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Couple commits to quality, service and honesty in their tight-knit community.

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Amor Fine Jewelry, Brooklyn, New York

OWNERS: Zalman and Simcha Minkowitz; URL:www.amorfinejewelry.com; FOUNDED: 2012; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2018; ARCHITECT: Iris Shemesh; AREA: 720 square foot showroom; 1,200 total; TOP BRANDS: Shy Creation, Gabriel & Co., Nava Dee, Marika; BUILDOUT COST: $180,000


Zalman and Simcha Minkowitz own Amor Fine Jewelry.

Zalman and Simcha Minkowitz own Amor Fine Jewelry.

WHEN NEW YORK shut down what the state deemed to be non-essential businesses in the middle of March 2020, Zalman and Simcha Minkowitz, facing a COVID-19 outbreak in their neighborhood, had already decided to close Amor Fine Jewelry temporarily.

But the timing was terrible, Simcha says — right before Passover, the biggest gift-giving occasion of the year for the Jewish community. “You can do a crazy amount of sales in a week,” she says. “That’s why last year was such a big hit for everyone.”

Creative and determined, the Minkowitzes pivoted their business to Facebook Live sales, video meetings, FaceTime calls and online auctions. “I would try the jewelry on and show people,” Simcha says. Auctions became so popular in the past year, in fact, she’d like to continue them post-pandemic.

Still, that way of doing business was far from ideal, and by mid-May, the closure began to feel unfair to Zalman and Simcha, who saw people shopping for non-essentials at big box stores while hearing stories about the plight of friends, small-business owners, too, who were struggling to feed their families.

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“We put our hearts and souls into the business to provide for our family as best we can,” she says. “When they asked us to shut our doors during our busiest season, we did everything that was asked of us. But it was hard to look around and see Walmart open and wonder why I cannot be trusted to open my door to one client at a time.”

Simcha voiced her concerns and frustrations on a video that went viral, urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow small businesses to re-open. She founded a petition coalition, called Reopen New York, and joined 500 other businesses in a class-action lawsuit against the state. That was followed by a rally in front of the Statue of Liberty, shown on ABC and CBS, as well as two interviews on Fox News.

“We got a lot of good feedback from people trying to feed their families, too,” Simcha says. “Small business owners reached out to us. And I had people from all over America calling to buy from me. We didn’t do it for ourselves, but we really got a lot of support.”

Despite the state’s lingering prohibition, Amor Fine Jewelry, along with other members of the coalition, began to open their doors for appointments.

The year had been particularly frustrating for the couple, since they had opened their dream store not long before the pandemic, in late 2018, after years of contemplating such a move.

Luxe materials in an intriguing interior design set the stage.

Luxe materials in an intriguing interior design set the stage.

How It All Began

As a child, Zalman had watched with interest as his father sold diamonds and jewelry from the family’s dining room table.

At 21, when he returned from his yeshiva studies abroad, he asked his father if he could work in his beautiful new showroom, by now located in the family garage. When his father said he couldn’t afford to pay him a salary, Zalman vowed to create his own by transforming the small family business into a brand built on honesty, quality and outstanding customer service.

After nine years working with his father and elevating the shopping experience, Zalman and Simcha tested the entrepreneurial waters by opening a seasonal shop in upstate New York, open in July and August. As their customer base grew, so did their confidence.

Their next move was leaving the family business to open their full-time store in the Borough Park community of Brooklyn, a center for New York’s Orthodox Jewish community.

They brought a comprehensive wish list to their architect, Iris Shemesh.

“Since we were in the industry for 18 years, we had a lot of things we liked and didn’t like about jewelry stores,” Simcha says. “I don’t like big spaces; people can get lost. If they have to look around, it’s too hectic. We prefer small, curated collections.”

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Overall, the design of the compact space is clean and minimalist with one unadorned white wall and one wall accented with eye-catching wallpaper. Showcases are elegant and streamlined, with a residential look, to create visual space below them. Simple glass boxes sit atop carefully curated jewelry displays.

Their seasonal store in upstate New York has a large front window; Simcha had noticed that when salespeople look out at passersby, window shoppers often become uncomfortable and walk away, instead of lingering to drool over the jewelry.

So in the Brooklyn store, they created window box displays in front that passersby can view without being noticed from within, creating an opportunity for pressure-free browsing. “When we ask them how they found us, a lot of people say they looked at that thing in the window 10 times,” Simcha says.

Recently, a new client bought an emerald ring she had seen repeatedly in the window. “If you see it, then you want it,” Simcha says. “If you see it more than once, maybe you’ll go buy it. We put all the prices on the tags; no one likes having to figure out the price.”

