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Colonial Charmers

Argentinian artist creates showplace for his work in quaint Virginia town.

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Adeler Jewelers, Great Falls, VA

URL: www.adelerjewelers.com; OWNER: Jorge Adeler; FOUNDED: 1975; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 1980; RENOVATED: 2011; AREA: 6,000 square feet (2,800 showroom, 1,250 workshop, 1,950 offices); OPENED BUILD-OUT COST: $1.4 million; CONTRACTOR: Linares Construction, Fairfax, VA; EMPLOYEES: 8 full-times, 2 part-times ; BRANDS: Jorge Adeler Jewelry and Adeler Watches;ONLINE PRESENCE: Yelp Rating: 4 Stars; Facebook: 885 Likes; ALEXA TRAFFIC RANK:3,603,376


EVERY WEEKDAY AT 3:30, Jorge Adeler says, “There’s a kind of explosion in our store, as my five grandkids (ages 6 to 11) race into the shop, then run upstairs to do their homework — but not before saying hello to the four dogs (three boxers and a puggle who thinks she’s a boxer), who’ve been in the shop all day, cuddling up to our customers.”

The kids are there because, since the ’90s, Jorge’s two daughters, Valentina Adeler Armour and Wendy Adeler Hall, have been running the business with their dad. In fact, they are the only sales associates at Adeler Jewelers in Great Falls, VA, a community about 20 minutes from Washington, DC.

Valentina chuckles, saying, “A lot of people refer to me and my sister as ‘the Adeler girls’ because they’ve known us for over 30 years. There are probably 6,000 homes here and the little downtown has one traffic light. The Village Centre, where our shop is, looks like a small colonial village a la Williamsburg.”

It’s part of the charm that drew Jorge and his wife, Graciela, to Great Falls in 1980, eventually making it their flagship and closing the seven jewelry shops they had in Ocean City, MD.

And what a business Adeler Jewelers has become—especially given that Jorge, who grew up in a beach town in Argentina, had no family history in jewelry — he’d always thought he’d have a career in hotel management like his parents. “But when we came to the United States, I decided to try and make things from my home and sell them on consignment and, since we lived in a small townhouse, gems were the only things small enough to store in the townhouse closet — anything bigger, like shoes or leather or something, wouldn’t have fit!”

Understood. But, still, listening to Jorge Adeler speaking so passionately about gemstones, the gems themselves may also have been “calling him” to jewelry … and, ultimately, to becoming who he is today: a multi-award-winning master jeweler as well as jewelry store owner.

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Because his focus is on colored gems and pearls, he’s made at least 30 trips to mines and pearl farms around the world. “So, if I want emeralds, I go to the Valley of the Emeralds in Colombia. I try to get the story and the personality of every gem and then, when I sell it, I can explain
to a customer the specialty of it and, if it costs a lot, the challenges of obtaining it.”

High-end one-of-a-kind and custom jewelry is the norm at Adeler. “What sells most are pieces around $8,000,” Jorge says, “but it can go up to about $60,000. And it would be hard to find anything under $500. We sell very, very little silver.” Of the 48 showcases in the store, 46 are filled with Jorge Adeler jewelry, while two display solid 18K gold “Adeler Watches.”

Selling Adeler-only merchandise has been a core strategy since day one. “I’m very strong in ancient coins, too,” Jorge adds, “and I have an educated clientele that knows and appreciates the history behind the coins from excavations and shipwrecks around the world.”

The Renovation: A-One-of-a-Kind

As the Adeler Jewelers’ footprint got bigger, it became evident that the store itself would have to do the same. The 2011 renovation — the store’s first — cost a substantial $1.4 million and the space leaped from 1,200 square feet on one floor to 6,000 square feet on two floors.

“Although we were increasing our size so dramatically, we didn’t want our casual and warm, welcoming image to change,” says Valentina, director of sales and product development, who led the design effort.

They hired contractor Linares Construction in Fairfax, VA, which had done residential contracting work a few years earlier on a weekend home that Jorge and Graciela had purchased in an historic town outside of Great Falls. For the store, they wound up using some of the original stone and wood from that 1740s farmhouse and barn — “which was perfect,” Valentina points out, “because it helped give us that organic feel that we were aiming for.”

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They chose a color scheme of cherry, ecru, and chocolate, plus black in the wrought iron. All showcases were custom-built and in cherry, which is the wood used throughout the store. The more than two dozen windows are designed in a grid-like pattern in keeping with the colonial look of the shopping center. Woven fiber wheat raffia window shades are organic and light-filtering.

They added chandeliers, track lighting with LEDs, wrought iron sconces on the stairwell landing, and reading lamps behind chairs. To underscore a welcoming spirit, they created six seating areas, as well as an enclosed front porch. A cast-iron insert fireplace is the focal point of one of those seating areas, and above that, is a TV. Wendy, who is vice president of marketing and philanthropy, says, “We invite our Facebook followers to stop by, watch games, and enjoy Buffalo wings and beer — because now we have the perfect place for them to relax and enjoy themselves.”

Thanks to the renovation, Adeler Jewelers’ freshened-up exterior looks as multi-textural as its interior, with its fieldstone walkway, wrought iron-and-wood railings, and a double set of custom made, mahogany and wrought iron double doors.

