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Los Angeles timepiece retailer goes for it with $2.5 million renovation.

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Feldmar Watch Co., Los Angeles, CA

URL: feldmarwatch.com; OWNER: Scott, sol & Nancy Meller; FOUNDED: 1913; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 1956; LAST RENOVATED: 2012; AREA: Just under 10,000 square feet; COST OF BUILDOUT: More than $2.5 million; EMPLOYEES: 28-29 full time, 4 part time; YELP RATING: 4 Stars; FACEBOOK: 1,122 likes; TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 951; ALEXA GLOBAL RANK: 665,859


SCOTT MELLER’S ENTHUSIASM FOR the wristwatch is rooted in a family business started by his Hungarian great-grandfather 101 years ago.

Now vice president of the handsomely renovated Feldmar Watch Co. in Los Angeles, a worthy descendant to Jack Feldmar’s humble watch-repair business, Meller is confident that his family’s stock in trade remains relevant — indeed, has become “more important” — in an era when every smartphone serves as a precision timepiece.

To Meller, the wristwatch is timeless beauty, a technical marvel and a portable piece of art that can be enjoyed throughout one’s waking hours, a respite for the eyes even when used to check how long until the next business meeting.

“I enjoy looking at my watch more than my iPhone,” he says.

In 2012, Meller says, the growing family-owned business completed a massive renovation that had taken two years and cost more than $2.5 million to complete.

With no place to move temporarily nearby that had the necessary access to a vault, the company remained open throughout the construction process.

Meller’s advice to anyone else planning to stay in place while renovating is succinct: “Don’t do it.”

“If the option (to take up a temporary spot) presents itself,” Meller says, “then by all means, move. Get out!”

Despite the additional costs, the headaches and complications and the extended construction time, Meller and his parents, owners Sol and Nancy Meller, created something special.

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In the decades following its move into its location on West Pico Boulevard in 1956, Feldmar Watch had acquired and occupied two adjoining buildings. But Meller says the spaces were never fully integrated from a design perspective. He describes it as “maze-like.”

In 2010, the decision was made to “really make it one.” They took the buildings down to the studs, they found wood rot and dealt with it, they added a new foundation and steel beam reinforcements where needed. But they also uncovered such hidden gems as an original truss ceiling that is now a showpiece in its own right.

They added a bar, designed with mahogany, stone and onyx, where customers can have a drink or a coffee while shopping.

With the bar and other features, the Mellers were able to create a unified space that makes Feldmar Watch a desirable special-events venue as well as a retail center.

The new space allowed Meller to begin a Brand of the Month program to showcase individual vendors and host exhibits and even parties for them. The companies also get special attention on the Feldmar Watch website and other social media outlets.

Earlier this year, Meller says, the Swiss watchmaker Carl F. Bucherer brought over displays that included items never before seen here. A Girard-Perregaux event in June earned the retailer some glowing press.

Feldmar Watch now has just under 10,000 square feet, most of which is dedicated retail space for an inventory of more than 3,000 watches, many of them arrayed in beautiful mahogany cases. The highlight is a showroom in the original 1930s brick building with exposed brick, oak floors and soaring 30- to 40-foot ceilings.

Meller says 70 percent of the store is open to the public and 15 to 20 percent is dedicated to watch repair. The remaining space includes the vault, kitchen and staff areas.

Meller is the fourth generation to lead Feldmar Watch, and he started the way his predecessors did: humbly.

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The company was founded in 1913 by Jack Feldmar, a Hungarian immigrant who repaired cast-off watches for 15 cents apiece. He culled his items from pawnshops around Newark, N.J., before moving to L.A. when doctors suggested a change of climate for the sake of his ailing wife.

Jack taught his son, Barney, the repair trade and expanded the retail arm. With the growth of timed sporting events and the rise of time-management study in American business, the company became known for its assortment of stopwatches.

Scott Meller’s father, Sol Meller, is Barney’s son-in-law. Forty-two years ago, he started working in the store as a summer job, while studying law, and eventually led the company through a period of growth and extended success.

Scott Meller, 38, started on the bottom rungs, too, straight out of high school. He ran errands and cleaned bathrooms, he fixed displays and fetched items and worked six days a week.

