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America's Coolest Stores

ACS 2011: Third Place, Big Cool: Levinson Jewelers



Quick facts

Owners: Mark and Robin Levinson
Founded: 1983 
Opened feature location: February 2009
Area: 8,500 square feet  
Architect: Jerome Baumwell 
Employees: 30 full-time
Top Brands: Levinson, Bulgari, Charles Krypel, David Oscarson, Dior, Franck Muller, Gucci, Hermes, Norman Silverman, Penny Preville, Piaget

From 1983 on, Levinson Jewelers did strong business in Plantation, FL. But as time passed, the town got less busy. “With the economy the way it was, it was becoming harder to drive people there,” says Robin Levinson, who owns the store with her husband, Mark. So three years ago, they moved 15 minutes east to the main drag in downtown Fort Lauderdale. “If you put it on paper,” Levinson says, “it was an easy move.”

And indeed, the relocation has paid off. The new spot on Las Olas Boulevard is inviting and elegant, done in marble and wood. “I just wanted a warm environment with natural elements,” Levinson says. “Our old store was antiquated. It was 25 years old and we never really redid the showcases, with the intent that maybe one day we would move.” Many clients have stayed with them, she says, and if the store lost any, they’ve more than made up for it. “We’ve picked up so many new people. And you know, it’s not the amount of people,” she adds. “It’s what they’re purchasing.”

Store Highlights


High Traffic

Thanks to a continuous string of local events, like the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and the city’s film festival, plus the numerous cruise ships that pull into port 10 minutes away, the store enjoys a steady stream of new customers. Levinson attributes that not just to its position in the thick of things, but the ambience of the design. “What’s really wonderful is that strangers who don’t know us and are not local will spend a lot of money with us,” she says. “That just tells me that they look at the environment and feel that they can trust us.”

Smooth Appearance

“The whole store is the same — all our watch vendors are in the same cabinetry with their own ID in the case, as opposed to, say, red and black for one brand and something else for another,” Levinson says. “The look is very even; your eye doesn’t bounce around.” The level, classy look and perfect lighting make the store an oasis of calm.

Unerring Instincts

The store specializes in fashion pieces you can’t find elsewhere easily, or at all. Robin Levinson handpicks pieces out of a line, rather than ordering a brand’s typical best sellers. “If you can buy the same stuff somewhere else, what do you need me for?” she says, but also notes, “I don’t have unusual tastes at all. I’m very classic and conservative. We’re just good at knowing what our customers like.”


Famous Faces

It isn’t L.A., but Fort Lauderdale sees a fair number of celebrities passing through — and some of them shop at Levinson. One nationally known customer, former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, and his wife, Claire, are the store’s spokespeople. “Once Dan called, and Mark thought it was one of his friends playing a joke,” Levinson says. “He said, ‘Ha ha, I’m busy’ and hung up. So Dan called back again and goes, ‘No, it’s really me.’”

Good Vibes

Levinson and high-profile mix master DJ Irie (among other things, he spins tunes at Miami Heat games) collaborated on the limited-edition Peace Thru Music jewelry line, pendants and bracelets on cool leather cords, featuring a peace symbol melded with an LP. “He’s just got a nice karma,” Levinson says. Sales benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami, and both the regular versions of the jewelry and the more expensive diamond pieces have sold well, she says.



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What the judges say

Bruce Brigham: The outside view is powerful, strong, and substantial. The store interior is massive and suggests a great deal of merchandise. The high ceilings, good lighting, and contrasting colors work to make this store special.

Curtis Bennett: This is a place that has beautifully and appropriately leveraged its abundant assets — from the physical structure to the beautiful location to its advertising — utilizing in a very professional way the relationships the Levinsons have been able to forge. I can’t help but think this is a fun place to be, both for the employees as well as for the customers.

Robin Rotenier: I love the atmosphere they created — very conducive to purchasing jewelry pieces. The colonial feel is what I find most appealing, a very unique Florida feel executed right.

Glenn Rothman: Robin and Mark Levinson have made themselves into local celebrities. Their exclusive line of jewelry, Peace Thru Music, with proceeds benefitting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami is indicative of their commitment to community. Their personal story of success from the humble beginnings in the local jewelers exchange to becoming one of the top-grossing independent jewelers in the country is both cool and inspiring.

Try This

[h3]Always be closing — even off the clock.[/h3]

“Mark and I are both very outgoing — if we’re out at a movie or dinner, or even traveling, we always introduce ourselves to people and give them a card. We’re always finding customers, everywhere we go. I can’t remember a trip we’ve gone on where we haven’t made a customer somewhere.” — ROBIN LEVINSON

Shop Talk

Hear Say

“The salespeople are top rate and will help you with any major decisions you have to make. Also, when buying a special present for that special someone, definitely come here. You will love the selection.”

Play List

“We listen to soft, mellow rock,” Robin Levinson says. “We use Sirius satellite radio and usually put it on ’60s, ’70s or ’80s.”

This story originally appeared in the August 2011 edition of INSTORE.

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