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Cool Store: Jülz By Alan Rodriguez

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Theater of Dreams: A love of the industry motivates Alan Rodriguez to put on a show for his customers

Jülz by Alan Rodriguez

Jülz By Alan Rodriguez


Location:
Canton, OH
URL: www.julzbyalan.com
Owner: Alan W. Rodriguez
Rodriguez’s house of stones founded: 1987
Opened this location: June 2007
Designers: Jack Hawk/Atelier Corp. of Wilson.Hawk
Area: 1,550 square feet
Interior buildout cost: $400,000
Revenues: $1 million projected
Employees: 5
Slogan: When it’s too important to trust anyone else


Alan Rodriguez’s family expected him to become a doctor like his dad. But Rodriguez says his heart just wasn’t in it. Making jewelry his career was a happy accident, one he celebrates every day by presiding over a shopping experience he describes as akin to a theatrical performance.

“Our ultimate goal is to create exceptional experiences that will become lifelong memories,” Rodriguez says. “The one thing I’m proud of is that I’ve never considered it work.  I’ve never looked at it as just a job.” His new store, Jülz, also represents a vote of confidence in the economic rebirth of his hometown of Canton, OH, particularly its once barren downtown.

JUMP-STARTING DOWNTOWN

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Hometown Hero

Alan Rodriguez grew up in Canton, a northeast Ohio city of about 80,000 people. Founded in 1805 as a manufacturing center, it’s best known today as the home of the Professional Football Hall of Fame. Rodriguez has fond childhood memories of riding the city bus downtown.

Shopping downtown in the ’60s was exciting when it was still the undisputed retail hub of the city. In 1976, he began his career working with the leading jeweler in downtown Canton. But a regional mall had siphoned off shoppers and many downtown stores closed or relocated. In 1987, Rodriguez purchased the House of Stones in New Philadelphia, OH, (pop. 17,000) about 30 minutes south of Canton.

This first store, a century-old cornerstone of New Philadelphia’s downtown, was ranked among the best jewelry and watch retailers in America in the 2007 Summer Fashion Issue of Harper’s Bazaar. In June, Rodriguez returned to his hometown, launching Jülz by Alan Rodriguez in a downtown  that’s being reborn. Rodriguez sees the move as a vote of confidence in downtown Canton’s revitalization, and he fully expects Jülz to be a catalyst for further growth. “Right now, all the top restaurants are opening in the downtown area,” he says.

“We are the first of what we hope to be a new wave of retail. We expect the neighborhood will develop a character that might include upscale clothing stores or specialty stores, florists or a coffee shop. It all creates a culture that draws the clientele that will help grow our business.”

THE EMOTIONAL VALUE

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Commitment to the Jewelry Business

Rodriguez always assumed he would  be a doctor. “My whole family has been in medicine,” he says. “I went to college, worked at the hospital, then reached a point in my life where I decided that that career was not for me. My heart was too gentle to deal with the sadness associated with health-care issues.” He considered other professions: Law he deemed too adversarial for his temperament.

“I found that the jewelry business was a profession that celebrated happy events, and that was inspirational and motivational for me.” Rodriguez is a certified gemologist appraiser with the American Gem Society and has been an AGS member since 1976. He is a past president of the Ohio Jewelers Association and since 2001 has been a member of the board of directors of Jewelers of America. But beyond his resume, his passion for jewelry is evident, he says, in the long-term relationships he has built with generations of customers.

“We recognize the symbolism of jewelry, knowing that each piece of jewelry from Jülz will serve as a lifelong reminder of the love and sentiment it expresses both for now and as an heirloom for future generations.”

UNIQUE EXPERIENCE

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Jülz is blessed with an inherent wow factor. It’s bound to exceed customers’ expectations. “The shock value comes from having a store that you would expect to see in a large metro marketplace like Chicago or New York,” Rodriguez says. “In a smaller marketplace, it stands out.”

