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Bigham Jewelers

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Bigham Jewelers, Naples, FL

OWNERS: Kathy and Gary Bigham; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: October, 2004; BUSINESS FOUNDED: 1995;
STORE AREA: 28,000 sq. ft; ADDRESS: 12425 Tamiami Trail North #101, Naples, FL 34103; TARGET CUSTOMER: “Wealthy Naples residents”; PHONE: (239) 434-2800; URL: bighamjewelers.com; 2004 REVENUES: “Eight figures”


BEGINNER’S LUCK or crazy like a fox? Doesnʼt really matter. For Kathy and Gary Bigham, life has never tasted so sweet. With just a decade of store ownership under their belts, theyʼve created an industry landmark: their colossal luxury jewelry store, the 28,000 square-foot “Bigham Galleria.” But itʼs not just the enormity of the Galleria that makes it awe-inspiring, itʼs the numerous departments within the store. As customers make their way through the store interior, transitional features give visitors the impression theyʼre going from room to room in someoneʼs house. A two-year construction and interior design project, Bigham Jewelers is an imposing jewelry store with eye-catching exterior features and an opulent sense of traditional elegance. And to think … it used to be a Burger King.

A Look Inside Bigham Jewelers

THE HISTORY
Burgers to Bigham

Okay, so it isnʼt actually the same building that a Burger King once occupied … but it is the same spot. Ironically, Kathy Bigham once worked at a Burger King as a teenager, around the same time that her interests in the gem and jewelry industry first formed. The youthful dream became reality during her college years when Kathy established Gold for You, a small gold and diamond trading company that helped her earn her way through college. Kathy studied gemology at the Gemological Institute of America while attending college, and graduated in 1989. She then began working for a family-owned jewelry chain in Ohio, rising to VP of store operations. In 1995, she left to open Bigham Jewelers in Naples, Florida.

Two years later, after the birth of their first child, her husband Gary quit his job as a sales manager for a Fortune 100 company and began working at the store. Her brother Dan, mother Linda, and Garyʼs sister Bonnie joined the staff, making her store a “reverse-generational” family business.

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Which brings us back to Burger King. It sat on a road that carries traffic to downtown Naples and the areaʼs main beach — traffic that includes a resident population of 300,000 and one million-plus visitors who stay in the Florida city during peak tourist seasons. Coincidentally, Kathyʼs brother Dan frequented this Burger King each morning. On one fateful day in 2003, Dan missed his breakfast. However, he did get the news that his favorite Burger King had sold its last Whopper, and that a prime site on the strip was now up for sale. Kathy pounced on the opportunity and closed the land deal.

The construction crew completed the project in nine months. But while the timing of the land deal was perfect, that of the construction was less so, as Florida experienced one of its worst hurricane seasons in recent history. Despite Mother Nature and some zoning law setbacks, the couple opened the doors to Bighams Jewelers in October 2004. In looking back at the multi-million dollar investment, the couple, their customers and vendors marvel at the store. “People are simply awestruck by the store. Vendors who see hundreds of stores each year, as well as seasoned and savvy jewelry buying customers, tell us they have never been in a jewelry store like this.”

THE CONCEPT
Statement Store

A big store must make a big statement. The Bighams knew that, if they wanted an exceptional destination store, they would have to construct a building that would serve as its own “billboard” for commuters and establish itself as a local landmark. By carrying successful elements from their previous store and integrating these with new ideas, the couple knew what they wanted the interior to look like. But developing an exterior that would make them a local landmark remained difficult.

To realize their visions, the Bighams began interviewing architectural firms. It was Fergis & Selck, an architectural firm, that came up with the idea for the reflective diamond dome and water feature — an exterior design element made with faceted glass and marble that has water running over it to create a visual illusion while doubling as a reflecting water feature.

“We knew right away this was the kind of company we wanted to work with on our store,” Kathy says. “The diamond rotunda and the water feature were the architectʼs ideas. We liked the way the combined features would make us stand out given the diamond rotundaʼs shape and size.”

While Fergis & Selck worked on these main features, architectural firm Damianos, a design group that has created many art galleries throughout the U.S., completed other exterior work.

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THE STORE
Only in Naples

Inquisitive commuters passing in front of the “Bigham Galleria” can see a 40-foot wide diamond dome that is 14-feet tall at its highest point. The dome appears similar to the facet structure of a cut diamond. A flat roof looks like the diamondʼs table while triangle-shaped glass panes mimic the upper facets of a diamond. The glass panes have a metallic appearance by day, and at night the storeʼs exemplary lighting illuminates the dome with an equally impressive view for commuters.

For the interior, the couple wanted to transfer over successful elements from their old store, which included distinct departments along with warm interior color schemes. “We liked the way the colors and gold tones gave the store a homey feel,” Kathy says. “We wanted a welcoming store that is elegant in appearance, making it feel like customers are in their own home.” To achieve this ambience, the Bighams turned to an interior design firm, Wegman.

Step inside the showroom and you are immediately embraced by its comfortable Mediterranean feel, with large stone tile flooring and spacious surroundings. Wood accented tray ceilings further contribute to a spectacular experience in which Bigham customers can view their stunning collections in a unique only-in-Naples setting.

The couple also wanted well-defined departments, but wanted to avoid compartmentalizing the store. The alternative was to have gradient features to ease customers into the store and to serve as transitional elements. “We wanted customers to know theyʼre leaving one area of the store and entering another, but we wanted a soft transition, like they are moving from room to room in a house,” says Kathy. “So we combined several types of flooring, ceiling and wall features, as well as posting signage, to let people know each of the storeʼs departments.”

The interior design elements dovetail nicely as limestone gives way to cherry and then custom mill carpet with a swirl pattern. Primarily Venetian-plaster walls transition to a ceiling with a faux marble look. The storeʼs overall color scheme of warm colors and gold hues bring together these elements to create the traditional elegance the Bighams were after.

An added touch is the private showing area. Set off by four columns and entered through a swinging door of curved wrought iron and glass, the special section is draped for added allure and privacy.

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THE TECHNOLOGY
Plush and Powerful

Traditional elegance resides comfortably next to todayʼs technology in the storeʼs state-of-the-art conference room. Intimate enough to host private viewings yet large enough for business meetings, no expense was spared in making this particular area of the store accommodating in terms of plush features and high-tech accessories.

But the conference room isnʼt reserved for diamond suites and PowerPoint presentations. When husbands want to unwind or detach themselves from the jewelry-buying experience, they can watch sporting events with their beverage of choice on a large plasma screen TV.

Given the two-story storeʼs massive size, a LAN system connects the sales floor to the executive office area. Additionally, a high-tech security system allows any staff member to view the storeʼs many security cameras from any PC in the store.

THE PEOPLE
Millionaires in Flip-Flops

Positioned between the cityʼs downtown area and the beach, as well as luxury housing areas, Bighamʼs staff serves a range of customers each day, be it businessmen in pin stripes or locals (and tourists) in beachwear. The retail adage of never judging a book by its cover could serve as the storeʼs mantra. “We have people coming in here in shorts and rubber flip-flops that commute from the beach to a $15 million home,” Gary says. “This is the way life is here in Naples.”

For the wintering tourists and seasoned citizens who reside in Naples, the Bighams are unique in that theyʼre 30-plus years young, serving mainly retirement-aged customers. Their store and its inventory have a decidedly fresh look for the mix of professionals and residents who shop at Bighamʼs. Thereʼs also a good mix of staff and family, including Kathyʼs brother Dan, the sibling with a penchant for Burger King who helped build his sisterʼs jewelry retail empire.

PHOTO GALLERY (6 IMAGES)

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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