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ACS 2005 5th Place: Becky Beauchine Kulka

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Becky Beauchine Kulka, Okemos, MI

OWNERS: Becky Beauchine Kulka; ADDRESS: 3544 Meridian Crossing Okemos, MI 48864; PHONE: (517) 347-4000; FAX: (517) 347-1496; URL: bbkfinejewelry.com; YEAR FOUNDED: 1988; 2004 REVENUES: $3.4 million; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2000; LOCATION TYPE: Destination strip center; ARCHITECT/DESIGN FIRM: GRID/3 International; TOTAL STORE AREA: 2,650 sq. ft; SALES STORE AREA: 1,800 sq. ft; TARGET CUSTOMER: Middle to affluent market of all ages; SHOWCASES: White laminate; EMPLOYEES: 13; FLOOR: Purple plush carpet; WALLS: Painted and wallpaper; LAST REMODELING: Fall 2003; ADVERTISING SLOGAN: “This is how you say it … Becky Beauchine Kulka”; CEILINGS: Tile; PRIMARY COLORS: Purple, white and taupe; SHOWCASES: Five continuous cases (300 linear feet); “COOLEST” STORE FEATURE: 6 ft. salt-water aquarium; LAND COST: N/A; BUILDING COST: N/A; INTERIOR BUILD-OUT COST: $400,000; DESIGN/ARCHITECTURAL FIRMS COST: $13,750; CURRENT ESTIMATED PROPERTY VALUE: N/A


STORYTELLING. EMOTION. FEELINGS. These are the things that the all-female staff at Becky Beauchine Kulka Diamonds and Fine Jewelry pay close attention to, because they are what make jewelry so special… and have for eons. Itʼs a place where people and their families are more important than the product itself… part of the reason that the name of the owner is the name of the store. Once focused almost entirely on higher-end work, Kulka has since realized that customers come in all ages … and all price ranges. So now she carries products that appeal to kids and teenagers, like Nomination char

Nominaton charm bracelets. But her salespeople treat every item in the store like itʼs a luxurious high-end piece, whether its a $50 Nomination charm bracelet, a Hidalgo ring, or even one of Kulkaʼs own custom-made diamond creations. Now, many young customers return for engagement and marriage gifts.

The store design of Becky Beauchine Kulka, done by Ruth Mellergaard of GRID/3 Inter-national, reflects the owner. It is softly feminine, based on light colors and curves. Curved 42” high white showcases and light-colored walls are shown off in beautiful contrast by plush purple carpeting (purple is Kulkaʼs favorite color). Glass cubes enclose the diamond room, without creating a visual block.

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Perhaps the most striking feature is the six-foot salt-water aquarium that provides a stunning focus in the center of the store. Kulka hand-picked the fish and coral to coordinate with the store colors. Why a salt-water aquarium? When Kulka read about the trend toward developing a childrenʼs area in a store, she decided that the aquarium would suit her environment far better. Chairs placed around the large tank provide quiet; children and adults are absorbed by the aquatic life while more active shopping continues around them. The local pet store works closely with Kulka to maintain the aquariumʼs health and beauty. Easy-listening instrumental and New-Age music contributes to the ambience, and cookies are baked daily and served with hot coffee.

New staff members are encouraged to become part of the sales team from the first day. A training manual covers all the details about sales, operations and product. Exper-ienced staffers each take on different aspects of the new staffʼs training. During the training period, new sales associates work on rotation with each experienced staff member individually, giving all of them a chance to know each other. The practice keeps everyone very involved in day-to-day operations. Sales incentives encourage the staff to buy jewelry from the store. Wearing the jewelry with their daily casual wear, what theyʼre doing is sending an important message: that jewelry is not just for special occasions.

Recently, Kulka developed a sales award that was very popular with her team. The top winners attended two days of the JCK and Luxury Show in Las Vegas with their popular boss, who attends yearly. Before the contest, Kulka printed sales associatesʼ names on the storeʼs $25 gift cards, encouraging staff to hand them out like business cards to people met in the course of their daily lives outside the store. The number of cards redeemed at the store, plus individual sales, contributed toward winning totals for three staff. “I often handed one out to someone whose jewelry I admired even on the street,” explained Chantelle Deimling, one of the lucky winners. “The prize gave us an opportunity to go somewhere luxurious, while also providing us with some insights into the business. Knowing more about the business helps us do our work at the store better.”

