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Commentary: The Business

Building Something Cool Means Having No Regrets, Says Stephen Webster

The designer pulled out all the stops to stand out with his Beverly Hills boutique.

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PRIOR TO PENNING this column, I looked back at some of the columns written by previous winners of the INSTORE Small Cool and Big Cool jewelry stores in America. Each is a story of passion, dedication and determination (or blood, sweat and tears) to build and maintain stores that never stop compelling and engaging with their clients and communities.

As we all know, building a successful or indeed a “cool” store, no matter what the size, has never been about doing just one thing well. It may start with great product, but that is only the beginning. As jewelers, we have to build trust, offer not only outstanding service but develop almost telepathic relationships with clients, create unique and welcoming environments, and as if that weren’t enough, a brick-and-mortar store owner also has to be as tech-savvy as a 14 year-old, able to navigate the plethora of digital platforms and social channels, apparently without which no one any longer crosses your threshold.

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Despite all the above, we love it and continue to strive to be the best and the coolest.

My home is not America; I have, though, traveled across the pond on average every month for the past 25 years, growing not only millions of air miles but also my brand through an incredible network of independent and larger groups of retail jewelers across the USA, witnessing firsthand what it takes to stand out as a store.

When it finally became time to open my own boutique, I wasn’t attached to any one community, so I did what most domestic brands do and blindfolded, stuck a pin in a map of North America, at least I think that’s what other brands do, I might be wrong. My pin landed as far away from my home as it’s possible to get, the “City of Angels”: LA, right bang on the set of Pretty Woman, opposite the Beverly Wiltshire hotel on Rodeo Drive.

I believe there were 25-plus jewelers already on that famous drive, and unlike them, this was my first Rodeo. To stand a chance, the Stephen Webster store had to be different. Our jewelry was already different, so we wanted the environment to look as though the product belonged there.

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I’m proud to say that if it was anything, it was different. The etched concrete floor, the crocodile skin (effect) leather covered showcases, graffiti artwork and neons by famous street artists, and up the sweeping staircase on the second floor, the now-legendary NoRegrets lounge, where we showcased everything that makes up the extended world of Webster: chefs, sculptures, conventional and graffiti artists, photographers, a milliner, too many DJs and even a classical trumpet player. The NoRegrets lounge has earned its title.

Just like every neighborhood store, we earned every one of our clients. Due to the nature of local employment, we never knew who was going to walk through the door, and even though our policy is that everyone gets treated the same, I’m sure one can imagine that some of those Hollywood types do demand that extra mile and a half. Living exactly 6,000 miles away, we like to think we give it. It would be fun to know if any other store owners have such a ridiculous commute; I hope not, for their sakes.

Having our flagship store recognized as “cool” by peers from an industry I love and feel very much part of in a country I really should call home has been such an honor. You have no idea how cool it feels for my team in the US and also back in London, where to say we were voted the coolest big jewelry store in America is massive.

Stephen Webster owns his eponymous designer line and two boutiques in London. His Beverly Hills store, voted America’s Coolest Jewelry Store – Big Cool in 2018, recently closed.

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