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Best of The Best

Best of the Best: Photo Op



Jewelry store party with Minions and Olaf

Susann’s Custom Jewelers, Corpus Christi, TX

COLTON AND MORGAN BARTEL attended an event at a bookstore last summer with London, their 1-year-old son, that was touted as a “Meet & Greet with Olaf,” the beloved snowman from the hit movie Frozen. They waited an hour only to discover the Olaf in question was a 2-foot-tall cardboard cutout. When they left, the line extended around the store.


A Costume Conjures Up An Event

That night, they went home, immediately ordered up an Olaf costume online and began planning a two-day “Meet Olaf” event at their family jewelry store, Susann’s Custom Jewelers in Corpus Christi, TX, owned by Colton’s parents, Audie and Karla Bartel. Colton bravely agreed to don the costume, ensuring Olaf would be qualified to work in a jewelry store, with his graduate gemologist credentials.

Morgan says the store staff researched trademark restrictions and learned they could do a meet and greet as long as they did not use the name Disney in their promotions, and they did not directly profit by charging for photos with Disney characters, for example. “We do our meet and greets free of charge and typically provide free photos for all who come,” Morgan says.


Kids were “flabbergasted”
to meet a “Minion” in “real life,” says organizer Morgan Bartel.


Drawing A Crowd With A $345 Investment

Obviously, they had proof that Olaf was a celebrity worth waiting for. And the Bartels knew a life-size, living, breathing Olaf would beat out a cardboard cutout any day. Yes, they wanted to draw a crowd, but they wanted that crowd to be excited and entertained — not disappointed.

Advertising through social media and networking with dozens of local groups, the family welcomed more than 250 people to the in-store event, most of whom had never visited the store before.

They spent $245 on the costume itself and $100 for extra decorations. They also used their arsenal of Christmas decor and made all the fliers, posters and invitations in the store.

“Honestly, we lucked out that we have a massive stock of decor and craft supplies,” Morgan says.

Because it was a two-day event, all 250 people did not arrive at the same time, so the Bartels were able to maintain their preferred level of customer service without being overwhelmed by an onslaught of Olaf fans. “It was a big deal to us to make each individual family feel special,” Morgan says. “We wanted it to be a magical experience for the kids.”

In addition to the costumed Olaf, they had five employees working during the event. The staff did everything possible to enhance the experience.


“We did have some scared and shy kiddos so we used a crown we dubbed the bravery crown and those kids became confident and ended up loving it,” Morgan says.

“One little girl dressed up like Olaf and another brought in two stuffed Olafs to include in her picture. Some people even drove all the way from Houston to come meet their favorite snowman, since their kids were obsessed with the movie.

“One girl saw Olaf and ran and jumped into his arms. Another girl licked him thinking he was real snow. Our favorite was a little 1-year-old boy who kept blinking and squinting trying to make sense of seeing a 6-foot snowman.”

Even the adults had a blast, Morgan says. “One lady came in with her “ugly” Christmas sweater to take her Christmas card photo. We even had a biker group come in, take pics, then invite Olaf outside to take pictures by their bikes so they could show their friends.

“The Selfie Station we had with props was also a blast. The kids couldn’t get enough of trying on funky sunglasses, tiaras and crowns; neither could the parents.”

Staff hung 180 balloons for the store’s second family event, which involved meeting a Minion, a character from Despicable Me.


Happy Kids Lead To New Customers

The store garnered huge publicity and exposure at a total investment of $345. And encouraging families to come to a jewelry store broke down threshold resistance and banished any notion of stuffiness.
“It means a lot that so many families cultivated such sweet memories in our store,” Morgan says. “Some of those people were converted to new customers while there and we are just thrilled. Happy kids make for happy parents!”
“Our sales were crazy in comparison with how they had been during this slow summer season. All in all this was one of our most successful events hands down! Now that the event has come to a close we are going to be taking Olaf to Driscoll Children’s Hospital to visit cancer patients.”
The next character meet and greet event, held around Halloween time, involved a Minion (Colton, again) from “Despicable Me,” and was even more successful, sales wise.
“The fact that we are doing this with genuine passion and adoration for our community is becoming more transparent to the community and it is so great that they are able to see us for who we really are — a Ma and Pa shop that would do anything to make our customers happy,” Morgan adds.



  • Consider how a family friendly event could bring in a new demographic of potential customers.
  • Encourage people to have fun in your store.
  • Plan ways to expose your business to a large crowd without a big investment.
  • No matter what event you host, include a “selfie station.”



