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ACS 2008: Fourth Place Small Cool, Sami Fine Jewelry

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Sami Fine Jewelry

LOCATION: Fountain Hills, AZ
URL: www.samifinejewelry.com
OWNERS: Suzanne “Sami” Jack and Stephenie Bjorkman
FOUNDED: 1981
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2001
EMPLOYEES: 7 full-time, 8 part-time
AREA: 3,400 square feet
ARCHITECT/DESIGN FIRM: Dorota Grudzinski, architect; Southwest Architectural Builders, contractor

Where rugged individualism is the culture, jeweler Suzanne “Sami” Jack is on the lead horse. She designed her dream building in Fountain Hills, AZ, with a craggy synthetic-stone front, double-tiered rotunda, 1-1/2 story windows and two flower beds. “I do my own gardening,” she adds. Sami can take time to garden now. Her daughter, Stephenie Bjorkman, became co-owner and vice-president of Sami Fine Jewelry several years ago. The team effort has bestowed double cachet on Sami Fine Jewelry: custom designs by Sami that incorporate regional gems and promotions by Stephenie that customers clamor for. The two have folded a gift boutique into their 3,400-square-foot space so that if the right gift is not jewelry, perhaps a gem-topped box or Swarovski crystal piece is.

FIVE COOL THINGS ABOUT SAMI FINE JEWELRY

Design Drama

1“It was civic pride to make this building and make a statement for our town,” declares Sami, whose store exterior suggests stacked rings and a gift box. “We had a vision of it looking kind of like a freestanding baronial style.” Sami says the outsized picture window that pours sunshine into the diamond room lets customers walk in and feel like it is open but cozy. The high-wattage sparkle that stones return on natural sunlight doesn’t hurt, either. The second floor first housed a gift boutique, but fewer customers were willing to walk upstairs. So the store’s jewelers and goldsmiths share the upstairs now, although a glass wall keeps their craftsmanship in sight.

Back-Door Sale

2When Sami Fine Jewelry learned the street, with its prized parking spaces, would be torn up in front of the building, the store was remodeled to make its back entrance an inviting alternative. “We painted the door purple and had a back-door sale,” Sami says, laughing. A major remodeling in 2006, only five years after construction, incorporated everything the mother and daughter had learned about their customers’ needs. They ripped out a wall for more jewelry cases, made the back door an entrance as accessible as the front and doubled the repair take-in station. Repair is a staple for Sami Fine Jewelry, one Sami thinks is too often ignored. “We change an average of 20 watch batteries a day,” she says. Restorations are also popular; one of Sami’s favorite challenges is recreating an older piece of jewelry into a style for the next generation.

Local Appeal

3Most of the store’s walls are a creamy plum that hints at its advocacy of Arizona amethysts, an exotic alternative to much of Southwest jewelry. “Turquoise and silver shouldn’t be all Arizona has to offer,” Sami says. She has been designing with amethysts since she opened her first store in 1981, and commissioned a 40-by 29-foot mural on one white wall depicting the nearby Four Peaks mountain range, where Arizona amethysts are hand-mined. Another sandblasted glass depiction of a peak partitions the diamond room at half-height. The store has made a mission of educating its buyers on the gems. There are videos on the website and in the store; a Miner Days promotion, during which the miners come to the store to talk with customers about their solitary work, is a local favorite, she says. “I design with a lot of color,” says Sami, who also uses two other Arizona-mined gems: anthill garnet (Chrome pyrope garnet) and the lemon-lime hued peridot.

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Family History

4Although Stephenie, 28, had crawled around on the floor at vendor shows since she was a baby, she never dreamed she’d get into the jewelry business, because by age 5, she was more interested in horses than dress-up. “My mom did an entire calendar of me in diapers and diamonds that she gave out to customers. Still, I was kind of a tomboy. But when my mom got sick with breast cancer in 1998, she said, “I don’t care if you like it or not. I need your help.” I was working at a Western store selling cowboy boots at the time, but I left and came to the store. The first two years I never really planned on staying. I used to work in the store in dirty cowboy boots and jeans. And my mom finally said, ‘We need to get you some nice clothes and shoes.’ So she went out and bought me suits and dresses that looked good. It honestly wasn’t till we built the new store that I realized how much I loved jewelry.” These days Stephenie is a jewelry-loving equestrian, who calls her big diamond hoop earrings her favorite pieces. “Diamonds go with anything and they’re tough,” she explains.