Very few merchandise exchanges take place at Becky Beauchine Kulka Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, an indication that staff members know their clientele well and are experts at helping customers to pick the right gift. Products are all digitally photographed, and images are used to help customers find the perfect new jewelry or the right match for their existing collection.

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Storytelling is encouraged. Sales associates encourage their customers to recount these stories when giving their gifts, to contribute to moments of romance. When the best friend of one associateʼs husband got engaged to a lady with a three-year-old daughter, he told the sales associate that they had always sung “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” together. The little girl had told him her mother wanted that “diamond in the sky” and he wanted to give it to her. Chantelle suggested an inscription on the diamondʼs girdle “To Sherry, you are my diamond in the sky, love Lane”. Forever afterward, the ring suggested an acceptance of the fiancéeʼs young daughter as well as proof of the coupleʼs commitment.

Jewelry personalized through engraving is all part of the personal sales technique practiced at Becky Beauchine Kulka.The warm and fuzzy staff philosophy balanced with the bright and open ambience welcomes shoppers to a store that has become a strong part of its small Michigan community.

 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

  • My favorite “cool” store. The use of color here makes for a wonderful customer experience. I feel I want to spend time in this store. The fish tank is a perfect touch, helps keep kids busy. Although the store is long and narrow, it doesn’t come off that way. The outside is very appealing … the sign says it all. Love it, love it, love it.— Richard Swetz , IJO
  • First impression: the purple carpet was a mistake. It’s the first thing you notice. Not jewelry, not showcases, just purple. It stands out rather than fitting in. The outside of the store seems typical. The design lines inside the store are quite nice. It flows easily. The aquarium is an interesting touch and I thought the ring pops were a cute idea.— Ron Wattsson , ‘Cool Store’ Winner 2004
  • An average store. The showcase lines are far too long and lacking in design attention. Lighting is not done creatively, but more of a basic approach. The lack of wall detailing and visual excitement makes the store appear weak and incomplete.— Greg Gorman , GMG Design
  • Uncool: Despite the cool features of the store, there is coldness about it. Too much white and uncovered walls. And the posters in the front windows of the store have got to go. Cool stores pay attention to detail; the planter pots (or ashtrays, as they stand now) should have flowering plants in them. The exterior of the store does not do justice to the interior. Cool: The use of color in the store is great. The purple carpet, the funky colored chairs, and the fish tank all add to the coolness of the store. I like how the flower arrangements are spread around the store to break up the sterile white cases.— Joe Romano , Scull & Company
  • This store seems to employ a lot of feng shui principles in its design and layout. I especially like the fish tank and the focus on entertaining all ages, not just adults. The colors in the fish tank complement the store’s colors … along with adding life force energy to the overall store. Curves allow energy to flow gently throughout the store. Its cool factor comes from the choice of colors combined with the long, curved fixtures and aisles. The use of the warm sand tones combined with the purple and white is unusual for the Midwest and gives the store an elegant feel. Smelling fresh-baked cookies is a wonderful contrast to the elegance and can make a customer feel immediately welcomed and “at home.” The gift area looks very attractive, although I would prefer smaller track light fixtures. Overall, this store feels innovative and cool and it’s easy to understand how they have grown so quickly over the years.— Linda Cahan , Cahan & Company Group
  • Considering the location (Michigan) this store seems quite cool. The light tones are welcoming and would attract a variety of age ranges and customers. The fish tank is cool and adds a break or breather from the extensive case-line presentation. The furniture shapes, lighting and clean lines create an inviting environment. The store interior appears light and spacious. The boldly-colored carpeting contrasted against the light cases is a unique element for a design team to focus on and treat in this way. The carpeting serves to carry the eye throughout the space in a continuous flow, like a river. The design is successful from a contemporary standpoint; it is “understandable” and not too edgy or forced. This is important for the “middle America” customer. Still the store has distinct personality and is definitely not too serious.
  • I credit Becky with her willingness and understanding of the power of design. If the environment is designed with the customer experience truly in mind, the environment will serve to communicate a clear distinct message to both its aspirational and current customer.
  • Too often, stores forget that the environment is an extension of the brand message. Looking at this store’s design, I have no doubt that the shopping experience at BBK is both enjoyable and relaxed.— Pam Levine , Levine Design Group

 

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