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Building a New Brand

Renowned jewelry chain creates a new project for the next generation.

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H Boutique, Eugene, OR

URL: www.hboutique.com; OWNER: J. Tobey Ritchie and Sean Ritchie; FOUNDED: 1957; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2012; AREA: 930 square feet; OPENED BUILD-OUT COST: $275,000-$300,000; EMPLOYEES: 6; TOP BRANDS: Tacori, Scott Kay, Carlo Viani, Michele, Michael Kors, Angelique de Paris, Alex Woo, Effy, Alex and Ani, India Hicks, Tisento Milano;ONLINE PRESENCE: Yelp Rating: 4 Stars; Facebook: 489 Likes; ALEXA TRAFFIC RANK:5,691,157


IT’S A WEDNESDAY MORNING at H Boutique in Eugene, OR, and the jewelry store already is abuzz with a festive vibe.

Damen Garner, H stylist and visual merchandiser, sporting a boldly patterned tie, serves champagne, fruit and cheese to guests and adorns a coffee table with colorful macaroons.

Stylist Sara Beaulieu directs models for a photo shoot designed to showcase H jewelry.

Tobey Ritchie and her cousin Sean Ritchie, both owners, work on a promotional project.

Hotel guests wander in and out of the airy, corner space, window-shopping and trying on bracelets and rings that are accessible both in price and proximity; multiple displays atop cases and counters make playing with affordable jewelry irresistible.

Tobey and Sean, third-generation owners of Harry Ritchie’s Jewelers, a Eugene-based family jewelry chain founded in 1957, recently broke the Ritchie mold to open H Boutique in the lobby of a new boutique hotel, The Inn at the 5th, in a popular downtown marketplace. The opening was heralded with a block party in the courtyard that attracted hundreds of people.

Harry Ritchie’s Jewelers also operates 17 locations in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

“Our third generation — up until now — has not been able to explore all of our creative opportunities,” says Tobey, VP of marketing for Harry Ritchie’s.

“We strive to convey our brand personality and love for fashion, jewelry and art — and how they can all come together in this shopping experience that is unlike anything else in Eugene. We focus on keeping the H accessible, relevant, fun, personal — just completely different from any typical jewelry shopping experience,” she says.

H staff, called stylists, provide a concierge-style experience, offering espresso and champagne, styling services and advice (including makeup touchups at the Belle Bar), tips for surprise proposals, and spa-like treatments for guests’ jewelry at the Sparkle Bar. They’re also equipped with iPads loaded with software to custom-design an engagement ring. “Our goal is to focus day in and day out on what matters to our guests,” Tobey says. “You don’t say ‘no’ here, you say, ‘Let me figure out a way to do that for you.’”

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A Tradition Of Building Relationships

“We chose Eugene specifically because the hotel came to us as a strategic partner,” Tobey says. “We have the aspiration to explore other cities, too. But we needed to start it in a place where we could be right here, to fine-tune it and make it successful.”

Sean Ritchie, president, says the H is the natural next step for a company that was cutting edge, particularly in building relationships, when it was founded more than 50 years ago by his grandfather, Harry Ritchie.

“Our grandfather was an inspirational person, a dynamic leader, and kind of a visionary; we both respected him a great deal and part of his nature was being an innovator, too,” Sean says. “He became such a part of the communities in places where we had stores, and he became a part of people’s lives. To Harry Ritchie, the customer experience was everything. He wanted people to leave the store with a smile.”

His stores were known for offering credit and for being inclusive. “It was a farming and logging community, so people came in dirty, but he never judged anyone. He ingrained that in us and that’s something we hold close by creating an environment where we are catering to a lot of diverse groups of people.”

The third generation wanted a store that was bold, relevant and modern, but also friendly and welcoming. “We wanted a non-judgmental, non-snobby feeling,” Sean says.

When creating the concept, the well-traveled Ritchies found inspiration in a variety of boutiques around the world, from Denmark and Israel to Brazil and Mexico.

“It was important to us not to follow any established principles in design, store aesthetics or merchandising,” Tobey says. “We saw H as an opportunity to break the mold completely.”

Tobey studied interior architecture and fine arts in college.

Working on H rekindled her passion for her career in the family business, from which she received her first paycheck in the second grade.

Tobey and Sean collaborated with Tobey’s brother, Cohen Ritchie, director of merchandising, and Tobey’s husband, Pate Tuisue, who spearheaded the conceptual design and the building project.