Events

5Stephenie’s star promotion is a Ladies Night in early December. “We put a pair of 1-carat diamond earrings in one of the first 50 gift bags and they’re lined up 20 to 30 minutes before we open. This year we had a line from our store all the way to the bank. It’s good and bad that there’s a line, but it does create talk.”  Ladies Night is dedicated to loyal — not necessarily high-ticket —customers. It has grown from 20 customers at the original store in the 1980s to 400 last year — from a list of 12,000 customers, all of whom would be happy to get an invitation. Attractions include catered appetizers and desserts, fortune tellers, music, “amethyst” hand massages from Copper Winds Spa, consultants offering hair and makeup ideas and time for attendees to make out a seasonal wish list. A diamond-ring drawing chooses a winner from all the submitted lists. A related Casino Night is scheduled later in the month. “Men are the hardest to get to come to a group thing,” Stephenie warns. “The key to a men’s night is that you have to give away stuff they want.” This year the lures were a flat-screen TV and golf items. It brought 150 men, including six who rented a hotel room and a limo to make it a guys’ night out. A tent at the rear entrance offered gambling with “Sami money” distributed to each guest, golf chipping and drinks. The men have time to shop with their significant others’ wish lists before the prize drawings.

Cool Fact

• The store sold 4,418 watch batteries in 2007, and engraving was 30 percent of its business.

TRUE TALE

Sami and Stephenie say they have the most honest customers in the world. Sami’s prize story is about a 3.57-carat diamond ring that became mixed in with another woman’s custom ring order when she went to deliver the two of them. “I had shown her the other one. She even tried it on,” she recalls. “When I arrived at the home where I was supposed to deliver the second ring, it was gone. I never thought about the first customer. I looked everywhere. I tore up that car. I was up all night crying about that one. I had to buy her another diamond and had another ring made.” Several years later one of her salespeople received a call: The first customer’s grandson had found the ring in her jewelry box, where she had put it with the other ring and had forgotten it. He called to return it. “I bought her roses, I bought him football tickets — everything. I was so happy.”

         TRUE TALE

• The economic doldrums gave Stephenie the inspiration for a pirate promotion, with treasure maps declaring “Sami wants your booty!” sent out with keys to a treasure chest holding prizes. “Usually in a gold-buying event there are customers who might get upset with the price they were being offered. We found being dressed as pirates there was not one person who got upset,” Stephenie recalls. The event also brought in 15 custom design requests. People who had originally intended to sell their gold decided to have it made into newer pieces of jewelry.

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WHAT THE JUDGES SAY

Terry Chandler
Jewelry Educator

From front to back, the store is a part of the beautiful countryside it inhabits, and the detail and décor are interesting and unique; it displays their product beautifully.

James Porte
Marketing Expert

Here’s an example of a store that continues to grow, bigger and better year after year. While other jewelers are complaining about the slow economy, the Internet and the like, Sami Fine Jewelry continues to focus on improving and growing the business and refuses to participate in an economic slowdown. Sami’s makes jewelry shopping fun and it is not your typical boring jewelry store.

Bill and Sharon Blair
Association and Jewelry Show Heads

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Their advertising is less creative than other features, but the success of their promotions makes it obvious that they are in touch with their target market.

Kate Peterson
Management Consultant

Beautiful building and exterior design — perfect for the locale. I also love the whimsical feel and the sense of play and humor that shows in the store. It seems that the group at Sami is driven by passion and a sense of excitement. It shows in their marketing as well as in their product selection and layout.

Brad Huisken
Sales Trainer

The store has a gorgeous façade and offers unique jewelry that really ties into the local community.

Amanda Gizzi
Trend Watcher

Their successful shopping events are textbook perfect. Like most stores, I feel that Sami could have a more comprehensive, targeted ad program. Sami has done an incredible job of making their special events not strictly targeted to the prime jewelry shopping seasons.

STORE IMAGES

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This story is from the August 2008 edition of INSTORE

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