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ACS 2007: Tenth Place, Hamilton Jewelers

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Old Glory: Hamilton Jewelers turns a historic location into a hot new shopping destination.

Hamilton Jewelers

Location: Red Bank, NJ
URL: hamiltonjewelers.com
Owner: Martin Siegel
Year founded: 1912
Opened featured location: November 2003
Store area: 5,200 square feet
Employees: 16
Architect/design firm: Brand & Allen, Houston, TX
Slogan: “Family-owned business since 1912”

STORE FACTS

• Nearly 700 guests showed up for the store’s grand opening. “You literally couldn’t move in a 5,000-square-foot store,” Bouchard says.

• Store manager Jane Hernandez starts every day with a “wind-up” meeting with sales staff, including a motivational phrase of the day. “I can be a little corny. I admit it,” she says.

HOW THEY GOT THERE

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Hamilton Jewelers has had almost a century to figure out the jewelry business — and boy, have they ever.

“We’re very cognizant of our history,” says Hamilton Jewelers president Hank Siegel when asked about the secret to his company’s success. “If you look at our logo, it says, ‘Family-owned business since 1912.’ ”

Siegel’s family hasn’t owned the business that whole time — his grandfather Irving purchased it from the original owners in 1927 — but they’ve stayed true to the sentiment, and that solid foundation is what’s allowed Hamilton to grow into a five-store enterprise with locations in New Jersey and Florida. The newest, the Red Bank store, has benefited from the almost 90 years of experience that preceded it, plus a spot in a hip, bohemian and prosperous community.

Both the experience and the location have contributed to the store’s success. It’s housed within a 19th-century building, and the two-story business still features original structural details like exposed brick walls and hardwood floors.

“The challenge for the space was to create a store that was elegant but still inviting,” Siegel says, “because it’s a community that’s near the beach. In the summertime, we get people with T-shirts, and we certainly don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t come in.”

So they opened up the ground-floor ceiling, letting people see up the sweeping staircase to the second-floor giftware salon, and they set up a bar area in the rear of the ground floor with snacks and beverages.

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The design left them with a space that is sophisticated, but open and relaxed — and good for more than just selling jewelry. “The store is so conducive to great events,” says vice president Donna Bouchard. “The way it’s laid out, it’s really easy to have a speaking area.” Key to Hamilton’s mission and vision is building relationships within its stores’ communities, and the Red Bank folks have taken advantage of the architecture to hold events in partnership with charities and other retailers. “We’re fortunate that Red Bank has a lot of very, very high-end clothing merchants. It’s a lot about partnerships and a lot of co-branding,” Bouchard says. They’ve held fashion shows, wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, galas and trunk shows.

Some events, she says, have had “no practical jewelry application whatsoever” — but that’s not the point. “It’s not really about selling, per se.” Ultimately, she says, they just want to get new people into the store, and to improve on their existing relationships with customers and other retailers. “We’re a family business,” she says, “and we truly want to know their families.”

Family, ideally, is synonymous with trust, and that too is central to Hamilton’s philosophy. Every employee is empowered to spend up to a certain dollar amount to make a client happy, store manager Jane Hernandez says. One evening when a customer was waiting for a piece that was being delivered from New York — she needed it for a party later that night — the salesperson bought her dinner at a nearby restaurant.

“The associate tries to find ways to please the client without giving the store away,” Hernandez says. She says Siegel held a companywide meeting to introduce the policy, and that the positive benefits were felt immediately. “We all walked away thinking, ‘They trust us enough to do the right thing.’” The upshot is that her employees handle the small things on their own, leaving her more time to deal with the big stuff. “They’ll let me know what they’re doing, but when they come to me, they already know what they’re going to do,” she says. The dollar amount her staff is allowed to spend varies depending on an employee’s experience. “It’s important that the associates show that they care about the client, and not just about the sale,” she says. — Josh Wimmer

5 Cool Things About Hamilton Jewelers

1 Empowered Staff

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Employee empowerment. Besides being allowed to spend a certain amount to help clients, staff members attend “Hamilton Jewelers University.” “It’s a program where we take associates off-site for a week and discuss with them everything from product knowledge to how to think independently,” the store’s president, Hank Siegel, says.

