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America's Coolest Stores

ACSt 2006: Seventh Place (Tie), Simmons Fine Jewelry



Simmons Fine Jewelry

Address: 1220 North Olive, Meridian, ID 83642
Owner: Jay Simmons
Phone: (208) 888-2799
Year founded: 1989
Opened featured location: 2005
Architect/Design Firm: Artco (interior design and displays)
Total Store Area: 8,000 sq ft
Employees: 14
Land and building cost: $2 million (approx.)
Interior build-out cost: $1 million-plus
Design/architectural firms cost: $250,000
Current estimated property value: $2.5 million
2005 revenues: More than $4.5 million
Slogan: “The Wedding Ring Store and So Much More”

Five Cool Things About Simmons Fine Jewelry


From the Bottom Up

Jay Simmons’ beginnings in the jewelry business were about as humble as they get — on the outside, washing the windows. That was almost 30 years ago, when as a teenager he picked up some part-time work with a local jeweler. Inspired by what he saw behind the glass, Simmons got into the trade and honed his skills working with different Idaho Jewelers until 1989, when he finally got his own store — Simmons Fine Jewelry in Boise. It was a humble store in a strip mall, located next to a movie theater, but he was the boss and he had big plans. The fruit of those ambitions can be seen in Simmons’ current stand-alone store, which opened last October.



The Boss’ Breakfasts

Friday mornings at Simmons mean training meetings — and breakfast cooked by the boss, right in the store. “It is awesome,” says store manager Jim Alati. “Today we had eggs and sticky buns. We have also had waffles and pancakes, and we have even had quiche.” Other recent items on the menu have included strawberries with whipped cream. And for the final course, great dollops of sales training. “We go over our numbers — we see who is leading the way, daily average tickets, goal tracking,” Alati says. Simmons says he enjoys showing his staff such personal attention. “I believe in having my employees know that I really appreciate them and the hard work they put in.”


Monumental Display

Outside the store is a 15-feet-tall monument-style sign, with an electronic reader board that lists slogans and promotions. It is the perfect marketing solution for a store located at the busiest traffic intersection in Idaho. The sign is on 24 hours a day. “We just started selling Breitling, so today the sign says ‘Breitling now in stock’,” Alati says. “It’s almost like a mini Las Vegas — not as glamorous as the sign at the Wynn, but when we upgrade to full color it will be even more outstanding.”



Mint Coins

For the new store’s opening, Simmons had special $50 and $100 coins made and sent to his best customers. The coins were good for any purchase, no questions asked. In all, more than 2,500 were sent out. And while some customers came in and spent just the face value of the coins, which look like minted silver dollars, the overwhelming majority spent more. “We are still getting customers in from that,” Alati reports. “That was just a fantastic idea. Ninety percent of the customers spend more.”


Tech Savvy

Hewlett Packard is one of the largest employers in the area. And Simmons definitely has enough high-tech toys to impress HP’s techies. A custom shop on the main level features a CAD/Matrix design system that allows customers to see their jewelry wax molds being machine-cut before their eyes. There are five goldsmith stations, plus a casting and finishing area in the basement. A complete diamond office features scopes, a colorometer, and a Sarin machine. — Fred Michmershuizen



Jay Simmons, Owner Simmons Fine Jewelry

1 Ever think when you started cleaning windows in a jewelry store 30 years ago that you’d some day own one of the coolest stores in the country?

No.  It was a goal but honestly, no, I didn’t think that I would achieve what I have achieved at this point. For most jewelry stores, it happens over two or three generations.

2 You’re feeling pretty cool right now, aren’t you?

I am feeling very excited, because of all the publicity and the attention I have been getting. I am on cloud nine.

3 What is the best thing about having such a cool store?

I can now select just about anyone I want in terms of vendors and suppliers. They are coming to us. We can pick who we want in.

