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America's Coolest Stores

ACS 2006: Second Place, Josephs Jewelers



Josephs Jewelers

Address: 5425 Mills Civic Parkway, West Des Moines, IA 50266
Owners: Toby and John Joseph
Phone: (515) 440-2991
Year founded: 1871
Opened featured location: 2005
Architect /Design Firm: Smith Metzger Architectural
Total Store Area: 18,500 sq ft
Employees (at featured store): 47
2005 revenues (at featured store): “Eight figures”
Land cost: $640,000
Building cost: $3 million
Interior build-out cost: $1 million
Design/architectural firms cost: $200,000
Current estimated property value: $5.5 million
Store slogan: “Without question … Josephs Jewelers”

Five Cool Things About Josephs Jewelers


Land Grabs

Josephs is situated on an almost 1.5 acre lot. With that kind of land the Joseph brothers had lots of space to not only create plenty of parking for their customers (51 slots), but also some attractive landscaping, including a small babbling brook that is home to fish — weather permitting. The element was originally intended to be an aesthetically-pleasing feature to welcome customers, but it has developed into a popular spot for men looking to pop the question. “We’ve had many gentlemen propose to their fiancées in front of that water feature — one of them being my son Jake,” laughs Toby.



Wright Stuff

The Joseph brothers wanted to get everything right with their dream store — or was it “everything Wright”? Their architect, Daryl Metzger, principal of the Smith Metzger Architectural firm, is a hardcore Frank Lloyd Wright fan who incorporated many of the famed architect’s distinctive touches in the West Glen store. “This caught the attention of a woman who shopped at our other stores infrequently,” says Toby. “But when she saw the new store she said she appreciated what we did in honoring Wright’s signature styles and began shopping here more often. Now she comes in at least once a month and buys a significant piece of jewelry.”


Party Central

When the new West Glen store was built, Toby and John Joseph wanted enough space to accommodate their own promotional events. But as they settled into their 18,500-square-foot store, they discovered they weren’t the only ones who wanted to throw parties there — since the store opened, the local high school as well as an area lifestyle/society magazine have hosted events at the sprawling location. And requests continue to come in.



Comfort Zones

Most stores have an area dedicated to giving customers a break, but at Josephs the indoor lounge and outdoor patio do double duty — they are key elements in the engagement-ring-buying experience as well. In the warmer months, the patio allows customers to view diamonds in natural daylight. When things cool, the action moves indoors to the lounge, which has comfy chairs and a fireplace as well as a coffee maker. “Part of creating our store identity was producing a commercial featuring a young engagement couple looking at jewelry next to a warm, cozy and welcoming fireplace in our lounge,” says Toby. “This has had a positive effect on our engagement business as young people see the message and know this is a relaxing, no-pressure place to buy jewelry. And it’s working. Most Saturdays we have 10 to 25 engagement calls as well as an increase in diamond-jewelry calls.”


Crystal Clear

When it comes to promotional events, Josephs is a record-breaker. John Joseph tells what happened when the store hosted a promotional event for Orrefors crystal, part of Josephs giftware offerings. “They held an 18-store signing tour and Josephs was a scheduled stop on the tour,” says John. “Our store in Des Moines had the largest number of sales in terms of dollar amount and units as compared to any other stop on the tour, which included big cities with exclusive shops such as Chicago and Los Angeles.”



Talk to Me, Baby

With such a large store, the Josephs knew that keeping track of staff would be a challenge. To avoid the “Attention, K-mart shoppers!” style of public address, Toby and John opted for a wireless phone system that allows the employees to be discreetly contacted. The store’s 19 salespeople each have their own handset connected to the in-store phone network. “We ask  each person to keep their phone in vibrating answer mode,” says John. “If they’re with a customer, they simply let the call go to auto-forward or their own voice mail.”  — Paul Holewa


Toby Joseph, Co-Owner Josephs Jewelers

1 You’re part of a new lifestyle center. How’s that working out?

Des Moines is experiencing a lot of growth and the new lifestyle center is part of it. When we staked out the lot, we knew Josephs would be the first building people would see as they entered, so we made sure we’re a welcoming sight.

