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Building the Store: Amber’s Designs, Part 1: An Unexpected Expansion Begins … on a Budget

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Building the Store: Amber’s Designs Part 1 – An Unexpected Expansion
Begins … on a Budget

BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND

Published in the February 2012 issue

PART 1 of 4

When Amber Gustafson, owner of Amber’s
Designs in Katy, TX, mentioned on Facebook in July that
she had decided to double her square footage by knocking
down walls and renting the empty space next door to her,
we were interested. When she mentioned she’d be doing
it on a budget of just $15,000 to $20,000, we thought
INSTORE’s readers would be interested, too. Here’s the
first installment of how Gustafson achieved her expansion
dream on a budget.

THE SPACE NEXT DOOR

Gustafson’s expansion project
has been more impulsive than
planned, at least in the beginning.
The store is in the first floor
of a bank building, with floor-toceiling
windows. Off the beaten
path — the entrance is actually
inside the bank — it’s definitely a
destination store.

With a prosperous business and
eight employees, Gustafson had
felt for a while that her store was
ready to burst at the seams.

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Everything in her store was
forced to do double duty; her giftwrapping
space, for example, was
also her employee lunch counter.
She approached her landlord
after the space next to her had
been vacant for a year and a half.
“I told him, I add value to your
building.”

Then, she negotiated. “I won’t
give you that much more, I’ll
give you this much more,” she
recounted. “Within 30 minutes
he comes back and tosses me all
the keys. Then I thought, uh-oh,
what did I get myself into? I
shocked myself. I started this not
even knowing how much money
I would need. I went to the bank
after the work started. I want
around $15,000, but it might be
more like $20,000.”

She planned to be her own
contractor and her husband would
do the electrical design.

THE WISH LIST

Some things Gustafson said
she wanted to achieve with the
expansion.

1. Replace mini-blinds.

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2. Add a private room to show
diamonds while serving cocktails.

3. Install new cases with a dark
finish.

4. Change the entrance to the store
to make it easier for her customers
to find. In the original store,
customers would have to enter
through the bank.

5. Make room for a milling
machine, lathe and faceting
machine.

6. Make room for merchandise.

7. Create a seating area for
customers.

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8. Install windows into the shop.

FIRST STEPS

A month after she had the keys,
the walls came down and she
began expanding from 1,200
square feet to 2,100 square feet.
Most of the addition will be
used for shop and office space. It
added $1,000 to her rent but she’s
confident she’ll do more business
as a result, especially if she’s able
to “snazzy it up a little more,” as
she puts it.

“If it looks more professional,
I’ll be able to sell even more,” she
says.

The first step was closing
the store and giving everyone a
week off. The next two weeks,
construction would continue with
everyone back at work, including a
newly hired bench jeweler.

“Everybody has too much work.
Hiring a jeweler will free me up
from the bench and allow me to
really run my business. I still have
my own bench space so I can sit
down and do work when I want to
and when I need to. I always want
to be able to sit with my torch and
work with my hands.”

She also bought a 4-axis milling
machine to carve waxes.

“So I say I need more room for
my toys and my boys,” she says.

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