“Because of fire codes and security, the doors may have been the biggest challenge of this remodel, but because a first impression is everything, getting those doors right was very important — they had to match the aesthetic vision we had for the store,” Valentina says.

PHOTO GALLERY (7 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Adeler Jewelers

1. FROM HALLE BERRY TO KATY PERRY: Since 2010, Adeler Jewelers has invited celebrity stylists to choose pieces from an LA showroom for their clients to wear to Red Carpet events. This proactive promotional move has resulted in 120 different celebrities donning Jorge Adeler jewelry, with Jennifer Lopez regularly buying his designs, Halle Berry wearing Jorge Adeler black onyx drop earrings at this year’s Oscars, and Katy Perry choosing a green chalcedony ring to accessorize her Gucci gown at the 2013 Grammys. Clients love the celebrity angle, Wendy says, “and they often tell us they’ve seen photos of entertainers and prominent people wearing our jewelry or stories about us in regional publications like Capitol File and Washington Life.”

2. PHILANTHROPIC “PACKAGES”: In special Adeler-created auctions, the store will donate a piece of jewelry that was worn by a celebrity, plus develop a fun, experiential package that ties into that piece. For example, working with a charity, Adeler created a package that included: donating a ring that Brooke Burke wore on Dancing with the Stars, plus two tickets to a taping of the TV show, a two-night hotel stay in L.A., and private limo service to the taping. “By auctioning this particular package, we were able to raise $21,000 for the charity,” Jorge says.

3. A KID-FRIENDLY FOCUS: Almost two years ago, Adeler started a free Junior Gem Explorers Club, for children 10 and under, to learn about gemology. For 29 years, children have also enjoyed the jeweler’s annual Children’s Spring Festival and Egg Hunt. Adeler fills some of the plastic eggs with tiny gemstones that he donates. This year, more than 450 kids came and, money earned for the day’s festivities of the egg hunt/ rides/ games/ and food, was donated to charity.

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4. MAKING FILMS, TOO: Jorge is executive producer of a documentary on pearls, which will be shown at the Sundance, Tribeca and Cannes film festivals, “and, hopefully, it will eventually be shown in theaters,” he says. In January, he begins his second film project, this one focusing on gemstones found in Africa. As an added bonus, customers get to see some of the footage on the loupe that continuously runs on the store’s flat screens.

5. ORGANIC ’N’ ORIGINAL: A custom-designed indoor water wall, flanked by fieldstone on both sides, “naturally” greets customers as they walk into the store. As they hear the soothing sound of water trickling onto river rocks below and smell the fresh rainwater kind of scent, a tone of calm and comfort is immediately set.

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FLUID DEADLINES

“When you’re trying to build the celebrity thing and you want stars to wear your jewelry to events, you have to be fluid with deadlines, always say yes and be willing to quickly find pieces a stylist may want at the last minute. Mariah Carey wore our jewelry for a White House Christmas event, and her people called us three hours before.”

IN-SITE BLOG

To get the benefits of search engine optimization for your store’s blog, it has to be on your website. Initially, I started our Adeler Jewelers blog on Blogspot, but that just builds its own SEO.”

TOY STORE

If you keep a bowl of candy in your store, you may want to include little toys like bubbles and pinwheels — because some parents don’t want their kids to have candy, so at least they’ll be able to take a treat.”
Wendy Adeler Hall

LIFE CHANGES

“A lot of times, a husband doesn’t understand when a wife wants to upgrade the engagement or wedding band her husband gave her when they married. So to help the men understand, ask questions like: ‘Are you the same person you were at 25? Do you listen to the same music? Drive the same car? A person’s jewelry needs to reflect the person you’ve evolved into now.’ When they hear this, it’s logical, and men understand that.”

NEVER OVERSELL

“If a man comes in to buy an engagement ring and you’re not sure he has a lot of money to spend, never try to oversell. What I say is: ‘If you drive a Toyota, don’t try to buy a Ferrari diamond. Later on you can upgrade, add to it, or redesign.’”
Valentina Adeler Armour

 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

David Hollingshead: Adeler Jewelers has done a great job at creating a warm, residential feel to the store, both inside and out. I love the multitude of one-off custom pieces based on stones Jorge has personally been on adventures to retrieve. The community outreach, especially the Junior Gem Explorer’s Club is impressive. A brilliant way to hook the upcoming generation!

Angelique Knafo: The individualist, charming and rustic appeal of the Adeler store is immediately inviting and indicates that there is nothing “big box” or “franchised” about their company. Lovely natural elements of wood, marble and stone in the décor lend to comfortable and warm appeal that customers will feel at ease while engaging in their jewelry purchases. I like how they arrange events unrelated to the jewelry business — like book signings — to generate buzz and new visitors to their store.

Ellen Fruchtman: The store itself is really cool and different. The story of how it began; what is sold; who wears the pieces etc. is pretty exceptional.

Jim Tuttle: Adeler is what being a jeweler is all about. Cool gems, set in unique settings, and excellent craftsmanship. The store is warm and large as it must be to showcase such an eclectic collection.

Lorraine DePasque is a contributing writer for INSTORE and INDESIGN. She is also a freelance journalist who has covered the fine jewelry industry for more than two decades. Having seen thousands of collections, met thousands of artisans, schlepped through hundreds of trade shows, judged hundreds of design competitions, and writtten several thousand jewelry articles, she has one simple request: “Please don’t tell me something is innovative when it isn’t.”

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