Divasʼ Afternoon Soirees” every few months. It gives women the chance to be pampered, with wait staff serving exquisite nibbles, and, of course, chilled champagne, a world-class pianist tinkling the ivories in the background, glitzy door-prizes, and the chance to fill out an elaborate “Divas Only” wish list!

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Continental Diamond interior
Techies neednʼt feel left out either, as thereʼs an interactive gallery where customers can browse inventory by color, price, style, and metal. They can even email a picture of themselves wearing their new purchase to friends using a specially mounted digital camera.

When it came to Diamonds nʼ Dunes, the panel went on a three-two spilt, with Fred, Debbie and Penny very much in favor, while RoxAnna was a little cooler, while warm-tone-loving Brett found the storeʼs whiteness not to his taste. Fred finds his visual senses stimulated, saying, “This store is a delight — very clean and very appealing. The brightness of the colors perk up my eyes and make me want to spend hours inside, looking in all the cases.” Debbie says, “This salon looks like what I imagine a jewelry store in heaven might resemble.” For Penny, Diamonds ʻnʼ Dunes is the number one choice of all the stores. She too relished the sensuality of the store, noting its “almost surreal quality, like a fantasyland.” She goes on to describe it as “extremely artistic and innovative. It seems like going there would be an experience that would touch all the senses.” RoxAnna appreciates the storeʼs solid branding and theme, recognizing how the design “captures the feel of the sea — its namesake.”

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