Congratulations to the winners of the 17th annual America’s Coolest Stores Contest! In the following pages — and in the months ahead — discover why these stores earned the stamp of approval from our judges. As in past years, we divided the entries into two categories — Big Cool (six or more full-time employees) and Small Cool (five or fewer). We asked two six-member teams of judges to evaluate stores based on their back story, interior, exterior, marketing, online presence and what we here at INSTORE believe is the most important intangible: individuality.
Our six America’s Coolest and additional 10 Cool Stores — each of which will be featured in INSTORE issues through June 2019 — represent creative approaches to doing business as well as aesthetically-pleasing retail environments. This year, each of the six winning stores also offers an omni-channel shopping experience, with at least some merchandise available for purchase online.
If you haven’t taken the time to enter yet, why not give it a shot in January 2019? Retailers have told us that the entry process alone can be inspiring because it requires them to assess all aspects of their businesses.
This year, too, we’ve pulled together ideas for ways to refresh and update your retail environment that won’t bust your budget, starting on page 94.
MEET THE JUDGES
Katherine Bodoh is CEO of the American Gem Society and AGS Laboratories, where she manages day-to-day operations and strategic decisions of both organizations. Prior to that, she served as the deputy executive director of the AGS. Bodoh earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Loyola University, New Orleans, and is an American Gem Society Registered Jeweler. [email protected]
Geoffrey Brown is a member of Main Street Hub’s local business outreach team. He has worked at Main Street Hub since 2015 finding success with social media and online reputation management for local businesses. He has put to practice his experience with Yelp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and is looking forward to sharing what he has learned with new audiences. [email protected]
Laura Davis-Taylor is co-founder of HighStreet Collective, a retail store innovation consultancy. Published author, advocator, teacher and provocateur, she brings together decades of experience in brand planning, CX, digital engagement, store design and retail innovation. [email protected]
James DeGroot is a trainer of jewelers through his video series JewelryStoreTraining.com. He maintains a large following on his blog site JewelryMarketingGuy.com and is a partner in Creative Edge Productions, a video production company based in Green Bay, WI. Before becoming a consultant, DeGroot worked with partner Larry Rickert to take Jim Kryshak Jewelers in Wausau, WI, to triple its volume. [email protected]
Larry Johnson is an industry consultant and the author of The Complete Guide To Effective Jewelry Display. He has worked for more than 25 years in the jewelry visual merchandising industry. He is former senior vice-president of business development for Pacific Northern. [email protected]
Sofia Kaman is a jewelry designer and owner of Sofia Kaman Fine Jewels in Venice, CA. In 2017, her store won the Small Cool division of the America’s Coolest Stores contest. [email protected]
Lyn Falk is the founder of Retailworks, Inc., an award-winning design, display, branding and consulting firm specializing in retail, corporate and hospitality spaces. She has devoted over 30 years to teaching and helping retailers and business professionals build healthy, purposeful and productive spaces that move hearts, minds and merchandise. [email protected]
Mia Katrin of Jewel Couture LLC is a jewelry designer whose award-winning collections are featured in more than 100 stores nationally. Katrin has a doctorate in aesthetics from the University of Chicago and is a former philosophy professor. She has traveled around the world collecting precious gems and has studied metalsmithing from master goldsmiths. She’s also a columnist for Southern Jewelry News. [email protected]
David Lampert, president of Lester Lampert in Chicago, is a fourth-generation jeweler and a graduate gemologist who joined the company in 1986. Lester Lampert is the 2017 America’s Coolest Store winner in the Big Cool division. [email protected]
Jill Maurer is an award-winning designer specializing in fine jewelry and accessories. She is inspired by prehistoric art and she designs for anyone who feels a connection with one of her pieces, male or female. Her work can be found in jewelry stores and online at jillmaurer.com and maurerlimited.com
Tiffany Stevens is president and CEO of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma and NYU School of Law, she has held leadership positions at nonprofits and foundations dedicated to public health, the environment, education and the arts. She is currently an active board member of several not-for-profit organizations and resides in Brooklyn, NY. [email protected]
Scott Truitt is principal and CEO of TRUITT | Brand Design. For over 24 years, he has been designing corporate identities and branded environments. His clients have ranged from large, national and international companies such as Nike and Cartier to sports teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, to smaller regional companies including Aries Apparel, Runway Seven, and Iris Body Piercing, which won an America’s Coolest Stores award in 2017 for its Chicago location. [email protected]