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ACS 2004 9th Place: Ross-Simons

Warmth, wit and wow! Make this one cool prototype store.



Ross-Simons, Durham, NC

OWNER: Ross-Simons; ADDRESS: Streets at Southpoint — Space 1230, 6910 Fayetteville Road, Durham, NC, 27713; TEL: (919) 544-1818; LOCATION TYPE: Part of an enclosed lifestyle mall; STORE SLOGAN: “World of Diamonds and Gems”; OPENED: September 2001; EST. PROPERTY VALUE: N/A; STORE AREA: 5,745 sq. ft; STAFF: N/A; SALES IN 2003: N/A

AN EXPERIENCED CATALOG and store retailer of affordable luxury, Ross-Simons wanted a more contemporary environment in their new retail stores. A half-century of retail success has developed a base of faithful customers, who look to Ross-Simons for variety, style and quality at prices that donʼt hurt their pocketbooks. “We were looking for an opportunity to create a more contemporary environment, which would appeal to a broader base of customers, without alienating our core customer,” said Tracy Zaslow, Ross-Simonsʼ director of store design and construction.

On that front, the Ross-Simons prototype in Durham has really succeeded. The store features a 75/25 mix of jewelry and giftware including gifts to go, a bridal registry, and plenty of product variety, that has intrinsic value with the flair of todayʼs fashion styling. Ross-Simons takes its customers and their needs seriously but it presents product with an exaggerated sense of whimsy that breaks out into witty commentary on luxury in catalog text. On some of the shopʼs walls, comments like Oscar Wildeʼs directive to “take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves” are under-painted for those shoppers who really look.

The 21-foot tall entrance façade with its cantilevered box-light marquee looks more like an urban streetscape than part of an enclosed lifestyle mall. A broad expanse of glass on either side of the entrance allows passers-by to see what Ross-Simons is all about before crossing the threshold. Glass cube display boxes on stainless steel pedestals penetrate the glass, present merchandising stories.


Once inside, the layout creates four jewelry loops around unique fixtures and showcases. Areas are organized by category, trend, color or brand. Black-and-white polished marble, laid in baguettes and small squares, creates an animated and sparkly floor. Customers walk among seemingly random assorted wall cases and showcases, with plenty of open shelving, designed to encourage them to browse, pick up and look at product more closely. Showcases are dark walnut wood with illuminated plexi or lucite kicks, which emphasize the floorʼs sparkle and shine. Liming on the walls brings out the grain of the wood.

The color palette of sky blue is accented with two architectural columns covered in iridescent peacock blue and bronze mosaic glass tile, creating a warm and sophisticated atmosphere. Chandeliers provide a decorative glow in the jewelry department. The combination of warmth, wit and “wow!” makes for one cool store.


  • Greg Gorman: “Exterior very nicely complements the interior. Great use of space, finishes and materials. Love all the textures and patterns. However, based on the competition, not a 10.”
  • Deborah Yonick: “Love it —great exterior, from the huge windows to the monogrammed clock above the entrance — definitely world class. And, the interior doesnʼt let you down. Dynamic, unique, interesting, different are among the many adjectives that describe the décor. Ceiling to floor and everything in between works together. The look is clean, sleek and linear, a contemporary jeweler with Euro-style. A big wow!”
  • Linda Cahan: “Based on the photos there seems to be a terrific mix of elegant elements and materials in this store. I also like the window pane feeling of the dark wood wall fixtures. Every square looks like a separate display and gives unique look to the store. The way these darker wood fixtures are placed looks like they give a strong balance and grounding to the store. The shiny black tiles are like mirrors for the floor. They add sparkle and refinement to the overall design of the store. The pink and yellow display adds some whimsy to a very sophisticated design.”
  • Mark & Monika Clodius: “Did not make my 10 best list … looks like a real nice department store. Not enough personality for me, too mainstream looking.”
  • Karen Karch: “Outside is much nicer than the inside.”




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