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ACS 2007: Sixth Place, J. Green Jewelers

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Green’s Dreams: A Slice of Italy in the middle of San Antonio, Texas? Welcome to J. Green Jewelers …

J. Green Jewelers

Location: San Antonio, TX
Owner: Jimmy Green
URL: www.jgreenjewelers.com
Year founded: 2004
Opened featured location: 2004
Store area: 5,000 square feet
Employees: 16
Architect/design firm: Daniel T. Muzquiz, architect; Pamela Green, Jimmy Green and Walter deCremieux, designers
Slogan: “Jewels of Distinction”

STORE FACTS

Every brick in the store was handmade and imported from Italy.

Building the store took 18 months and required the work of 100 artisans.

J. Green Jewelers stocks everything from a $7.50 gift-boxed, sterling-silver pendant to $200,000 custom pieces.

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HOW THEY GOT THERE

Italy Comes to Texas

Jimmy Green thinks big — and his Italian-themed J. Green Jewelers is monumental proof of that.

Although it might seem overly ambitious for anyone’s first store to be a handcrafted Italian piazza filled with the largest inventory San Antonio, TX, had ever seen, Jimmy Green knew exactly what he was doing when he built J. Green Jewelers.

Taking a calculated risk on such a spectacular building project and unique inventory was his secret to almost immediate success.

After 33 years in the jewelry business, Green knew he had to go all-out to compete with big chains and online marketers. A timid foray into that kind of market wouldn’t get him far, he realized. He found a financial partner and spent three years devising a detailed, far-reaching business plan.

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“If you’re not going to get in the game, you’re just not going to win,” he says. “I studied the economics, the demographics of San Antonio for several years, trying to see exactly where the growth of the city was.”

“San Antonio, economically, is booming,” he says, with an infusion of new industry, including a Toyota plant. “The economics of this city are exploding and I saw it coming. I was hoping we guessed right, and I believe we did.”

The educated guess paid off immediately. The venture exceeded his expectations.

“We did in our first year what I projected to do in our fifth year. If a small jeweler isn’t constantly reinventing himself and taking big risks, I can’t see him surviving.”

Green decided to take his own ambitious leap by opening up with the best, most unusual inventory he could find.

“Customers tell me all the time, ‘I’ve never seen jewelry like this.’ Even though we have several thousand pieces in stock, everything we have is unusual. It’s all real, and it’s all unique, and 90 percent of it cannot be bought anywhere else in San Antonio.”

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Green wanted the interior of his building to blend seamlessly with its Italian-style exterior and be a worthy setting for such impressive stock.

“I knew to build it the way I wanted it to be built I had to be my own general contractor,” he says. “No one can see in your head. I knew I wanted one of the most unique buildings in the country. I did the original floor plan.?My wife, Pamela, and designer Walter deCremieux and I did a lot of preliminary sketching and painting bef ore we ever went to an architect. I had everything figured out down to electrical switches. I drew in every wall in the entire place. After 33 years in the business, you have a good idea of what flows and what works.”

The look of the building had tremendous local and national impact from day one, he says, fitting neatly into his plan for media exposure. One of the biggest challenges a new business faces, he says, is to spend enough on advertising to get attention without having the cost eat up all the profits. Beyond paid advertising, public relations is vital. Being active in the community, appearing on radio and television talk shows, hosting charity events and making merchandise available for photo shoots in magazines are all strategies Green employs.

“Store owners sometimes think they can just open the doors and people will pour in,” he says. “It’s about trying to find a balance between spending money on advertising and trying to use the media to your advantage, coming up with stories that the media will pick up without having to spend money.”

But architecture, inventory and publicity could get him only so far without stellar service, he says.

“What brings the client to you is service,” Green says. “When they have a problem you are there to help them. When they want to make a purchase, they remember that you are there.”

“If somebody wants to do what I did they have to be prepared to work day and night to make it happen and keep doing it. You have to set yourself apart from every other retailer and make yourself unique.” — Eileen McClelland

FIVE COOL THINGS ABOUT J. GREEN JEWELERS

1 100% Handmade

Everything in the store’s build-out is handmade and hand-set — from the soft Venetian walls, the Italian tiles, to the showcases that incorporate real copper into the facing. Each panel of wrought iron in the windows had a separate blueprint, because each has its own size.