Wilkerson Testimonials

To Generate Funds for a Jeweler’s Move and Remodel, Wilkerson More Than Delivered

Even successful jewelers need a little extra cash to fund expansion plans—especially when there’s inventory on hand that’s ripe for liquidation. For Beaumont, Texas-based jeweler Michael Price, co-owner of Mathews Jewelers, it was the perfect time to call Wilkerson. Price talked to other jewelers as well as vendors for advice during the selection process and decided to go with Wilkerson. And he wasn’t disappointed. When it comes to paying for the move and expansion, Price says the road ahead is clear. “When we close on the next two stores, there’s no worries about finances.”

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Best of The Best

This Jeweler Set Up Shop In Grand Central Station

Her travel-themed jewelry is a hit with tourists and locals alike.



FAR-FLUNG ADVENTURES and an affinity for whimsy inspired Nicole Parker King’s creation of a line of jewelry with a travel theme.

She’s visited more than 50 countries, and like many a peripatetic traveler, is always searching for a treasure to remind her of a favorite destination.

“I was looking for something small, chic, collectible and wearable that would remind me of my most special memories on my travels,” she says. “You can sometimes find charms in different locations, but there was nothing that covered all of the places I’d been, so I had to create it.”


She launched her wanderlust-inspired Jet Set Candy jewelry collection in 2014 featuring luggage-tag charms and charms depicting airplanes, mermaids, seashells, in silver, gold-plated and 14K gold. The jewelry was sold on her own website and in boutiques and gift shops across the U.S. The packaging is bright and plush. The whole collection is presented in a passport-style book with photos and pricing.

“We really did pretty awesomely from the get-go,” she says. But something was missing.

“I don’t think it’s possible to build a true brand just living online, digital only,” she says. “People need to experience the physicality of a space for a brand to exist and for people to care about it. We’ve done a lot of pop-ups in the past but hated the transient nature of only having the pop-ups.”

In July, she opened a 316-square-foot store in New York’s Grand Central Terminal, and for the first time was able to fine-tune visual merchandising to reflect the brand’s playfulness.

There’s a lot going on in the small space, including perfect Instagram opportunities: A 6-foot-tall hot pink Statue of Liberty, and a closet transformed into a travel shrine with a floor-to-ceiling, travel-inspired collage.

There’s a mint-green ceiling, travel quotes on the walls and a custom-designed backlit cash wrap highlighting a map of the world. The store also features an engraving machine on site for personalization. Consumers shop by continental regions, creating a unique flow to the experience. The overall theme of “The World” is juxtaposed with “New York City.”


A central island is dedicated to all things New York as well as rings with travel-themed slogans and necklaces spelling out “wanderlust.”

“People have seemed delighted to stumble upon it, and long-time customers are excited we have a permanent home for the brand,” King says. “I think there is always going to be a place, especially for jewelry, to see the product up close and try it on. No place is better than Grand Central for our audience, which is a good mix of tourists and New Yorkers.”

Nicole Parker King

King, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, studied graphic design and has career experience in branding. She lived with her husband, a diplomat, in India, where she learned about jewelry from artisans. Her jewelry designs are heavy with graphics and she does all the technical drawings.

Although Jet Set Candy is her first foray into jewelry, she’s loved it all of her life. “I had my own charm bracelet when I was a kid, a sterling bracelet from James Avery.

“My favorite type of jewelry is whimsical quirky pieces that tell stories and have the smile factor.”

The long-term plan is to open additional stores in airports. But short-term, she’d like to try pop-ups to test target destinations including Los Angeles, London and Las Vegas.

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Best of The Best

Tacos, Tequila and Tattoos: Gold Casters’ Contest Draws a Diverse Crowd in Bloomington, IN

Unusual event infuses King Baby jewelry line launch with excitement.



Flyers combined with a radio and social-media marketing campaign created interest.

FINE JEWELRY STORES often face the challenge of balancing elegance with approachability. Tequila, tacos and tattoos go a long way toward melting the ice, discovered Brad Lawrence of Gold Casters Fine Jewelry in Bloomington, IN.

Lawrence, who specializes in bridal jewelry and high-end watches, found a fun way to break down those threshold barriers on a Saturday with, of all things, a social-media-friendly tattoo contest to introduce the jewelry line King Baby.

Lawrence considered it the perfect complement for King Baby, which he describes as having an edgy biker look. In addition, he surmised that people who like to adorn their body with works of art would also find a deep personal connection with jewelry.

“We are what would be called a guild jeweler, and we are always trying to look for ideas that are more on the casual side,” Lawrence says. “Most of our events in the past have been black-tie or at least more traditional.” Yet Bloomington, IN, is a college town where students make up a significant percentage of the 100,000 population.

He called the event Tacos, Tequila and Tattoos.

Once he had conceived the idea, Lawrence worked with his affiliated marketing experts on getting the word out. The store placed flyers with a Harley Davidson dealer and biker bars, along with a bevy of print and social media marketing created by Porte Marketing. The event was also promoted with a radio campaign orchestrated by Roy Williams.