That double take is just the beginning. Rodriguez’s philosophy is that the jewelry shopping experience should be theatrical and entertaining. Special lighting not only sets the stage to showcase jewelry, but also spotlights the performers (aka staff), to put on their best show. “Our logo is etched into a projector lamp which shines on the brick walls,  much like a stage light,” he says.

The goal is to ensure the audience is totally immersed in the performance. “It gives us the responsibility to put on our best show,” Rodriguez says. “Everything is choreographed so that the customer interacts with several of our staff, whether they are bringing refreshments or wrapping the jewelry. Our goal is that when they walk out of that store they will have participated in a unique retail experience.” Satisfied customers need not applaud. Only return.

A MESSAGE OF CREATIVITY

Welcome to Gotham City

“I had always dreamed that I might be fortunate enough to find an old bank building downtown that still had an authentic old vault in it,” Rodriguez says. The building he did find for Jülz dates from the late 19th century and once was the site of a jewelry store named Hillman’s. A cool coincidence, perhaps, but not a bank. So Rodriguez commissioned Dirk Rozich, a 26-year-old artist from Sebring, OH, to create an 8-by-12-foot mural depicting the vault he had envisioned.

The result? A 1920s-style model with a Batman/Gotham City aesthetic. And enough three-dimensional verve to really pop off the wall. The mural has become the focal point of the store as well as the Jülz brand image. “It’s so realistic that when people see it they think it’s an authentic vintage bank vault,” Rodriguez says. “In addition to its artistic merit, it serves as a psychological symbol of the store, promoting safety and security and the value of its products and services. And it also delivers a message of creativity, which is what we hope we represent in our products.”

WARM & MODERN

The Space

The store is in an urban warehouse-style setting with exposed rafters and ductwork, a historical, but updated façade and exposed brick interior wall. Beyond the warm, vintage vibe, though, lurks an ultramodern attitude with state-of-the-art lighting, energy efficiency and technology.

The custom cabinetry and casework have an Art Deco flair and suggest the high quality jewelry contained within. The in-case LED lighting and above-case mercury-halide lighting have been engineered and balanced to maximize the beauty of the jewelry. “Our shop, which is visible from the sales floor, has a camera connected to the laser welder, showing the jeweler’s intricate craft via three large LCD monitors,” Rodriguez says. These monitors are also programmed to show infomercials, and support video surveillance and a DirectTV satellite system, to keep the customers entertained during sports seasons, Rodriguez says.

The interior brick wall, known as the gallery wall, is 40 feet long and 18 feet high with rough exposed bricks that date to the late 1800s. An art walk takes place downtown the first Friday night of every month and the store stays open late to host a reception for a featured artist. “Our participation serves two purposes,” Rodriguez says. “It exposes our store to a potential new client base as well as giving our existing client base something fresh and new each month to keep them coming back.”

FIVE QUESTIONS

Alan Rodriguez, owner

1What are your most memorable moments in the business? Memorable moments for me are having the children of customers that bought their engagement rings from me when I originally started 30 years ago, coming in and buying their engagement rings at Jülz.

2Where do you find new ideas to develop your business? I love this industry so much that it’s always with me in one shape or another. I love to travel, and whenever I travel, I’m always critiquing everything — restaurants or new experiences — and wondering how I can borrow some of those great ideas. I’m definitely thinking out of the box.

3What factors do you believe are responsible for your success? There’s a natural enthusiasm and passion and commitment. With those ingredients, you can’t help but be successful, with a little bit of business sense. I surround myself with a team that shares the same passion and commitment to their profession that I do to Jülz. Our staff has a passion for fine jewelry and are committed to providing the highest level of service in a genuine, friendly manner.

4How did it feel to open the new store? I feel like I’ve just given birth.

5If you envision jewelry sales as a theatrical production, what is your role? Obviously, the director.

HEARSAY

Said in the store

Wow. Wow.

STORE IMAGES

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This story is from the April 2007 edition of INSTORE

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