Easy as 1-2-3

Always Be Changing is a philosophy that encourages innovation. 

  STORY BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND

ABC is an acronym the McCoys live by. Always Be Changing. All Be Comfortable. Always Be Closing.

McCoy Jeweler
Dubuque, IA

URL: mccoyjeweler.com .com
OWNER: Jonathan McCoy
FOUNDED: 1973
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 1973
RENOVATED: 2018
AREA: 1001 total; sales floor, 203 square feet
EMPLOYEES: 4
BUILDOUT COST: $58,500
TOP BRANDS: McCoy Jeweler Custom, Noam Carver, Naledi, Stuller, Artistry

So in 2004, when the McCoys decided their business focus resembled a shotgun and not a laser beam, they decided it was time to change. They transformed the business into a custom-only bridal shop, implemented design software Matrix and CounterSketch and watched their business boom.

Custom bridal proved dependable enough to weather the coming economic storm of the Great Recession. As business grew, they added designer brands including Noam Carver and Naledi. Today, nearly 80 percent of sales are bridal; the rest are fashion diamond and sterling silver jewelry.

“It resulted in fantastic growth, and we’re continuing to see that,” says owner Jonathan McCoy, who took over leadership of the business with his wife, Jennifer, from his father, Robert, in 2013.

They continue to change with the times and nearly three years ago began selling laboratory-grown diamonds. Now 84 percent of center diamonds they sell are laboratory-created. “It’s dominating the business,” McCoy says. “But we’re not invested in either. We present both natural and laboratory grown  as wonderful options. We discuss the rarity of mined diamonds and the lack of history of lab. The whole presentation is about offering up options and showing the stones next to each other.”

Technology helped facilitate the evolution of the business. “It allows us to do a level of intricacy and to be able to create some lines and duplicate some things quickly,” he says. As photo-realism improves, it makes it far easier for clients to say “I get it” when they’re shown a rendering of a ring. They accommodate clients who want all levels of custom, from tweaking a design to starting with a blank sheet of paper.

Although they offer e-commerce, usually there’s a brick-and-mortar connection before an online purchase is considered. 

“At this point, we have just been keeping ourselves as busy as possible with people walking in the door,” McCoy says. “We’ve been happy with our draw in the area and we’ve pulled in people from 250 miles away to have that in-store experience, to see the casting process. We try to hit that experience out of the park.”

The store is across the street from a large hotel. And although that proximity brings people in for watch batteries more often than for custom design, there are people who have wandered in, enjoyed the experience and come back to work on a custom piece.

ABC also stands for “Always Be Closing.” “Because without a sale, we have no business,” McCoy says. “We have learned that educating and advising is always better than selling. Customers appreciate being helped, not sold. If you follow this, the customer will close for you.”

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ABC also stands for “All Be Comfortable,” too. “Our unwavering stance is everyone is welcome and treated with respect. Period. There is no surprise reaction when a young woman comes in to buy a ring for her girlfriend. There is no judgment when a farmer comes in with dirty jeans to buy a ring for his future wife.”

They’re also up to date on green issues, from solar power and recycled gold to an emphasis on heirloom gems. The McCoys cast from vendors who supply them with 100 percent recycled gold. They also recycle street buys into casting grain. “That’s made a difference not just in our image, but in our bottom line.”

The green aspect of the business is popular with shoppers, but the heirloom business they do is just as strong a selling proposition.

“Moving something forward from one generation to the next has created a ring with more than just style, but with history to it. This is not just a millennial thing; we have been doing this for decades for our clients in all age groups. From those in their 20s with restyled engagement rings to their 60s restyling their wedding sets. All have loved not just the new jewelry, but the story they get to share.”

Although the sales floor of McCoy Jewelers is a cozy 203 square feet, the Main Street building it occupies is known among family as the McCoy Tower, because when Robert launched the business in 1973, he bought the whole building. Now Robert lives on the third floor and Jonathan and Jennifer live on the second floor. Although Robert sold the business to Jonathan in 2013, he still works a couple days a week, assisting with designs and repairs. Jonathan is the head of bench operations, custom design, CAD/CAM and repairs and Jennifer oversees operations and sales.

