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ACS 2005 1st Place: Bigham Jewelers

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Bigham Jewelers, Naples, FL

OWNERS: Kathy and Gary Bigham; ADDRESS: 2425 Tamiami Trail North #101, Naples, FL 34103; PHONE: (239) 434-2800; FAX: (239) 434-2818; URL: bighamjewelers.com; YEAR FOUNDED: 1995; 2004 REVENUES: Over $10 million; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: October 1, 2004; LOCATION TYPE: Freestanding multi-use destination; ARCHITECT/DESIGN FIRM: Fergis & Selck Architects and The Damiamos Group (exterior); The Wegman Group (interior); The Artco Group (showcases); STORE AREA: 8,300 sq. ft; SALES FLOOR AREA: 6,500 sq. ft; TARGET CUSTOMER: Wealthy Naples residents; SHOWCASES: 59 (275 linear feet); EMPLOYEES: 22; FLOOR: Combination of limestone, cherry wood and custom-colored sculpted carpet used to define shopping areas of the store; WALLS: 19 different wall treatments ranging from stone, stucco and Venetian plaster to wood, hand-made papers and artist- applied faux finishes; CEILINGS: The ceiling helps define areas of the space through dropped soffits and material changes; SHOWCASES: The center island is Bird’s Eye Maple with ebony wood accents, all other cases are cherry wood; PRIMARY COLORS: Gold and amber complemented by accents of cherry, maple and touches of ebony woods; “COOLEST” STORE FEATURE: The private showing room; LAND COST: $2 million; BUILDING COST: $5.5 million; INTERIOR BUILD-OUT COST: $1 million plus; DESIGN/ARCHITECTURAL FIRMS COST: $250,000; CURRENT ESTIMATED PROPERTY VALUE: $10 million;


THE SPA TREATMENT … at a jewelry store? It happens every day at Bigham Jewelers. Inspired by the waiting room at a nearby spa, Kathy Bigham told her interior design team to create the same experience in the storeʼs private showing room. “Before your treatment, they put you in a very quiet, intimate environment,” she says. “Itʼs relaxing and calming. I wanted our customers to feel that way before we showed them any jewelry.” The concept worked. Fabric draped from the ceiling to the floor gives the room a soft, airy feel. The desk includes a built-in black suede top for showing jewelry. Locking doors

underneath the desk are available so that the salesperson can prepare for an appointment with appropriate merchandise. And where many private showing rooms are windowless (making the customer feel trapped), this one has a large glass door that puts customers at ease, and at the same time attracts curiosity. “Most people ask about the room, they want to go in there,” says Kathyʼs husband, Gary.

Why are customers so drawn to this room? Because it was designed with them in mind. The entire operation is soaked in this customer-centric approach, and it influences every decision, energizes every action. Itʼs the reason behind the storeʼs rapid rise to prominence, and is responsible for making Bigham Jewelers “Americaʼs Coolest Store” of 2005.

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From the freestanding location off the main thoroughfare (“which makes it easy for older clients to see us”) to the variety of seating areas inside the store, the Bighams labored over each detail of their new store to ensure customers would be blown away by the experience. The original store, built in 1995, was a freestanding, 3,000 square-foot location that was essentially “a little house that we gutted and gave our touch to,” says Kathy. She and Gary knew that the swift and steady ascent in revenue was due in large part to the warm, cozy environment of the store. “Our biggest design challenge was to maintain that intimacy in a larger space,” says Gary. “So many retailers have gone into big buildings and lost themselves. We knew we had to stay true to our identity.”

To give customers the illusion of a smaller, more manageable shopping environment, the Bighams created departments within the store. These separate areas are achieved through subtle touches, such as variations in ceiling, floor, and wall materials from one area to the next. Itʼs an environment that makes customers feel they are moving from room to room in a home, rather than being closed in and compartmentalized.

The amount of attention to detail is impressive. Warm color schemes and a Mediterranean atmosphere give the store that “only in Naples” feeling. Antiqued limestone flooring, chosen for its character and richness, is bordered by designer granite varieties and offset by small borders of hand-cut glass tiles. The center section of the store is raised to make room for a canopy with display and up-lighting and is covered in handmade paper. The rotunda space to the rear of the store is clad in warm cherry stained wood, matching showcases and flooring materials. Even the russet drapery treatments and upholstery provide just that pinch of color necessary to complete the picture.

Aside from the store textures and colors, Bigham Jewelers makes customers welcome by ensuring that every need is met. A concierge area offers a variety of refreshments for those waiting on repairs. Next to it sits the conference room, which doubles as a recreational lounge for husbands and boyfriends who want to unwind and watch the game on a big-screen plasma TV. These amenities show how the Bighams care for customers … an attitude their community has noticed. “Many organizations have approached us to host charitable events, ever since weʼve been in business,” says Gary. “And if you put 150 people in a store, youʼd better make sure theyʼre comfortable. Thatʼs why we included a huge, full-service kitchen in our designs. Part of our master plan came out of the question, how can we cater to customers and give them an experience theyʼve never had?”

The Bighamsʼ answer to that question was, of course, a store that can make even the most insecure customer feel at home. While the diamond-shaped dome and water feature outside the store may seem incongruous with the unassuming yet luxurious showroom, itʼs a mixture that mirrors the community. As Kathy says, “We have customers wearing flip-flops and cover-ups come in straight from the beach, right next to people who are dressed to the nines and on their way to the philharmonic concert. Thatʼs just Naples.”

