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Cool Store: Gould’s Diamonds & Jewelry

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W hen Frank Gould decided his store needed more space, he didn’t want to move into just any old building. He wanted to move into a very specific old building. And he searched all over the Midwest to find it. After plans fell through to expand next-door, Frank opted to build a store in downtown Anoka, MN. But he wanted to be sure the structure fit in with its surroundings. So he and his wife-to-be, Cynthia, went looking at historic buildings in other towns. Two hours away, in Duluth, they saw an old train depot and knew it was the one. The concern over beautifying his community was typical of Frank, who died in 2009 of cancer. “He wanted the people of Anoka to know he appreciated their support of his livelihood,” Cynthia says. “It’s his legacy.” – JOSH WIMMER

Quick Facts

Gould’s Diamonds & Jewelry

Anoka, MN

WEBSITE: www.gouldsjewelry.com
OWNER: Cynthia Gould
WHOLESALE BUSINESS ESTABLISHED: 1878
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2008
AREA: 10,000 square feet, including a 6,000-square-foot showroom
ARCHITECT: Lampert Architectural
CASES: Display Works of Phoenix, AZ
EMPLOYEES: 7 full-time; 3 part-time
TOP BRANDS: A. Jaffe, ArtCarved, Chamilia, Dilamani, Galatea, Ivan Alan, Simon G., Swarovski, Triton for Men

cool things # 1: respect for history

The fourth of what’s now a five-generation jewelry family, Frank Gould came to Anoka in 1987, bought an existing store and rebranded it under his name. He was coming out of a divorce. “He moved here and stuck everything he had into his business,” Cynthia says. “His business was his baby, and the people of Anoka were his family.” That’s why he hunted for a store design so conscientiously, until he found the Endion Depot in Duluth. “I asked him about it, and he said, ‘I really want to leave something beautiful for Anoka,’” says director of operations Katie Bennett. Besides the vintage depot look, Frank also had small boulders shipped in from Lake Superior to grace the sidewalk, a nod to his family’s store in Two Harbors, MN, where he once worked. And the stained and leaded glass inside — not to mention the giant Tiffany glass light fixture — are reminiscent of jewelry store decor from back when his ancestors entered the industry.

cool reason # 2: give, give, give

“We like to be huge in the community, to contribute in any way we can,” Bennett says. Gould’s has donated more than $5,000 to local charities this year, works closely with Mercy Hospital in nearby Coon Rapids, and regularly offers its parking lot for Anoka high schools to use for car wash benefits. The store also holds  events, always with a fund-raising component. Proceeds from the last party went to the American Cancer Society in honor of Frank. Since Anoka is the  self-proclaimed “Halloween Capital of the World,” the biggest party of the year comes at the end of October. “It’s pretty spectacular,” says Bennett, who confirms that, “yes, even jewelry store employees dress up that day.”

cool reason # 3: a little personality

Frank’s touch is apparent in quirkier ways, too. “He loved the Caribbean — we used to go to Jamaica every year,” Cynthia says. That’s why he had the custom 300-gallon saltwater aquarium installed and stocked with tropical fish. “It’s gorgeous, and really entertaining for the kids who come in,” Bennett says. He was also a music fan, and equally nifty is the player piano in the middle of the showroom. Performers use it during events, but customers are welcome to tickle the ivories,  too. Or it can provide tunes on its own. (“It’s a nice change of pace on a Saturday afternoon,” says Bennett.) For those seeking a slightly less lively diversion, a  sitting area near the store’s fireplace is open to clients as well as passersby. “One gentleman comes in while his wife gets her hair done down the street and reads  a magazine by the fire,” Cynthia says. “I love it — he feels at home here.”

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cool reason # 4: school’s in

Before she took over after Frank’s death, Cynthia Gould was an office supervisor with Anoka County. It was there she learned the benefit of training. “The more your employee knows, the more valuable they are,” she says. To that end, Gould’s has begun to focus on in-store education for staff. All employees, as well as Bennett and Cynthia, are working through the GIA’s Accredited Jewelry Professional program, studying in groups and taking tests weekly. “We also had an employee who was struggling with computers, so we paid for her to take a community class,” Bennett says. In-house training has also gotten staffers up to speed on Facebook.

cool reason # 5: craft services

Walk into Gould’s and you’ll immediately see three big windows into the store’s shop, where three goldsmiths — a father and his sons — handle repairs and custom work, all day long. “I would say we take care of 95 percent of our repairs,” Bennett says, with the exception of watches and pieces under warranty. Cynthia says the craftsmen are a boon: “They’ve been quite helpful, because sometimes you can’t quite make someone understand why a custom piece can’t be done a  certain way.” The goldsmiths happily jump out to get such clients on the right track. Gould’s takes on about a dozen custom jobs a month, Cynthia estimates. A commemorative pendant the store produced for a longtime client who lost her daughter in the World Trade Center attacks remains a point of pride for the store.

Store Interior

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Store Exterior

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Five Questions with Cynthia Gould

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WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES SINCE FRANK DIED?
We’ve done a lot of cross-training, so that I can come and go. We have multiple openers and closers now. That used to be just Frank. And I chose to advertise. Frank didn’t advertise. I think that has helped immensely.

HAS THE ADJUSTMENT BEEN HARD?
There are people coming in that still don’t know he died! You would never have known Frank was sick. He never showed it.

WHY THE FOCUS ON IN-STORE TRAINING?
I want everyone here to know the product they’re selling — they’re not just hired off the street and into sales. It makes them take a little more pride in what they do.

YOU CAME FROM COUNTY GOVERNMENT. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS?
The county doesn’t run the county like a business, and I feel they should. They did things that made absolutely no sense when another way would have been less costly and more productive.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF OWNING A JEWELRY STORE?
The customers coming in and reminiscing about Frank. A gentleman called us yesterday, a customer from Two Harbors in the ’70s, looking for blue diamonds for his 81-year-old mother-in-law. Frank was a very unique man. We used to have a vacation place in Two Harbors — he would give bridal customers

TRUE TALE

“FRANK would give guys ideas of where to propose. He’d tell them never to do it at a restaurant — it might go out of business, and then this part of your history was gone. So pick a park instead. We got engaged at the state fair.” — CYNTHIA GOULD

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Try These

DO GOOD
Give back to the community. “It doesn’t cost you anything to let the local blood-drive bus know they can use your parking lot,” says Katie Bennett. “It’s free marketing that improves your image.”

BEHIND THE BADGE
Appreciate your public. “I have an ongoing off er for government employees,” says Cynthia Gould. “Show your badge and get a discount on any purchase. We do specials for police and fi refi ghters. It’s important you let the community know you’re there for them.”

Playlist

“We just use a Pandora account. Employees plug in what they like — Colbie Caillat, Dave Matthews, anything mellow and professional. We don’t do traditional jewelry store elevator music.” — KATIE BENNETT

This story is from the November 2011 edition of INSTORE

 

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