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Cool Store: Anfesa’s Jewelers

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Blind-sided by the “Great Recession” after they bought land for a destination jewelry store, Anfesa and Al Matthews weren’t certain of much. But they did feel confident that people would always get married.

And they did have faith in their location in Garner, NC — 40,000 cars pass by every day.

Anfesa Matthews had heard the expression, “The wedding begins and ends with the ring.” True enough, she thought. But why not help out in between the engagement and wedding rings? “I’ve always dreamed of having a freestanding store,” she says. “To help justify the cost of the land, we decided we would focus on offering as much as possible to brides.”

So in 2009 their dream destination store became reality — with a twist.

Quick Facts

Anfesa’s Jewelers

Garner, NC

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WEBSITE: www.anfesasjewelers.com
OWNER: Anfesa and Al Matthews
FOUNDED: 1993 
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: September 2009 
AREA: 7,500 square feet including a 4,800-square-foot show floor
ARCHITECT: John Paul Garnet of Weeks Turner
CASES: Artco 
EMPLOYEES: 6 full-time; 4 part-time 
TOP BRANDS: Tacori, Scott Kay, Pandora, Honora, Gregorio, Mireya, Art Carved, Gabriel & Co., Swiss Army, Raymond Weil, Citizen

cool things # 1: buy the ring and say i do, too

Anfesa and Al are the proud owners of a 7,500-squarefoot jewelry store and a 8,000-square-foot Grand Marquise Ballroom that can host events. They alsos sold 2,600 square feet of space to a day spa operator.

“We market our location as a bridal destination,” Anfesa says. “We are able to sell you the ring and bridal gifts, offer your bridal party special pre-wedding treatments in the spa and be the host site for your event in our grand ballroom.”

Although there are other wedding venues in town — primarily in hotels — there aren’t any like this one with its six 7-foot chandeliers, coffered ceilings and hand-painted tapestries. A wrought-iron staircase leads to a mezzanine, which houses private suites for the bride and groom.

Jewelry store and ballroom are connected by a lobby that functions as a receiving area. It’s also a comfort zone. Visitors get a feel for the space before even talking to a staff member.

cool reason # 2: a ballroom state of mind

The ballroom is booked well into 2012 — and jewelry sales are up 27 percent over last year. “We’re not event planners,” Anfesa explains. “We rent our facility to you. We allow the bride to bring in her own staff — photographer, event planner, florist — and we have a list of 14 caterers to choose from. We coordinate with all your vendors and we provide the bar for the event.”

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The venue provides consistent exposure for the jewelry store with 250 to 1,000 people using the ballroom each weekend. There is a social hour between the ceremony and the reception and guests flow into the jewelry store, which is always open during events. “It’s amazing,” Anfesa says. “The wedding helps set the mood. People say it all the time, ‘I had no intention of coming to a wedding today and buying jewelry.’”

Wedding guests and the bridal party often return to buy their rings there, too, which earns them a discount on booking the venue. Anfesa also rents higher-end jewelry for a small percentage of the retail price to brides and wedding parties.

cool reason # 3: functionality with beauty

“They wanted something special without having it be too overwhelming,” architect John Paul Garnet says.

Garnet worked with Anfesa and Henry Ballister of Artco to plan the case layout and store design. Anfesa envisioned stone showcases, and although they proved to be out of her budget, Artco helped her get the look of stone using wood appliqués and moldings on top of laminate.

The curved cases form a figure-eight in the center with everything flowing around them. The 26-foot-high ceilings made lighting a challenge. But Garnet designed a cloud structure, which drops from the ceiling over the central part of the store, allowing for lights to be lower over the main cases. In-case halogen lighting supplements the diamond lights above. The main entrance has hand-carved mahogany doors from Peru framed in cast-stone stucco trim. A second floor houses offices and a kitchen. At the rear is a full-service bar.

cool reason # 4: say it with a billboard

“A college guy needed help with his proposal,” Anfesa says. “We put a picture of the ring he chose on a billboard with the question, ‘Heather, will you marry me?’ He drove by with her and she couldn’t believe it. The next month we answered him with her response, ‘Chris, With a rock like that, of course I will!’ We had people come by to see if this couple existed. The billboard company entered the ads in a national competition and won.”

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cool reason # 5: the inventory can breathe

The lobby and the jewelry store alone hold 300 people, the ballroom accommodates 400, and they had 700 people at their grand opening. “People feel comfortable and are not on top of each other,” Anfesa says. “Before, when we had two people in the store we felt like we were packed and everyone could hear anything that was said.”

While the former store had 12 cases, there are 41 showcases here and 10 times the selection. One major addition has been a Pandora boutique. “We’re able to spread out our inventory and tell a story with it.” Anfesa also likes to set the store apart by offering fashion jewelry with a West Coast flair — something not commonly found in the South.

Store Interior

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Store Exterior

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Five Questions with Anfesa Matthews

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF YOUR BUSINESS IS BRIDAL AND WHAT ARE BRIDES AND GROOMS LOOKING FOR?
About 60 percent. Brides are looking for halo styles in white metal; guys are into alternative metals, including Cobalt Blue by Scott Kay.

YOU SELL GIFTWARE, TOO?
When we moved into the new store, we enlarged our gift department and we have a bridal registry with unique, specialty items. The more brides spend in the jewelry store, the larger the discount in the ballroom.

WHAT SETS YOUR STORE APART?
“It’s not your typical mom/pop store. While shopping for jewelry, you may see a bride or groom walking through the store, a Rolls Royce out front, a helicopter, or a groom arriving on a horse — or an elephant.”

WHAT WAS THE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS LIKE?
“A nightmare. Torture. It was a very hectic time because I was very, very involved in it. We were moved in September ’09, which was very fast. We were here all the time to make sure it was built the way it was supposed to be while I was also trying to run the store and buy merchandise for the new store.

HOW IS YOUR FAMILY INVOLVED IN THE BUSINESS?
Al is a contractor by trade, which was a huge asset in building our new facility. He now holds many titles, from handy man to sales associate. Our daughter, Meredith, serves as the ballroom coordinator and is a GIA diamond specialist. Our son, Mckenzie, is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill. He spends summers, holidays and weekends at the building as well.

 

Fun Fact

Daughter Meredith, the ballroom coordinator as well as a GIA diamond specialist, is equipped to offer the best testimonial of all, since she was married in the ballroom in May.

Try These

“Once someone makes a purchase, we follow up with them and try to personalize it. One lady was coming in to buy jewelry and was going on a cruise for seven weeks and then meeting her whole family in Hawaii. So we sent her a small Christmas tree in Maui.”

Play List

LIGHT ROCK, LOVE SONGS, CHRISTMAS MUSIC
(Depending on the season. The music can be heard from outside, too)

This story is from the September 2011 edition of INSTORE

 

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