4 What would you tell other store owners who want to be as cool as you?

I would say just believe that you can do it. The only regret that I know of people who have done this is that they did not do it sooner. And don’t do it halfway. Make the investment to do it so that you really love it.

5 What is the most fun you have ever had in your store?

The night we had our non-selling event. We had 1,800 people in the store in the four hours. We had ice sculptures of our logo. Mrs. Idaho played her harp. It was a great event for us.


Jay Simmons’ three tips for would-be store-owners:

1. Go ahead and spend the money. ”I never dreamed I would spend this much money on a store, but it was worth it. We more than doubled our business.”

2. Become your own landlord. “I don’t pay a landlord a percentage of my sales anymore. That is the thing I love the most about it. When I was in the lease, I felt locked in.”

3. Believe in yourself. “Surround yourself with people who tell you to believe in yourself, and have the drive to do it.”


Ruth Batson
American Gem Society

The owners, Jay and Stacey Simmons, are committed to the ethics and customer consideration that keep their customers coming back. Their business practices help make the all jewelers cool.

Jay and Stacey are not mavericks in their store design. Their customers would not want that. They have created an elegant and comfortable surrounding for their Boise clientele.

Bruce Brigham
Retail Clarity

A beautiful, consistent, dramatic store experience. Colors and materials, fixturing design, sweeping ceiling elements, and more than a few sparkling chandeliers all combine perfectly to make a strong, warm selling environment.

I also like the exterior of this store. It is not the most unusual of designs … but the combination of materials, detailing, massive cornices, and elegant, logo-ed awnings all seem to combine together to make for a very rich and bold presentation. I would want to go into this store!

I cannot feel the owners enough in this environment. I would like to see a bit more personality overlaid onto this elegant (but not personalized) interior design.

Celeste Sotola
Interior Designer

The space has a nice flow. Both ceilings and cabinetry talk to one another and the color palette is very tasteful.

The ceiling domes add majesty and elegance to the function of purchasing jewelry.

I would get rid of the LED lower portion of the outside signage, as it cheapens the presentation.

There is a nice balance of wood and wall. The ceilings are utilized nicely to hide the lighting for the casework, so as not to distract from the jewelry.

Ellen Fruchtman
Fruchtman Marketing

The store is very attractive. I would certainly not feel intimidated to go in. It’s actually much warmer on the inside than the exterior portrays.

I would change their logo — especially on the floor. It looks like Superman!

Les Hiscoe
Shawmut Design

There is a very nice flow to the layout.

The wooden-edged soffits really define the slope of the sales area, which flows nicely.

The chandeliers don’t fit with the modern cases and materials.

Lori Wegman
Wegman Design Group

Has a warm friendly and inviting feel, not too ostentatious.

I like the curvaceous flow of the showcases, and the logo branding in the floor.

I thought the ceiling soffit finish was a little too strong and takes your eyes off the product.

Gary and Kathy Bigham
Bigham Jewelers

Who doesn’t love instant gratification? The CAD/Matrix design system is definitely cool!

This family-owned and operated business is elegant, yet understated. The linear carved design in the case fronts is unusual and artistic. The ceiling design creates the feeling that there are individual departments within the store. Unfortunately, they dropped the ball with the ceiling tiles which are a stark contradiction to the elegance found throughout the rest of the store.

Kate Peterson
Performance Concepts

To me, this store — both inside and out (especially out!) — looks really nice, but nothing terribly spectacular.

I like the floor logo.

I love the ceilings. They add dimension and warmth to the whole thing!

Rick Segel

Cool things: The simple elegance of the store, the S in the diamond which is inlaid in the tile, the wavy store layout and curved counters, the lighting and the chandeliers, the drop-down ceiling, openness of the windows, and the lit picture boxes.

There are too many cool things here and it is really hard to pick just one as the coolest. However, if I were pushed, I would have to say the domed ceiling because it creates a prestigious element that just feels good.


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This story is from the August 2006 edition of INSTORE



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