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Building the Store, Part 12: Grogan Jewelers: It’s a Wrap

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Building the Store, Part 12: Grogan Jewelers: It’s a Wrap

BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND

TIMELINE
July 2012: Closed on the property.
August 2012: Old building on property demolished.
September 2012: Design plans fine-tuned with architect.
October 2012: Met with subcontractors. Ground broken. Electrical outlets planned.
November 2012: Concrete poured. Case bid awarded. Moving sale launched.
December:2012 Steel frame finished. Case laminates chosen.
January 2013: Lease signed for yogurt shop next door. Merchandising plan in place.
February 2013: Electrical work finished.
March 2013: Sheetrock up. Glass installed. In-case displays ordered. Staff hired and trained.
April 2013: Flashing installed in windows to fix a leak. Landscaping plan tweaked. Flooring and cases installed.
May 2013: Finished exterior stonework, finished painting, paved parking lot. Packed up old location. Stocked the bar. Opened to the public.
June 2013: Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting and VIP party.

In less than a year, Grogan’s Jewelers goes from builds a dream store.

Luckily for Jay Klos, owner of Grogan’s Jewelers, lightning did not strike twice. On June 5, “crazy lightning” and 5 inches of rain had forced 50 people who attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony to take shelter inside the new store.

But just one day later, Klos welcomed his VIP clients, his family and his friends to his store for a grand opening party on a pleasant evening, without any drama, at least of the weather variety.

On the other hand, it was a dramatic event in general for a store opening in Florence, AL. About 150 invited guests walked the red carpet, posed for photos and sipped champagne. They watched as aerial acrobats hung from the ceiling Cirque du Soleil-style, a singer dolled up Marilyn Monroe-style sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and a chauffeur shuttled out-of-town guests to and fro in a 1965 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Guests also admired new jewelry lines that Klos had debuted — Kir, I. Reiss, Kirk Kara, MaeVona and Mark Schneider, among them — and stepped outside to a tent on the patio to enjoy the evening’s balmy breeze.

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Klos said he could’ve fit another hundred guests in the 3,200 square foot sales floor space, which is quite a step up from the tiny downtown quarters he left in May, where even 100 people would have been an impossible squeeze.

Both the ribbon cutting and the party were each dramatic in their own way, befitting Grogan’s new location, which is all about the drama — from its 24-foot ceilings to its window wall and massive stone fireplace.

The day after the soiree, Klos reflected on the choices that led to the construction and opening of the destination store.

About three years ago, he had gotten stuck in a career rut; he felt so mired in the daily routine of running a business and wearing so many hats, that he couldn’t see the big picture. Klos, current president of Continental Buying Group, began seeking advice from peers about what he needed to do to grow his business; those conversations led to the realization that he should build a new store. “I knew I had not been giving it everything I could,” he says.

Cherri Pitts, Jay Grogan & staff member

It wasn’t an easy decision, though, to leave downtown Florence, where the store had been prominent for nearly a century. Unlike other town centers, downtown Florence is a vibrant place, with historical landmarks, popular restaurants and a monthly First Friday street fair that features artists and musicians and draws a huge crowd.

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But downtown Grogan’s wasn’t a destination in itself. And, despite previous expansions, it had outgrown its space. It also lacked natural light and had a sloping, uneven floor, having previously been spliced to an adjacent building. Although Klos sold Pandora in his Huntsville store, there was no room for it in Florence, let alone space to add the new bridal and fashion lines he craved.

“In this business, you have to keep changing, in every way, just to keep up,” he says.
So he looked to the growing area around Florence’s mall, where a new regional grocery store promised even more growth. He decided to build an 8,000-square-foot structure, 5,500 of it for his business, and to rent out two other spaces in the building to tenants, which, so far, include a yogurt shop. The rent would help pay for the $2 million project.

He began visiting stores around the country for inspiration whenever he traveled.
“I like the mountains,” Klos says, “so I thought about the chic, but rustic, look of Aspen, with glass and stone and wood and a metal awning. I want people to say, ‘Wow, that’s a different building, a cool looking place.'”

Once he had formed some ideas, he connected with architect and interior designer R. Cheri Pitts, owner of Studio C Architecture & Interiors, based in Birmingham, AL, who helped him to realize his vision and fill in the details.

Pitts does a mix of residential and commercial design, and in fact, had worked with Klos on his home, as well. One of her goals with Grogan’s was to set it apart from the big-box retailers surrounding it, by making it look less commercial than its neighbors, from its front wall of grid-paned windows to its artful landscaping.
Klos has said Pitts’ aesthetic sense complements his, while her outside-the-box imagination allows him to explore new ideas, too.

Pitts based her drawings on Klos’ descriptions of the experiences he wanted people to have in his store, and she also watched him interact with customers. “We started by creating a vibe that’s relaxed and not intimidating, but still beautiful.”

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When Klos told Pitts he wanted a Colorado look, she knew he wasn’t talking about a log cabin or a slope-roofed ski lodge motif. “He wanted something that was chic, while using natural materials,” she says. “So we used limestone, wood slabs, a rain screen and metal awnings. We captured a relaxed chicness that you associate with a vacation in Colorado.”

Unique is a word that’s thrown around a lot, of course, but for Florence, AL, with its quaint and historical downtown and traditional architecture, the word does apply. The new Grogan’s pushes the design envelope.

The exterior is sleek, simple and unassuming, dressed up with a rain screen — a slatted wood wall that floats in front of the structural wall — and Eldorado stone accents.

Upon entry, the vertical scale of the open, two-story space comes as something of a surprise. A focal point is the huge stone fireplace in the sitting area, yet the sitting area itself is scaled perfectly to be compact and functional, not overwhelming.
On the second floor, the conference room fireplace is flanked with floor to ceiling windows that offer a bird’s eye view of the sales floor below.

Klos broke with tradition when it came to details, as well, choosing to have cases designed 7 inches taller than the standard, so clients won’t have to bend down and squint at the jewelry, a decision he says that is not based solely on the fact that he is tall himself — 6-foot-4, to be precise.

He wanted the cases to be clean-lined, functional and attractive, without having them be the focus of the store or busting the budget, as had happened in previous incarnations of Grogan’s. “I didn’t want people to come in and say, ‘Those are beautiful cases,'” he says. “There are so many elements already going on in the store design. I didn’t want to lose focus from the jewelry.”

As for the in-case displays, Klos and his design team worked with Alex Velvet to incorporate rich, complementary earth tones into the main cases, and a rainbow of brighter colors in the sunken engagement ring center, to complement the tumbled marble counter and cases.

The engagement ring area is framed by lush, floor-to-ceiling royal blue curtains, an elegant splash of color that adds an exciting contrast to the otherwise largely neutral-toned space. Most of the cases in the engagement room are completely open, stocked largely with prototypes made of silver and cubic zirconia, so that it’s easy for shoppers to try on one ring after another.

The store seems a perfect reflection of Klos himself, who looks more comfortable here than he was in the old place, Pitts says. The design has given him more room, both figuratively and literally. “It’s got the vibe that Jay was going for; it fits him to a T,” she says.

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