When Robert opened McCoy Jewelers on Main Street, the economy was troubled and downtown had become a dubious area for shopping. Their neighbors were a triple-X theater and an adult bookstore. Today, Historic Old Main Street is home to fine restaurants, boutique shopping, hotels and local breweries.

The place, built in the late 19th century, came with character, including a tin ceiling and a walk-in safe that a former realtor occupant had used to hold original deeds and documents. It also came with a quirky layout. McCoy’s is 16 feet wide and has the layout of a bowling alley, which accommodates a fully functioning shop as well as a sales floor. “We’re a very small footprint,” McCoy says. 

The sales floor is outfitted with two century-old marble-trimmed 10-foot traditional showcases expertly crafted by a local casket company. The recent renovation includes custom pull-out showcases, a magnetic wall display and interactive bridal area. “We kind of do things in waves — a project here, a project there,” McCoy says. “With the scale of our shop, doing an entire tear-out wouldn’t work very well. We’ve retained the look of the original store to pay tribute to the history of Dubuque.”

Although living and working in the same place is convenient, there are some downsides to that arrangement. “It’s hard to play hooky,” Jonathan admits. “My wife and I converse about the shop almost daily. Once you get in that mind-set, it’s difficult to get out of it.”


PHOTO GALLERY (18 IMAGES) 


5 Cool Things About McCoy Jeweler

1. Green business. Their solar array is a long-term investment. “We pull first from our solar array, and then during peak times, we get additional power from the grid. When our production exceeds demand, it is routed back into the grid for others to use,” says Jonathan McCoy.

2. Cutting edge technology. McCoy’s completes the entire custom piece in a shop barely larger than many garages. “We can design, print and cast the same day. We perform all bench work and stone setting right in front of our clients.”

3. Saturday staff lunches. Jonathan makes lunch for the staff on Saturdays, which provides an informal time for casual conversations, strengthens the family vibe and keeps everyone around during peak sales hours. Jonathan and Jennifer often plan vacations around cooking classes in destinations like Italy, Morocco, Portugal and Spain. “Part of that interest is being in Iowa in a small Midwestern town. Interesting food options are a little limited. So we’ve gotten good at cooking. Our shop staff gets to be our guinea pig on some of these things.”

4. Customer models. McCoy’s uses their customer couples as models in advertisements and store decor. “They are the reason we are still in business.” A gallery wall features images showing couples on their big day. It says two things: 1. We sell bridal. 2. We are trusted in our community.

5. Community connection. McCoy serves as chairperson of Dubuque’s Zoning Board of Adjustments. The store also hosts community events like the Diamond Dash, a holiday open house and a men’s panic party, in cooperation with other businesses.

 

TRY THIS: USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO PROMOTE CONNECTED CHARITIES

$45K for 45 Years is a year-long event celebrating 45 years in business and involving more than a dozen non-profit groups. The company is donating $45,000 in custom jewelry. Each month, two non-profit organizations share McCoy’s social media posts linking followers to the voting portal and allowing them to vote for their favorite organization. At the end of the voting period, the organization with the most votes wins that month’s featured jewelry prize. In November, the organizations who did not win their month’s prize will be given a second opportunity to win one of three custom jewelry pieces. Then in December, each winner will battle it out for a grand prize of an additional custom jewelry piece.

 

Here's what the judges said:

Warm, rustic and elegant. — Tiffany Stevens

Very informative website. Exterior and interior are charming. It’s amazing what was achieved in such a narrow space. Clean, unique, attention to detail throughout. Great philanthropic story. And who doesn’t love a golden doodle? — Lyn Falk

I particularly love how they took a bowling alley layout and just owned that layout and did an amazing job. This is definitely a place that I would want to walk into. — Jimmy DeGroot

A shining example of a two-generation family business that modernizes and adapts to the changing community. I love that every piece of jewelry can start and finish in the same place, and the store maintains a polished, unique retail atmosphere. — Sofia Kaman


This article originally appeared in the September 2018 edition of INSTORE.      


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