Now with 20 years on the job, the company vice president has matched the average tenure of the store’s nearly 30 employees. For many, he says, this was their first job and turned out to be a lifelong love affair.

Meller says he has no plans to expand Feldmar Watch beyond the current location, although the retailer does run a high-end boutique called Hours Minutes Seconds inside the Beverly Hilton on Wilshire Boulevard.

Feldmar Watch offers many luxury pieces, but Meller says the clientele ranges from people buying their first watch for a few hundred dollars to true aficionados looking for their 30th and often pricier model.

Customers at all stages, he adds, share Feldmar employees’ enthusiasm for fine watches.

“A car can take you from A to B,” he explains. “It’s how you get there.”

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Five Cool Things About Feldmar Watch Co.

1. EXPERIENCE. Owner Sol Meller joined his wife Nancy’s family business more than four decades ago and established a reputation based on trust and integrity. Customers today can trust that they are dealing with dedicated employees with a broad knowledge base. The average tenure at Feldmar Watch Co. is 20 years. The entire staff is comprised of watch enthusiasts who regularly attend brand trainings and study industry publications to ensure they deliver the most accurate and up-to-date information to customers.

2. SHOP IN SHOPS. As part of a two-year renovation that gave the store’s three buildings a more cohesive design, Feldmar Watch today features salons for Breguet and Blancpain items, a large customized Omega space and shops-within-the-shop dedicated to Breitling, Longines and TAG Heuer.

3. HIGH PROFILE. One of Scott Meller’s notable contributions to the business has been boosting the company profile. As an established expert in his field, he’s garnered impressive free press, having been quoted by the New York Times and the LA Times. Scott also publishes a thick, yearly “magalog,” and has brought the company’s marketing into the 21st century, with a strong digital presence on social media.

4. SWEEPING SELECTION. Feldmar stocks more than 3,000 watches from 60 vendors. As an authorized dealer for each brand, the company says, customers can buy with “peace of mind that all warranties and services are guaranteed by both the manufacturer and our trained professionals.”

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5. STELLAR SERVICE. In addition to offering the latest in timepieces, Feldmar Watch also offers repair services — it claims some 400 watch repairs monthly — and handles estate purchases, accepts trade-ins and sells pre-owned watches that have been inspected on site. With skilled watchmakers on staff and factory parts in stock, Feldmar Watch is able to provide free repair estimates while customers wait. They are prepared to repair any of the brands they carry, from streamlined quartz movement to unique automatic complications. And the work gets done in a specially vented “clean room,” added during the renovation.

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The Brand of the Month program offers customers an in-depth look at collections from their favorite brands. Brands selected for the program provide a special exhibit that remains in the lobby gallery and front vitrines for a month. Brands of the month are also featured in a monthly e-blast to customers, highlighted on the home page of Feldmar’s website and given special attention on social media feeds. Brand partners have used the program to highlight product launches, display traveling trunk shows and host special events. The program has earned rave reviews from customers and brand of the month spots are highly coveted by Feldmar’s brand partners.

 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

Bob Phibbs:  This store feels very much of its time, and I mean that in a good way. Natural elements, well lit, brand presence and scope of timepieces available all make it feel very fresh, contemporary and appealing — particularly to the new generation of luxury shoppers.

Andrea Hill:  Feldmar Watch Co. understands the importance of integrating their story, values and culture, and that makes them very cool in my book. This type of consistency and integration creates genuine brand resonance — just what a business needs to find and keep customers.

Danny Clark:  A total multi-generational commitment to service, the most awesome watch selection around and experience to boot.

David Brown:  This business is highly specialized in an age when most stores are getting out of watches. The store is a clear destination for watch buyers and watch enthusiasts alike. It’s a store I would like to visit even if I had no intention of buying a special watch.

Heather Hanst:  Feldmar’s incredible selection of watches sets them apart. Such focus and dedication to one portion of the jewelry market surely contributes to their success. I love that Feldmar not only sells watches, but also provides an impressive service department with talented employees who can repair everything from the most contemporary pieces to vintage watches. Their new marketing tool of showcasing a Brand of the Month is something we may adopt in our own store!

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