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Luxe, With Laughs

"In Minnesota, you’re not going to be successful if you come off snooty," says the owner.

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Wixon Jewelers, Bloomington, MN

URL: wixonjewelers.com; OWNER: Dan & Hope Wixon; FOUNDED: 1988; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2013; AREA: 10,000 square feet; EMPLOYEES: 34; TOP BRANDS: Wixon custom designs; TWITTER: 590 likes; FACEBOOK: 6,889 likes; PINTEREST: 301 followers; INSTAGRAM: 523 followers; ALEXA GLOBAL RANK: 239,012


FROM THE OUTSIDE, Wixon Jewelers looks a lot like a home. But as you approach the wood-and-marble interior and have to buzz in, you may start to feel intimidated — until the Wixon dogs trot up to say hello. “We’re not pretentious here,” Hope Wixon says.

Dan Wixon started as an antiques dealer. Finding it easier to haul jewelry and watches than furniture, he began selling estate jewels from a rented office. In 1988, he opened Wixon Jewelers in its current location in Bloomington, MN.

To celebrate the store’s 25th anniversary last year, the Wixons added rich, cherry-wood watch salons for Patek Philippe and Rolex, to showcase expanded collections. Watches account for half of Wixon’s sales. A striking stained-glass chandelier over a round freestanding case adds a touch of hominess — maybe because it was taken from the owners’ home. “We searched for a year and a half and couldn’t find one like it,” Hope Wixon says. “So we used our own.”

Taking It In-House

With a staff of 34, the Wixons have enough talent on hand to do virtually everything in house, from watch repairs to marketing. With four goldsmiths, four watchmakers, four GGs and three CGAs on staff, they offer a full suite of services to clients — and a guarantee their precious goods won’t be shipped out.

All photography and educational content on their website, redesigned in 2013, was produced in-house for consistency. Creating advertising in-house, instead of using an agency, allows quick changes and ensures consistent branding.

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One of Hope Wixon’s favorites is an ad for engagement rings that sports the tagline: “Quick! Propose now before she finds out she can do better.”

In their part of the world, she says, “You have to walk that fine line of being very luxurious without seeming snobby. In Minnesota, you’re not going to be successful if you come off snooty.”

That’s one reason they bring their dogs to work. Those friendly Labrador retrievers have become a store staple. Customers ask about them when they’re not there. When space below one of their billboard ads became available recently, the Wixons decided to add, instead of their address or phone number, a picture of their dogs. “People didn’t need any more information than what was up there,” Wixon says. “Why not just brighten their days?”

Play Big to Win Big

Encouraged by her husband, Wixon earned her Graduate Gemologist certification in the ’90s and set about building what has become a key strength of their business: rare colored gems. After returning from the Tucson Gem Shows, she immediately gathers her staff to educate them on the prizes she brought home, whether a Lagoon tourmaline or huge spessartite garnets.

“We do really well with Paraiba and we’ve had great success with big sapphires,” Wixon says. “In the last two years, every 10-carat sapphire we buy sells — the kind that sells for 300 grand. If you buy the best color and cut, beautiful gemstones sell themselves.”

What’s the secret behind building a multi-million dollar jewelry business? Invest upfront, the Wixons say. A million-dollar diamond necklace and 10-carat sapphire are standard fare in their cases. “If you want to sell big, you have to show big,” Wixon says. “Nobody’s going to buy a 3-carat stone if you don’t have anything larger than two carats to show them.”

This takes gumption, she admits. “When people heard we just came back from the Vegas show, they asked, ‘Oh, do you gamble?’ I said, ‘Yeah, we own a jewelry store. That’s a gamble right there!’” Wixon says. “With everything you pick out and put in the case, you’re taking a flier. You have to be brave.”

PHOTO GALLERY (6 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Wixon Jewelers

1. WEDDING BOTTLES When a customer picks up an engagement ring purchased from Wixon, they’re surprised with a customized bottle of champagne with a label featuring a photo of their new ring and the couple’s name.

2. SPOOKY COOKIES Wixon Jewelers has an espresso bar and a cookie station offering homemade cookies with themes that change with the season. “Spookies” are a big hit at Halloween.

3. WAGGY WELCOME One of the Wixons’ three Labrador retrievers — Louie, Moose and Bob Barker — will often greet customers at the door, tail wagging and stuffed animal in mouth. You may have to climb over another one sleeping on the showroom floor and a third parked at the cookie station, ever hopeful.

4. PARTY SURPRISE Store events always deliver signature cocktails and a crowd-drawing surprise. The Wixons brought in a multimillion-dollar Bugatti supercar for a recent watch event and their garden party featured human garden statues, painted white — so convincing, they caused a few spilled drinks when they moved.

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5. VISUAL TIPOFF Each day leading up to their Gem Safari, a colored stone event, the display changes in the store. One day, it’s a green tree frog holding an orange spessartite garnet, the next day a macaw in a nest of gemstones with a Paraiba dangling from its beak. “Our marketing department is asking me to bring in my Jeep, so they can have a giraffe popping through the sunroof,” Hope Wixon says. “We have fun with it. You don’t need a sign that says, ‘Event in progress.’”

 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

Kevin Reilly:  Wixon has a strong and confident sense of who they are and what they want to deliver to their clients. Their commitment to stocking high-end, beautiful jewelry ensures that they effectively communicate who they are to everyone that walks through the front door. Realizing that you need the proper inventory to sell what you want to sell may be a simple idea, but embracing it is becoming increasingly revolutionary.

Jay Klos:  Awesome special events; I want to be invited. Very good website and attention to detail.

Jonathan Sanders:  Elegant and refined with a determination for one-of-a-kind pieces well merchandised and curated. The building is fabulous and feels so Old World, and the interior continues that elegance. The video on their website is really such a great testimony for who they are.

Monica Stephenson: Wixon Jewelers has a high percentage of highly trained jewelry employees on staff: bench jewelers, Graduate Gemologists, certified appraisers and watchmakers. This shows a high commitment to the customer experience.

Paul J. Russell:  The interior environment presents with a flare of simple elegance. To add to the ambiance while shopping, customers are enticed with the store’s homemade cookie station and espresso bar.

Pamela Froman:  I like the champagne bottle with the engaged couple’s names; it is a nice touch.

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