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ACS 2005 4th Place: I. Gorman Jewelers



I. Gorman Jewelers, Washington, DC

OWNERS: Adam, Ivan, Bonnie and Nicole Gorman; ADDRESS: 1120 20th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036; PHONE: (202) 775-8544; FAX: (202) 775-8321; URL:; YEAR FOUNDED: 1981; 2004 REVENUES: N/A; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: December, 1981; LOCATION TYPE: First floor of an office building; ARCHITECT/DESIGN FIRM: Fisher-Gordon Architects; TOTAL STORE AREA: 1,500 sq.-ft; SALES STORE AREA: 1,200 sq.-ft; LINEAR FEET (SHOWCASES): 90; TARGET CUSTOMER: Young, urban professionals; SHOWCASES: 22; EMPLOYEES: 10; FLOOR: Mainly hardwood floors with area rugs; WALLS: Painted walls; LAST REMODELING: 2003; ADVERTISING SLOGAN: “N/A; CEILINGS: Drywall ceiling with recessed lighting; FAVORITE CUSTOMER STORY: N/A; PRIMARY COLORS: Beige and soft tones; SHOWCASES: Custom, handmade mahogany; “COOLEST” STORE FEATURE: Sit-down area for bridal customers; LAND COST: N/A; BUILDING COST: N/A; INTERIOR BUILD-OUT COST: $225,000; DESIGN/ARCHITECTURAL FIRMS COST: $25,000; CURRENT ESTIMATED PROPERTY VALUE: N/A

WHEN YOUʼRE A JEWELER in Washington, D.C. you canʼt afford to sell second-rate jewelry when catering to those who typically fly first-class — perhaps even passengers on Air Force One. I. Gorman Jewelers is in the power center of America, where movers and shakers shape the nationʼs policies. “Without naming names we get a lot of high-level government people, high-profile media figures and high-powered attorneys seen in the local news shopping here,” says Adam Gorman, son of store founder Ivan Gorman. “Thatʼs one of the leading reasons I. Gormanʼs is a cool store.” Style-conscious

media types and other high-powered Beltway fashion mavens are attracted to I. Gormanʼs select inventory, another very hip thing about this D.C. jewelry store. “In the 1980ʼs we carried very high quality yet stylish traditional jewelry, but eventually we phased that out to carry fresher, more modern, artisan jewelry designs,” Gorman says. “We travel around the world to strike agreements with [jewelry] designers who give us exclusive distribution to their lines. We really do carry very distinctive jewelry … which is important, because in this town you donʼt want to be seen wearing the same jewelry somebody else is wearing.”

With new inventory came a new look, and I. Gorman overhauled its image in 2003. The storeʼs hardwood floors are a holdover from the storeʼs original look, but the old brass that was a central characteristic of the previous store was retired.In its place, the Gormans went for an edgier, more urban look by integrating brushed stainless steel, which greets customers as they walk through the door in the form of a stylish display case which encapsulates the storeʼs overall wood and metal theme.


“We kept the warmth and traditional look the wood gives with a more contemporary metal millwork,” says Gorman. “This gives the store a unique design dichotomy in that weʼve successfully combined traditional and modern elements to create an overall look that enhances our inventory.”

Another key store feature that was retired was an antique chandelier whose time had clearly passed. In its place, the Gormans installed halogen track-lighting in an abstract shape similar to a nautilus shell. Above the “shell” is a dome that measures eight feet across. The dome pulls together many interior design elements, visually separating the area from the main sales floor and creating a private environment. Itʼs a place where I. Gormanʼs diamond and bridal customers can view selections, or patrons who simply want to view the storeʼs select jewelry in a more exclusive and private setting away from the storeʼs smallish sales floor.

With a store based in D.C. itʼs easy to say the location is cool. But I. Gorman isnʼt just about serving those based in the nationʼs capitol, they also target the D.C. metropolitan area — which includes D.C. as well as suburbs of Maryland and Northern Virginia. “Thatʼs an estimated three million people,” says Gorman. “Having exclusive agreements with proven designers in a marketplace of this size is also very cool.”

With such a sizable, influential and eclectic customer base, itʼs important that staff members at I. Gorman present the right attitude. Gorman says his staff of 10, including four family members, always exude a “positive vibe” while on the sales floor. “When people walk through the door they know theyʼre not in an ordinary jewelry store by the inventory we sell and the people who sell it. That positive energy really goes far.”

