OWNER: Jim and Dareen Brusilovsky / LOCATION: Montgomeryville, PA / URL: marks-jewelers.com / OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2016 / FOUNDED: 1995 / AREA: 24,500 square-feet / EMPLOYEES: 30 / BUILDOUT COST: Over $2 million / TOP BRANDS: Marks Signature Collection, Forevermark, John Hardy / ONLINE PRESENCE: E-commerce enabled website; 4.9 stars for 435 Google reviews
The longer you spend in the jewelry business, the more you know what you want—and when it came time to build a new Marks Jewelers store, co-owners Jim and Dareen Brusilovsky had a 29-page wish list of exactly what they hoped to do.
They craved lots of space to accommodate their robust in-house design department, along with flexibility galore to change up exhibits, hold staff trainings and events, and showcase merchandise in its best light. And they wanted an “inclusive, not exclusive” environment where anyone would feel comfortable shopping for jewelry or just hanging out.
They got what they’d hoped for in the 15,000-square-foot space they opened in September 2016 in Montgomeryville, PA. It’s definitely a long way from the 100-square-foot mall kiosk where Jim launched his jewelry career in 1995 after graduating from Penn State. (Dareen joined Jim in the business in 2005 in what her husband calls “the single best decision for Marks Jewelers.”)
The Fashion Lounge sets the tone for customers’ experiences, inviting people to linger a while as soon as they enter the store. With a variety of seating options, a full wet bar, and a big screen TV, Brusilovsky calls the lounge “a cozy place for clients to relax while having a service performed,” as well as a meeting and event space.
The showcases are another element setting the store apart. In four previous locations and countless store visits, Brusilovsky was all too familiar with the usual U-shaped store, “whether it’s a wide U or deep U maybe with some islands in the middle,” he says. “We wanted to stand out, more like a museum, with cases at eye level.” The showcases are designed to feel more like an exhibit and less like a showcase, oversized with four-sided glass and the flexibility to do inside-the-showcase imagery.
Did he mention they’re totally mobile? “A lot of industry experts didn’t want to touch the showcase aspect of it because they didn’t have a solution for moving them without destroying the legs,” says Brusilovsky. At first, design partner Ron Gay of YCC didn’t know how to build them either, but over time, he and Brusilovsky figured it out—and the result is that Marks Jewelers was able to have more than two dozen floor changes in the new store’s first 18 months.
The showcases really shine for trunk shows. Too often, when a designer brings in her latest and greatest wares, “a lot of times it’s displayed in an incorrect manner, almost flea-market-esque,” Brusilovsky says. “To add that (extra) linear feet allows us to display the merchandise with respect,” rather than in densely packed vendor trays. The showcases run 250-300 pounds apiece, but they’re wired in such a way that electricity can run to 80 linear feet of showcases.
Brusilovsky also envisioned something he called The Diamond Diner as another key innovation for the new Marks Jewelers location. As Jim explains it in a store video, when he and Dareen go to a favorite local bar or restaurant, they always ask for a booth. The Diamond Diner concept affords couples a comfortable, intimate way of choosing a ring at the same time it creates a more effective selling environment.
“We felt that the diamond engagement ring buying process was broken,” says Brusilovsky. “On a busy Saturday, we were running out of diamonds to show even though we had like 600 diamonds” since every time a diamond was shown, it had to go into a check-in box for the gemologist to check before it could be shown again.
The Diamond Diner places the gemological laboratory and the diamond safe on a “stage” that is three steps taller than the booths, “so the diamond manager can always keep tabs on what’s happening in the booths,” says Brusilovsky. “The manager can gauge that the sale is being conducted well and can assist in the sale as needed. The result of the Diamond Diner is we have fewer diamonds we are stocking and having a higher closing ratio because people aren’t being interrupted and because they feel comfortable.”
Another hallmark of Marks Jewelers is JewlVision, the shop’s lab that allows clients to watch designers at work crafting their custom jewelry, everything from computer-aided design to creating a prototype via a 3D printer.
“We call that ‘edutainment,’ kind of like Walt Disney called it edutainment in 1948,” says Brusilovsky. “We’re not that little store that makes a sketch on the back of a napkin and we make you a ring and that’s the end of it. We engage the customer and include them in the process. We find that they come back, and they refer much more frequently.”
The ingredients in the Marks Jewelers recipe aren’t exactly off the shelf, so in the end, it’s the people who make it all work. “All of the ideas that were new and different like the Diamond Diner and the full wet bar and the movable showcases were really executed well,” says Brusilovsky. One thing he didn’t anticipate was “the increase in staff necessary to maintain a store like this” and the need to balance adequate floor coverage with capable customer service by knowledgeable pros.
Brusilovsky is finding that, in many cases, it’s best to hire bright, warm, and friendly people—”you can’t teach people how to smile”—and teach them the product knowledge that’s necessary to succeed in the jewelry industry. “It feels as if we’re doing a much better job of grooming our hires,” he adds, than working with industry vets “who are seasoned with the wrong seasoning.” Sweet, sharp, non-college-grad millennials who can dedicate 12 to 18 months to learning the ropes are ideal staff, he adds. “As long as they’re nice and as long as they can smile and treat the customer the way they’d want to be treated, we teach you the rest.”
PHOTO GALLERY (18 IMAGES)
Five Cool Things About Marks Jewelers
1. PARKING PRIVILEGES: “Our key holders and vendors are encouraged to park in an indoor parking garage, which can be entered from the rear for their security,” says Brusilovsky.
2. EXTRA SPARKLE: Along with top brands including Forevermark and Hearts on Fire, the store offers its own Marks89 diamond with a proprietary faceting arrangement designed to outshine 57-faceted gems.
3. BUILDING TRUST: When Diamond Diner salespeople leave to get more gems for a couple to view, “we leave the diamonds in front of them. We give the customer the trust they deserve while we’re away,” says Brusilovsky. (Of course, everything is under camera, so there’s no reason not to trust the customer.)
4. TAG, WE’RE IT: Marks Jewelers has a robust social media presence with plenty of variety, from event promotions to photos of custom-designed rings, all tagged with the store’s motto, #lovegrowshere.
5. SIGNATURE DRINKS:Each of the store’s many special events has a signature drink. For example, a trunk show featuring Le Vian’s denim collection had a martini made from blueberry juice and vodka, while “Scotches and Watches” was a theme for a men’s accessories showcase the week before Father’s Day.
Jill Maurer: I just love that the cases are moveable and that they often reconfigure the store for a special event or just to change things up!
LARRY JOHNSON: This store takes the role of product support and lifestyle graphics to an all-new level!
David Lampert: Love the booths and thought the video explaining the business was terrific.
Laura Davis: So unique! The store theme is fantastic … really sets itself apart from the crowd. Operationally, just wow. Love the use of materials and lighting and the theme is so cool. Love their events, love their digital presence, love their experience-based approach, love their out-of-the-box aesthetic.
TRY THIS: HOST A CHARITY EVENT
As a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bucks County, Brusilovsky wanted the charity to do well—and he also liked the idea of having 250 of the area’s most generous people see his new store. So he offered Marks Jewelers’ new location as the site for a gala event that featured local food and wine, an auction with guitars signed by Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, and a champagne tower that included one real Forevermark gem amid a sea of CZs. The event raised $90,000—and lots of awareness and goodwill for Marks Jewelers.