2 Minor Michelangelo

Michelangelo took four years to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling — J. Green’s custom designer Walter deCremieux took 28 days to paint the ceiling mural inside the dome of J. Green Jewelers in the style of a 15th-century fresco. “The Pearl Maidens” features a blue sky filled with angels, swans, maidens, birds of paradise — even a turbaned sultan.

3 Private Showroom

“Whether it’s a country-and-western singer, a sports star or just a customer who values his privacy,” Jimmy Green says, the VIP room’s soundproof construction guarantees that nobody can hear what goes on inside.

4 Event Ready

As host for local charity events, J. Green Jewelers houses a collection of fine wines and a full-catering kitchen. This capability also allows employees to offer a drink to customers any day of the year, and hors d’oeuvres during the holiday season.

5 Tuscan Paradise

When envisioning his new store, Jimmy Green wanted to create the look of an Italian piazza. Serving as his own general contractor, he hired artisans from overseas. Nearly every material hails from Italy. The two exceptions — the doors (handcrafted in Austin) and the showcases (manufactured by Tecno Display in California).

         LINE TIME

No Guarantees

Here’s a joke that Jimmy Green (sometimes) tells customers: “A guy buys an engagement ring, but then comes back to say that they broke up. I say, ‘I guarantee the ring. I don’t guarantee the wedding.’”

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

Larry Johnson
Merchandising Expert

I really love the intimate feel of the store. It has a romantic ambiance that makes it feel like the ideal place to select an engagement ring.

David Peters
Jewelry Educator

Resplendent in fine details with touches of Tuscan art and design, J. Green sets the benchmark for the luxury-shopping environment. Rustic hues and natural stones blend with warm woods and soft surfaces to provide customers with a feeling of confidence and trust.

Nick Failla
Sales Consultant

Beautiful imported brick enhances dramatic grille work creating alcoves with interest for the discerning shopper. The use of simply styled showcases creates a focus on the jewelry and the individual alcoves subtlely offer secured viewing areas for the client. The attention to detail is exquisite and dutifully implies that the same attention and passion will be given to each item of jewelry displayed in these wonderful showcases in an intriguing Tuscan setting. Incorporating and accenting something ownership is passionate about can add interest and generate additional conversation to any store.

Deborah E. Hecht
Wholesale Jewelry Rep

There is a lesson in what Jimmy Green did. He took his own dream of Italy and created it in Texas. It works. If you want to give your store a facelift, why not create it from the inside out? What are you passionate about? Make your store more than where you have to be. Make it where you love to be. If you want more customers to come in your store, make a stir. Give them passion (and, of course, product) and they’ll come!

Rhonda Faber Green
Jewelry Designer

Their attention to detail is stunning. The warm color and Venetian plaster wall accentuate the overall Tuscan feel. Whether you’re a VIP, invited into the private showroom, or a regular customer, it seems the store was built to provide a feeling of importance to every customer by providing areas that lend personal attention and privacy.

Leatrice Eiseman
Color Specialist

This is another store that was true to its Texas setting with Spanish and Moorish architectural and design features. The arches at the entrance, the dome feature on the roof and the Spanish style wood beams with columns below give this store an eclectic mix of influences. On the inside, the wrought iron features pay homage to the Texas setting. The ceiling treatments are interesting as the store has tall ceilings, but they chose to use lowered ceilings, which give the interior a more intimate feel. The dome features over each display case island have a Medieval quality to them that doesn’t distract from the merchandise. And, the use of bricks as a trim-feature is quite clever as brick goes with so many color elements and design features.

Shane Decker
Sales Trainer

It’s like walking into a museum. Jimmy Green has brought the Old World to our country, and jewelry is Old World. I can tell he really put his heart and soul into this building. My favor-ite feature is the soundproof private showing room. His salespeople will have to be good at wowing customers, so the store doesn’t overshadow the jewelry.

Berj Alexanian
Jewelry Display Designer

The store has Old World charm and service. Its ironwork is charming in and out.

STORE IMAGES

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This story is from the August 2007 edition of INSTORE

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