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Building the Store: Amber’s Designs, Part 4: A Frugal Redo Wraps Up

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Building the Store: Amber’s Designs Part 4 – A Frugal Redo Wraps Up

Amber Gustafson was pleased with the expansion of her store, — begun in July 2011 — which had doubled her square footage and allowed her to hire a fourth jeweler for her full-service jewelry store in Katy, TX. But by October, she knew she had to begin figuring out how to locate and pay for cases to complete her new look in time for Christmas. She wanted to replace her outdated white cases and install sleek new cases with a dark laminate finish.

BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND

Published in the May 2012 issue

PART 4 of 4

When Amber Gustafson drives around old Katy, TX — the original downtown of what is now a burgeoning Houston suburb — she points out buildings that might make good jewelry stores in the future and weighs their pros and cons. She has just expanded her existing store in the first floor of an office building, but she’s always thinking about where her business might head next. “I’m always thinking of the future,” she says. “You can’t close your mind. If you do, you might as well close your doors.” Gustafson launched the third expansion of her current location in July 2011 with the frugality that’s been a hallmark of her business since it opened 10 years ago. A Feburary open house marked the completion of her expansion from 1,200 to 2,100 square feet on a budget that began at about $20,000 and wound up at about $35,000. The expanded budget allowed her everything on her wish list: new blinds, a diamond room, refurbished cases, an entrance through the parking lot rather than the lobby, a window into her larger shop and a customer seating area.

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AN UPTICK IN BUSINESS

Gustafson advertises in a handful of local magazines. She doesn’t advertise on the radio, but she does advertise in the laminated menu of Snappy’s, a local breakfast and lunch spot where everyone in Katy eats. The menu is produced once a year. “A lot of people find me on the Internet,” she says.

Although Katy is close to Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., it’s really a small town in its own right, and everyone knows Gustafson. She donates to the police fish fry and the fire department gala, and her community involvement comes back tenfold.

“If they make the effort to walk in my door, I’ll donate to them,” she says. She’s a member of the Katy Business Association, Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, the Women Jewelers Association, IJO, Jewelers of America and the Texas Jewelers Association, as well as founder of the Houston-area jewelers monthly breakfast.

So word of mouth went a long way to attract attention to Gustafson’s expansion. The expansion was also covered in a local magazine and foot traffic had increased exponentially almost immediately — even before the open house.

OPEN HOUSE

But since the February event, her business has gone “through the roof,” she says. “I am amazed. I was so surprised at the turnout. People were parking in the church parking lot and walking over. The mayor and his wife came, city council members came, as did a state representative and his wife and other dignitaries. I had over 200 customers come though my door that night.”

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She’d been planning to use her new granite counter as a bar, but instead she had to keep two employees at the counter to ring up sales and take in repairs.

“I ran out of hot food just over halfway through. Thank goodness I made cookies and brownies and a customer had sent an edible fruit arrangement. I had just enough wine to keep everyone happy.” She spent about $5,000 for invitations, mailing, food, wine and a few raffle items — an investment well worth the good will it generated for her customers.

“February turned out to be like a Christmas month,” she says.


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