On the day of the event, margarita-sipping shoppers lined up for the taco bar, purchased pieces from the jewelry collection and were invited to share the story of their tattoos with the store staff, who judged the contest. Each participant received a $25 gift certificate. The contest winner received a $250 gift certificate.

Those who shared their tattoo stories defied any stereotypical expectations. “It was a much more diverse crowd than I would have expected,” Lawrence says. “We had people in their 60s and 70s with tattoos. Some people had full sleeves.

Several people had investments of $10,000 or more in tattoos.

“The event was very inclusive of our community and yet brought in a different demographic for us. It was a way of gaining new customers and having people feel more comfortable. Without question, 90 percent of the people we saw that day were new faces.”

After the event, the marketing team invited others among the tattoo-clad Bloomington population to share photos and stories of their tattoos on Gold Casters’ social media, continuing to give participants $25 gift certificates and also selecting an online winner by Facebook vote, who was awarded another $250 gift certificate.

The stories behind the tattoos turned out to be fascinating, Lawrence says, and in all about 100 people shared their stories in store or online with photos or videos.

King Baby is known as a men’s line, primarily, which the store needs, but it also has the magical versatility of being unisex. “We turned our entire investment in the line,” he says. “We sold all of the highest-end pieces we had in stock.”

The event attracted media coverage on social channels, on the radio and in the newspaper. “It was very well received by the community. People are still talking about it today.”



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Santa Fe’s Reflective Jewelry Aligns with Owners’ Ethics

Fairtrade Gold designation puts the focus on miners.



Marc Choyt and Helen Chantler work to ensure their business aligns with their environmental and ethical beliefs.

MARC CHOYT AND HIS wife, Helen Chantler, of Santa Fe, NM, have been focused on green initiatives for decades, in all aspects of life.

“We bought land in northern New Mexico in the ‘90s, and there was a creek bed there that was badly eroded from over-grazing to the point that there were cliffs instead of gentle banks,” Choyt says. “We began to realize the impact we have locally and globally. That is a core value for us.”

Their business, Reflective Jewelry, a custom and designer jewelry studio, has been named Green Business of the Year by the city of Santa Fe and Santa Fe’s Chamber of Commerce. “This is a great honor, especially given the industry we’re in and the fact that Santa Fe is a green business city,” Choyt says.

Reflective Jewelry is the only Fairtrade Gold jeweler in the United States, a certification they received in 2015.

“Though there are over 250 Fairtrade Gold jewelers in the UK, we are still the only Fairtrade Gold jewelers in the entire USA,” says Choyt. “We produce our entire two-tone line and much of our bridal collection in Fairtrade Gold. This supports local economies, alleviates poverty and reduces global mercury contamination for small-scale gold producers. Because it’s an international brand and is the only system that audits suppliers and jewelers, it is the best option to create a foundation for responsible jewelry.”

Fairtrade Gold was only one reason, though, that the city of Santa Fe recognized Reflective Jewelry. The shop uses LED lighting, washable cloth towels, biodegradable bags for shipping, organic dish soap and non-toxic floor cleaners. Jewelers use citric acid for pickling, fluoride-free flux, a soap-based solution for tumbling, sink traps for catching heavy metals, and vacuums that capture dust and compounds—all of which are recycled. Their landscape garden, once a concrete foundation, now has mature apricot and cherry trees and native plants fed by water channeled off their roof.

Chantler, an experienced bench jeweler, launched her jewelry design business in 1994, while Choyt led the sales effort, initially concentrating on distributing jewelry to 250 stores and catalogs.

By 2001, they refocused on online sales and their own retail store. Today, six people work in the shop and the store.

Along the way, they began using recycled metals in production, which was a logical place to start, Choyt explains, but doesn’t address the big picture. “Basically, gold is going to be mined, and that’s independent of how much is used by jewelers. If we’re going to really make an impact, we have to support small-scale mining communities.”

When Choyt explains to customers that the Fairtrade Gold designation is the same well-known global brand used for Fairtrade coffee and chocolate, they are “astonished that I’m the only one operating this way, out of a small shop in Santa Fe,” he says.

So while Choyt can point to numerous 5-star Google reviews and show clients the studio where the jewelry is made, he can also ensure ethical, fair-trade sourcing from mine to market, adding another level of authority and credibility.

“Certainly one of the most important elements of any jeweler is reputation. Fairtrade Gold is just another thing that makes people feel really good about buying from us,” he says.

When the U.S. consumer market adopts Fairtrade Gold, he says, hundreds of thousands (or possibly millions) of small-scale miners finally will find their lives improved.

“When this happens, we’ll be able to point to our small studio on Baca Street as one of the catalysts.”

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