2 The Building

The Ludlow Building, which houses the Red Bank store, was built in 1878. When Hamilton renovated it, they kept the exposed brick walls and hardwood floors. Up a long staircase is a giftware salon. Siegel describes the store’s look as “updated classic.”

3 The Town

Vice president Donna Bouchard uses words like “arty” and “equestrian” to describe Red Bank, which is less than an hour south of Manhattan. “People come from all over the region to shop in the area,” Siegel says.

4 Community Involvement

Thanks to charity events and a “summer series” of evening trunk shows, word of mouth is spreading that Hamilton is among a cool town’s coolest shopping experiences. And employee requests for time to spend volunteering are generally approved, Siegel says.

5 Original Designs

Hamilton complements the designer lines it carries with its own pieces, such as the “1912” diamond ring collection — a tribute to the year of the store’s founding.

         TRUE TALES

Marriage-Minded

Because hamilton is so involved within its communities, store manager Jane Hernandez attends her share of local events as a representative of the store. “Most of the galas are black-tie affairs,” she says. And she thought that would be the case for one soiree at a local country club. “I was in this great, hot, sparkling short dress, and my husband was in a tuxedo.” The other guests, however, were in slacks and short sleeves. “We were mortified. My husband said, ‘If anyone asks me to serve them a drink, I’ll kill you.’”

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

Shane Decker
Sales Trainer

What an incredible job of selecting a location. They’ve got gorgeous restaurants and shopping areas around them, bringing lots of wealth into the area. The use of wood and brick in the build-out makes the showroom feel homey. I love the staircase. And the Hamilton name is rich in integrity and family history — not many stores make it close to their 100th anniversary, much less keep the store and its vision strong over multiple generations.

Rhonda Faber Green
Jewelry Designer

Tasteful and elegant, it typifies the look of an “old-world jewelry store.”

Craig Underwood
2006 Cool Store Winner

The charming exterior of Hamilton’s lets you know you are in for a real treat before you even enter the store. This boutique-style store has everything you could ever want. While the store is quite large, it feels intimate and comfortable. It’s charming yet magnificent at the same time. This is one of my favorite stores of the group.

Nick Failla
Sales Consultant

The curving showcases help to break up what could have been an intimidating bowling-alley-like effect by the available space.

Larry Johnson
Merchandising Expert

The use of vignette-type displays in the store really works. Each section seems to tell a story. The circular flow of the showcases draws the customer completely into the store. Once upstairs, the gift buyer is well taken care of with a broad selection, attractively displayed.

David Peters
Jewelry Educator

Blending modern technology with its dedication to time-honored traditions, sleek flat-panel monitors combine with rich fabrics and natural woods to create a bridge from old to new. Hamilton’s strong commitment to community and civic causes sends a clear message that they care about the quality of life for everyone in their city.

Deborah E. Hecht
Wholesale Jewelry Rep.

Hamilton Jewelers has had a hundred years to get it right. Their interiors are spectacular on many levels. Hamilton Jewelers’ strong community service involvement also gives their business “oomph.” An independent retail store might examine their formula closely for successful hints.

Ruth Failer
Tradeshow Consultant

Beautiful and historic — very inviting for passersby.

Leatrice Eiseman
Color Specialist

I love the exterior of this store. It has excellent curb appeal. There is attention to every detail. This is another store that has a historical look to the exterior with a contemporary interior. There’s an interesting play of rounded and rectangular features, making this store less about color and more about shapes and textures. The store also has texture contrasts. On either side of a long rectangular display case is a check-patterned and floral pattern chair. Again, it’s a unique balance of textures and shapes that gives this retail space its visual interest.

STORE IMAGES

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This story is from the August 2007 edition of INSTORE

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