2 What aspect of building this store did you enjoy most?

We had dreamt about this for years and when we finally got around to it we were at that stage of growing the business when we didn’t have to worry about bottom lines, budgets or finances. I enjoyed building our dream store without worrying about money.

3 You have your own four walls. How does it feel?

We don’t have to live under the constraints of a landlord and we can take Saturday nights off and close on Sunday if we want. And, we can plan any event and do anything we want because it’s our store. We even hired the popular and high-spirited shoe-shine guy located downtown to shine customers’ shoes on Saturdays. Everyone loved it!

4 Were there any post-“build it and they will come” worries?

With so many risks and unknowns I was really nervous when we first opened. But after being in this location for just over a year now, I know it was the right thing to do in improving our business. I’m much more relaxed now knowing we did the right thing.

5 You’re cool. How does it feel?

When we built this store we never thought about industry accolades. We just wanted to do right by our customers. In doing this, we are humbled by being honored alongside other fine jewelry stores from across the country.


Gary and Kathy Bigham
Bigham Jewelers

The exterior design is fantastic, but it does not necessarily evoke the feeling of a jewelry store in its Art Deco design. The structure is very well lit in the evening to highlight the architectural detailing of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the water feature only adds to the unique nature of the design. The interior space feels vast and a bit impersonal. The romance of a jewelry purchase is enhanced by an environment that is intimate and cozy. The addition of private showrooms, or vignettes with comfortable seating might create a less intimidating atmosphere.

Ellen Fruchtman
Fruchtman Marketing

The minute I saw the exterior it screamed “Frank Lloyd Wright.” Love that.

For the size of the store — and from the pictures shown — it could definitely use more seating.

Lori Wegman
Wegman Design Group

The exterior is wonderful and pulls you into the store. It’s so fresh.

Ruth Batson
American Gem Society

It has to be cool to find a new store location by driving dirt roads, and then two years later you have built on that spot and have exposure to 44,000 motorist a day! Joseph’s did their research on their site.

The babbling brook stocked with fish is the store’s single coolest feature. There have been four marriage proposals made by this lively stream. This water feature has provided an opportunity for this retailer to bond with the customer at a key emotional moment. What a cool story, too!

Bruce Brigham
Retail Clarity

This store has it all: a wonderful architectural exterior, an interesting plan, beautiful fixtures, a strong overall design style and vocabulary, and a nice palate of materials.

My one criticism would be that the large central area is a bit too cavernous, and tends to make the fixturing feel lost.

A greater variety of ceiling heights and planes would have really taken this store one step further on the coolness scale!

Kate Peterson
Performance Concepts

I love the entryway. The family medallion crest in the floor and the exceptional use of natural light from the surrounding windows makes the space look huge but comfortable — not overwhelming.

I’m not sure that I would change anything about the store. From every indication, they’ve nailed it!

Rick Segel

I love the entrance with the logo carved into granite inside the front door. This instantly captures and says that we are special.

Terry Sisco

Inviting details are what make this store so cool. Frank Lloyd Wright would be proud of the way the Smith Metzger Architectural firm chose to incorporate his architectural elements into this store. Wright did not aspire simply to design a building, but to create a complete environment and that is what Josephs Jewelers has accomplished.

I fell in love with the “babbling brook”. In addition to being a peaceful and serene place to propose, it’s a great viral marketing opportunity. After each engagement-ring purchase, Josephs should establish the ritual of escorting the couple to the babbling brook to have a digital photo taken. They should be positioned so that the waterfall is in the foreground and the “Josephs” logo on the building is prominent in the background. Then give the disc to the couple with  instructions to email the photo to all of their friends, and put it on “The Knot” and  “MySpace” to share their great news.

Celeste Sotola
Interior Designer

This store feels like the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine, WI, and that makes me feel like I had better get to work. Wright designed that space to give the upper management a bird’s eye view over the first floor workers. It was to promote efficient working habits in their staff. The chairs designed for the lower staff were uncomfortable as well. Even Wright can be wrong sometimes.

Too many repetitive rigid squares. I don’t think of jewelry and squares going together. Most people wearing jewelry are soft.


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This story is from the August 2006 edition of INSTORE



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