“It’s been eye-opening and also overwhelming to translate all of our ideas into this actual, 930-square-foot space,” Tobey says.

“We wanted to create the most amazing, feel-good space that we could, but we couldn’t overspend.”

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But her husband points out that working within a budget actually demanded more creativity than if they had had all the money in the world at their disposal.

Tuisue hired Robin Olufson, who designed and made the casework, including floating ribbon shelving along the window that faces the hotel lobby.

“One area I wasn’t willing to compromise on was detail,” Tuisue says. “Most traditional stores are built to look good in the front. We want people to know that everything here is built with quality from the façade to the back wall. Robin offered a finished look. He made everything work together. Veneers can look fake, but he made them look like a solid piece of wood.”

For Olufson, who had worked on residences and cookie-cutter business projects, the H was an opportunity to be creative. “I still look at it (the ribbon wall) and can’t believe we made it. It’s the single most important design feature in here,” Olufson says. “It has a modern edge and it also reflects the curves in the “H” and other curvy elements of the store.”

Traffic flow and comfort were important to Tobey, too. “A lot of times you have a sense of where you have to go to do certain things in a jewelry store,” she says. “We wanted people to be wherever they wanted to be in the store, to feel comfortable.”

PHOTO GALLERY (10 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About H Boutique

1. BRANDING THE H: The Ritchies worked with a branding expert in Monterrey, Mexico, to create the concept of the ever-present H, shown on all of its promotional materials and incorporated in the store design. “A lot of brands get stuck in a color; the H can be any color it wants to be,” Tobey says. “The one thing that doesn’t change is the shape of the logo.”

2. STYLISTS: Sales associates, known as stylists, have a background in style or fashion, and are trained to celebrate a shopper’s personal style. Stylists are also responsible for planning mini-events or promotional projects, based on their expertise and interests, to attract their contacts to the store.

3. BELLE BAR: Shoppers are encouraged to pull up a chair, fill up a try-on tray with as many as five pieces of jewelry, and have their makeup refreshed at the Belle Bar.

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4. EVENTS: Events are important to the H, including an annual block party in September with a DJ and drinks and “April in Paris,” which features a fashion show. “We collaborated with local clothing boutiques, hair and makeup artists and a local vineyard to celebrate spring fashion inspired by the runways of Paris,” Tobey says.

5. THE ART: The boutique features commissioned works of art by Prague artist Irina Kaygorodova, who incorporated featured the works of designers Tacori and Carlo Viani into her signature watercolors.

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CARPET TILES

Because H has a lot of in-store parties, its owners chose flooring that includes carpet tiles; each piece of the carpeting can be pulled out and replaced in case of stains, without replacing all of the carpet.

MERCHANDISING

“Brands that have quarterly fresh releases work best for H,” Tobey Ritchie says. “A boutique is always about having something fresh. Everyone wants to know what’s new and what’s hot.”

PARTNERS

The Ritchies are working on a plan for Inn at the 5th guests to be able to rent jewelry from H. The hotel also provides each hotel guest with an H jewelry pouch that includes a strong offer ($50 off a minimum purchase of $125 at H). Every day, the staff also checks with the hotel to see if a VIP is checking in and provides those special guests with a gift bag that includes a large jewelry pouch, mints, books and cards, and a handwritten welcome note.

 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

Angelique Knafo:  H Boutique is a delicious cocktail of fashion, decor and baubles galore! What a fun, feminine and fabulous place for women to shop and be tempted with pretty things. The magenta benches, watercolor fashion art, flowers make shoppers want to linger and play. Uber-chic interior design recalls a boudoir or five-star hotel suite — it communicates: “Spoil yourself, you deserve it!”

Jim Tuttle:  The H Boutique is a daring departure for the Ritchie jewelry family, from the integration in a boutique hotel to the mix of merchandise, it is all cool and a bit different!

David Hollingshead:  I love the evolution of the family history with the third generation stepping out with this concept store. It’s very smart to take cues from apparel retailing regarding the integration of other aspects of fashion through the use of the Belle Bar and mannequin presentation. Exciting from the street and more exciting once inside. It is sophisticated, current, and playful with tremendous style and a strong dose of humor.

Tony Pagliuca: Nice interior details and elements. Lighting is well coordinated. Exterior treatments are strong and somewhat unique. Good marketing materials and consistency.

Ellen Fruchtman: Everything about this store says “cool.” Their marketing is clean and beautiful and very consistent.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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