In 1981, Ivan and Bonnie Gorman founded I. Gorman. Back then, Ivan worked as vice president of Melart Jewelers, a chain store with outlets in the D.C. area that was owned by Bonnieʼs father.

Years of combined experience and business sense led the couple to a new office building. The unassuming red brick front on a then-quiet street seemed like a prudent move for the shrewd couple when they signed the lease in 1981. And now, that office building is home to powerful attorneys and business leaders in an area that has developed into a busy hub.


But, despite all the high-stakes action occurring around the store, I. Gorman Jewelers remains a place of calm in the nationʼs capitol. With its lavish sitting area, plush chairs, luxurious woodwork, and area rugs in Tibetan styles, itʼs a place where customers can relax and enjoy the storeʼs breathtaking selection of exclusive jewelry designs.

For now, while the Gormans are content with their store, they are keeping their eyes open for a larger retail space. If they find the ideal location, theyʼll make another move and, no doubt, build an even cooler store than this award-winning retail establishment.

Thereʼs no doubt that the private showing room has paid for itself, especially when it comes to serving local executives. “When CEOs from around the area come in, we can wait on them privately. They donʼt want people looking over their shoulders when theyʼre spending lots of money,” he says. The storeʼs location in the financial district also provides another sales opportunity: making “house calls” to customersʼ offices. “Itʼs easy for our staff to visit nearby customers, who really appreciate it because weʼre working around their needs,” explains Dunn. “Some of our largest sales ever, well into six figures, have been made in these situations.”

A watchmaker and jeweler both work on-site, “which is cool for such a small store,” says Dunn. Customers also have access to the original designs of internationally renowned designer (and Dunn family member) Robert Pelliccia. Because when it comes down to it, despite the plush surroundings and gadgets, itʼs the people and services offered that put J.R. Dunn over the top… just as they have for years.



ACS 2005 4th Place: I. Gorman Jewelers

  • Honestly, I don’t find this store exceptionally “cool”. Although the environment is aesthetically pleasing with warm color tones, it is “expected” from a design standpoint. For a retailer who is known for a wide range of contemporary designer jewelry, I think the environment could be modernized and slightly more risky.
  • It’s traditional wood showcases and overall color scheme does not seem to be an environment aimed at attracting younger customers. The wall color, which appears to be the same throughout the store, could be more dramatic. This small change would enliven and enhance the environment considerably.
  • The store lacks a strong brand image or overall identity. This is a retail destination that one would expect to find in Washington.
  • Last, there is opportunity in the showcase presentation to go beyond the traditional white leatherette display forms and integrate the natural store tones more closely with the jewelry.— Pam Levine, Levine Design Group
  • Lovely interior. Nice treatment of wood and color. Especially like their engagement ring dept. I do get the feeling however, of a maze inside. It might be difficult for the consumer to navigate, throughout the store. The showcase in the middle bothers me a little in that a customer could walk up behind the case. Why not have an area that is completely open? The wood treatment is soft and appealing. Nice job.— Richard Swetz, IJO
  • The overall look of the store is warm and interesting. I like the rounded area with the textured floor case on the round orange carpet. The mimicking of the cases around the center area works well. The curled ceiling light track in the rounded ceiling is terrific! The woodwork is admirable and highly appealing. I’m not a fan of hard 90-degree edges or boxy areas but the rounded counters in the front of the store create an excellent first impression. It looks like the major design strength in this store is the use of color and texture.— Linda Cahan, Cahan & Company
  • The physical environment reflects the good taste of the Gorman family and meets the customers’ expectations. Therefore, the physical environment and product mix substantiate the marketing message. This also is very cool. I frankly cannot make a suggestion to improve their business. In my opinion, they should continue to do what it is they have done so well, for many years.— Joe Romano, Scull & Company
  • While this store is better than most, it is lacking that final touch. It appears to be a bit fragmented. The basic design approach is interesting but as a whole unit misses a bit. Nice textures and design approach.— Greg Gorman, GMG Design
  • I think the idea of having a courtyard and atrium for private parties is awesome. What a great idea! The mahogany cases are rich and warm, but I have to say, the stainless steel reminds me of a dental office.— Ron Wattsson, Cool Stores Winner 2004



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