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America's Coolest Stores

ACS 2004: Eighth Place, McMartin Jewelry




What’s old is new in a historical store selling original jewels

Address: 440 North Main Street; Milford, MI 48381  |  Phone: (248) 684-8895 
Last major renovation: 1996 | Est. property value: N/A | Staff: 3 full-time; one part-time bench jeweler apprentice | Store area: 2,500 sq. ft. |Location type: Downtown | Store slogan:”Miracles of nature” | 2003 sales: N/A

Nothing about McMartin Jewelry in Milford, MI, is off the rack. Anita and John McMartin pride themselves on their unique production of gold and colored stone jewelry and the operation, which produces and sells it. “Everything in here is handmade, except the carpet,” laughs Anita McMartin.

In 1957, the family purchased the three-storey St. John Building built to house a jeweler in 1871. A pair of 6-foot by 6-foot front windows flanking the door, columns and awnings give the store an almost Dickensian appearance, reinforced by the curlicue store logo, a meld of old and new repeated throughout the interior. To complement the orange-red brick, door and window wells are painted plum with aqua jade trim. Customers are attracted by fantastic window displays.

Anita herself hand painted the 13-foot interior walls, producing a glossy lilac faux surface with yellow ochre and cream undertones.  The floor is carpeted in a deep purple medium pile. The original tin ceiling has been restored. As the couple’s research revealed, jewelers didn’t put in ornate ceilings traditionally since they wanted customers to look down at the cases, not up at the ceiling.


Five wall cases and six freestanding cases, many of them tall museum cases are custom built in light blond maple and jatoba or Colombian cherry wood. Antique cabinets are intermingled on the floor. The museum cases and those around the perimeter of the store have interior lighting. These can be pulled open and the interior slid out, to facilitate change in displays. Collections of antique cameras, hood ornaments and currently antique Chinese statuary provide unique visual merchandising props. The collections are often offered for sale alongside the jewelry showcased. Foliage and other display props are often shown on top of the tall cases.

Surrounding the entire perimeter of the room, locked drawers hold standard merchandise like chains of various lengths and charms, which don’t have to be on display.

Six times a year the couple hosts Round Table Gem Talks, inviting 10 to 15 people to sit around a table and learn about gems, like the boulder opal or cut gemstones. An original store where only original jewelry is sold — that’s cool at McMartin’s Jewelry.


The store owner on her cool store:  “We work out on the floor, interacting directly with our clientele, not behind the showcases as is more traditional.” — Anita McMartin

Deborah Yonick: “The exterior is great, like an old pub or antique shop. But my first impression changed when I peeked inside. Although I do like the light colored wood showcases it was like a different store — the exterior and interior just didn’t jive together for me. I would have liked to see more of that Old World charm inside, even if done in a contemporary way. Perhaps if the interior showcases were of a darker wood. I didn’t like the mix of old and new as it was too drastic a difference between the two. I did like the gallery feel to the interior.”


Greg Gorman: “The space overwhelms the fixtures and merchandise. Average.”

Linda Cahan: “I love the hand-painted walls. They look interesting and add to the custom feeling of the jewelry. The cases are very attractive and seemed to be placed in an interesting way. Angles are used to draw customers to the walls. I like the strong use of color as well. I’m very impressed with the energy put into display. It’s a vital part of any store and it honors and engages the community.”

Mark & Monika Clodius: “Love the color and texture. Wish there was more pictures of the store. Nice personality, like the color use and layout. I too wish there were more pictures, seeing more of the store could have moved it up in the ranks.”

Karen Karch: “One of my picks. I always like historical preservation, mixed with some modern twists. Beautiful colors and mix inside. Wall painting looks very interesting. Does the outside look too old-fashioned for what is offered inside?”


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This story is from the August 2004 edition of INSTORE



Wilkerson Testimonials

When Liquidation Is the Best Option, This Legendary Jeweler Chose Wilkerson

George Koueiter & Sons Jewelers, a 65-year old jewelry institution in Grosse Pointe, MI, had always been a mainstay in this suburban Detroit community. But when owners George and Paul Koueiter were ready to retire, they made the decision to close rather than sell. “We decided our best option to do the liquidation sale was Wilkerson,” says Paul Koueiter. The results, says George Koueiter, exceeded expectations and the process was easy. “Wilkerson just kept us in mind,” says George. “They never did anything without asking and whatever they asked us to do was just spot on.”

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