The setup also creates something of a mystery about what’s behind the wall. “The idea was that to the outsider, the interior should appear mysterious and luxurious,” Simcha says.

Quality merchandise combined with a friendly ambience leads to 5-star reviews.

Quality merchandise combined with a friendly ambience leads to 5-star reviews.

Building the Amor Brand

Simcha, who spearheads marketing, spends much of her time building the brand through social media, particularly Instagram and LinkedIn.

Although initially, Simcha confesses, she hated Instagram, she also recognized its potential. Now, after devoting time to it, 70 percent of sales come directly from Instagram.

“We had no idea how to use Instagram before we started,” she says. “We are now on Insta all the time. I can even say Insta without cringing at myself, and we have over 4,000 followers. Clients drive from out of town to meet us, or shop directly from Instagram. Customers stop us like we are famous in local restaurants, or on the street because they saw our Insta stories.”

Lifestyle photos are integral to the medium. So Simcha looks for bloggers, influencers and wedding-related businesses who are preparing for photo shoots that could use jewelry to enhance the ambience, then brings along her own photographer as well as the jewelry. She’s collaborated with bridal gown businesses and caterers, who’ve set up tablescapes. “You get these amazing shoots where half or more than half is already done. Someone was doing a dinner shoot for Passover, and we hopped on board. My next shoot will be in a supermarket with people doing regular, everyday things while wearing jewelry.”

“People like seeing things in real life,” she says.

PHOTO GALLERY (7 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Amor Fine Jewelry

1. Connecting with proven influencers. The couple has had to spend very little on marketing because teaming up wtih bloggers has been cost effective. “Having them wear our items and talking about us has really gotten us a large and loyal following,” Simcha says.

2. Being review-worthy.  Each customer is sent a text with a link to leave a review, and they’ve been happily complied. Five-star Google reviews are effusive. One reviewer describes Zalman and Simcha as “the most knowledgeable, personable and kind jewelers you will ever find.” Other reviewers marvel about breathtaking jewels and extraordinary service. “My husband is very particular about quality,” Simcha explains. “And he has a real talent for curating an amazing collection. Everyone who comes in is treated amazingly. It’s our values ,what we believe in and how we live our lives.”

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3. Expanding horizons. Although most of their clients come from within the neighborhood, when Google reviews draw people from other places, Simcha considers it a big win as well as a learning experience about what kind of jewelry designs a wider audience might like.

4. It’s not a trap. It was important that the security entrance look like a well-designed entryway to a luxurious shopping experience and not a cage. A decorative grid design did the trick. “It was challenging, creating something that was safe for us and did not feel like a prison,” Simcha says. “Iris, our super talented designer, created the perfect man trap. The design is safe for us and inviting for the customer.”

5. An oasis of privacy. The interior design and the window box display in the front wall provide an intimate feel and welcome privacy for clients, who can’t be seen from the street. “Our clients appreciate that they can shop discreetly.

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Jacqueline Cassaway: Nice presence on Instagram. The store is absolutely beautiful.
  • Megan Crabtree: The decor and thought-out process of each section of the showroom was impeccable.
  • Larry Johnson: The use of bold colors in the store creates a great background for the jewelry.
  • Pam Levine: A brand of warmth and modern luxury. A beautiful mix of elegant materials, tones, textures and design sophistication. Attractive, friendly and welcoming communications. Brand voice and imagery are inviting, authentic, understated and respectful.
  • Katherine Cotterill: I like that they have really gone after a digital presence and find the use of LinkedIn very interesting! Their space looks very luxurious yet inviting.

 

Try This: Advisory Board

  • “Our teenagers help us with marketing ideas. We really take their opinions into account; you would be surprised how many cool ideas they have.”

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Wilkerson Testimonials | Sollberger’s

Going Out of Business Is an Emotional Journey. Wilkerson Is There to Make It Easier.

Jaki Cowan, the owner of Sollberger’s in Ridgeland, MS, decided the time was right to close up shop. The experience, she says, was like going into the great unknown. There were so many questions about the way to handle the store’s going-out-of-business sale. Luckily for Cowan, Wilkerson made the transition easier and managed everything, from marketing to markdowns.

“They think of everything that you don’t have the time to think of,” she says of the Wilkerson team that was assigned to manage the sale. And it was a total success, with financial goals met by Christmas with another sale month left to go.

Wilkerson even had a plan to manage things while Covid-19 restrictions were still in place. This included limiting the number of shoppers, masking and taking temperatures upon entrance. “We did everything we could to make the staff and public feel as safe as possible.”

Does she recommend Wilkerson to other retailers thinking of retiring, liquidating or selling excess merchandise? Absolutely. “If you are considering going out of business, it’s obviously an emotional journey. But truly rest assured that you’re in good hands with Wilkerson.”

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