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JUDGES’ COMMENTS

  • Excellent combination of textures and patterns, materials used together to deliver an interior design and environment that definitely complements the merchandise. The mixed use of seating and showcase types to define specific areas and differentiate them from one another is wonderful. The use of different ceiling treatments and levels of detailing is an excellent touch. There is nothing that I can say except wonderful … expensive, but wonderful. It is important for retailers to understand that the store interior environment has to complement the merchandise and price points. — Greg Gorman, Gmg Design
  • Uncool: The outside of the store reminds me of an office complex. Minus the sign, I would have never known it was a jewelry store. Once I did, I would probably be so intimidated I wouldn’t go in. And, unfortunately the big box is just on its way out.
    Cool: The store (from the photos) seems warm and very well designed. The color combinations are very pleasing to the eye and create softness, nice! The large pictures hung around the store are a very nice backdrop to a beautiful setting. There is no mistake; this store is a store for people with money and it is just very cool that the design and image of the store show that. — Joe Romano, Scull & Company
  • From the exterior diamond and water window area to the curved, gold interior, this store feels unique and lovely. I especially like the private viewing area with its patterned fabric ceiling and curtains. It’s interesting and inviting. The unique glass door leading to the room picks up the decorative detail and sets the mood. The red chairs next to the window add a dash of color and seem to be just one of many small details that pull together to create an overall elegant and warm ambience. From a Feng Shui point of view the curves in the aisles and fixtures enhance the energy flow and by cutting the 90 degree edges off the freestanding vignettes, negative poison arrows are avoided. The attention to detail in this store gives it its edge. Every area seems to have received equal attention and care. Wherever you look is pleasing and welcoming. — Linda Cahan, Cahan & Company
  • Extremely impressive … Bravo to the retailers and their design/architect team for understanding that all points of detail matter and serve to communicate your brand Beautiful exterior and interior: spacious and well designed. The diamond rotunda is a clever approach for sending a clear message about the store brand. Contemporary, but not too slick. Clean, open, uncluttered, calming environment. Unique but not forced.
  • The diamond rotunda is such an attraction that it would seem to invite curiosity, while it says the store is up-to-date and “with it”, the customer assumes the merchandise follows suit.
  • The images on the wall seem a bit generic and expected. This wall could have fine artwork or images that the customer could relate to more personally. — Pam Levine, Levine Design Group
  • One word to describe this “cool” store, Breathtaking! Despite lots of brick and glass on the outside, the interior gives off warmth in every department. The use of fabric, color and art is so well done. The feeling given off inside is certainly not intimidating. It says: “Welcome, come on in, we are family.” — Richard Swetz, IJO
  • Although I think the outside looks like an insurance company (sorry), the diamond dome certainly makes a statement from the street. The interior is another story. Simply gorgeous! It’s warm and inviting and I like the design aspect of having different “spaces” for different product line. Especially cool is the different ceilings in those spaces. Really the only thing that I didn’t care for is the promotional signage on the walls in the one area. It’s too commercial and conflicts with the overall warmth of the rest of the store. I would have used that wall space as additional showcase space. But all in all very tastefully done. — Ron Wattsson, Cool store winner 2004

 

How to Succeed in Business by Really Trying

Kathy and Gary Bigham

Kathy and Gary Bigham

Being first is nothing new for Kathy Bigham. As a first-generation jewelry store owner, she and her husband, Gary, stand out not only in their community, but in the industry as a whole. “Iʼd say other jewelry store owners are a bit surprised to discover that weʼre first-generation,” she says. After all, many independent jewelry stores boast of their longevity, with tenures of 25, 50, or even 100 years and more. But with less than a decade of ownership under her belt, the Bighams have hoisted their store into the upper echelons of industry achievement with a magnificent,
landmark store and over $10 million in annual sales.

“Being first-generation means we didnʼt inherit any bad habits,” says Kathy. “Weʼre business people first, not artists. Weʼre looking for inventory turn, not museum pieces.” She lives by the motto of “fast pay, fast rent.” The store pays for all merchandise with cash, taking advantage of every possible discount. “We donʼt put anything in the showcases that we canʼt pay for up front,” she says.

With a degree in management and experience as VP of store operations for an eight-store jewelry chain in Ohio, Kathy brought real-world experience to the table when she opened her own store in 1995. And although she also studied gemology at the GIA, Kathy has learned that the key to retail success is not founded on her personal taste in jewelry, but rather upon that of her customers. Sheʼs also learned enough to know that she doesnʼt know everything. Early on, Kathy formed an advisory board, with members culled from a community rich in business knowledge (Naplesʼ primary base of residents is wealthy retirees). “We have experts in marketing, accounting, retail, banking, and many other areas. We use them as a sounding board for making decisions, in understanding how we are received in the community, and of course for referrals,” she says. Counting herself and husband Gary, the board is comprised of ten members, whose heads she says “are better than one.”

One unanticipated yet welcome result of their first-generation success has been the admission of the Bighams into an “unspoken fraternity” in their community. Many residents built their wealth from nothing, eventually retiring to Naples. “When they realize we did the same, they give us their respect,” says Gary Bigham. “Theyʼve walked in our shoes, and they know what it takes to do what weʼve done.”

 

PHOTO GALLERY (6 IMAGES)

Trace Shelton is the editor-in-chief of INSTORE magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].

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