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In the Spotlight

A move from the burbs to the heart of Columbus revitalizes a family business.



Star Jewelers On High, Columbus, OH

OWNERS: Dennis, Elaine and Rachel Howard;; FOUNDED: 1994; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2014; EMPLOYEES: 6; AREA: 1,300 square feet; ONLINE PRESENCE: 5 Stars on Yelp; 4.5 Stars on Google; 1,037 likes on Facebook; Alexa global rank: 16.9 million

Although the suburb of Bexley (pop. 13,000) and the neighborhood known as the Short North are just a few miles apart in Columbus,
OH, they represent different universes of jewelry retail.

As Rachel Howard explains it, when she and her parents, Dennis and Elaine, moved their store those few miles in late 2014 it blossomed from a beloved local business to a busy metropolitan enterprise.


That spot turned out to be in the heart of a thriving arts district in Ohio’s capital city, just blocks from the convention center, and across the street from a newly
opened Meridian Hotel, which attracts performers and celebrities. They meet locals as well as visitors — parents visiting kids at Ohio State University, or people in town for anything from a concert to a quarter-horse show.

“It’s been a leap of faith — to leave our small suburb for the busy city streets is obviously a gamble,” Howard says. “But we are sure of ourselves, our product, and our store’s reputation and confident that we have the talent and capabilities to grow into one of this big city’s top jewelers.”

Although the new store isn’t huge — about 1,300 square feet of sales floor — the old store was really, really tiny. With more than 10 people in the store — including staff — no one could move around much or find what they were looking for. The move doubled their retail space, and although they lost storage space it forced the Howards to streamline back-ofthe- house operations and rethink their approach to merchandising.

“We have always believed in wall cases so there is no barrier between us and our clients, but we’re now using floor cases with built in bars to give customers a spot to perch and hang out,” Howard says.

The new store design represents the family’s collaborative research. They visited stores everywhere they went — jewelry stores as well as boutiques — gathering ideas and incorporating favorite elements in their plans, then brought their ideas to a designer. They also drew from the look of the neighborhood, mirroring the arches of High Street in the wall behind their showcases. They kept the original wood floors and repurposed their cases from a clothing boutique.

“We designed the new store to be inclusive and welcoming,” Howard says. “Part of that design includes the high countertops and workstations, where people love to perch, hang out, and have a drink, and a new custom and bridal counter incorporated into our gallery wall of showcases,” she says.


Bridal was a priority and they wanted space where staff could sit down with customers to work on projects. Attention to bridal has paid off, and they are attracting a younger crowd now. “We see so many people now who never came to Bexley, ever, even though it’s a few miles from here,” Howard says. “There are lots of bars and restaurants here, so from 5 o’clock on, they’re headed to happy hour.” They stay open later on weekends to accommodate crowds, and during the monthly Gallery Hop, they’re often open till 10 p.m.

Opening on Black Friday was a race to the finish line.

“We closed the Saturday before in Bexley and started moving things,” Howard says. “It was the craziest week ever. We spent Thanksgiving Day trying to merchandise the store and never finished till January.”

Rather than bring in a lot of new vendors, they picked up a few lines and deepened their relationship with existing designers. Although they work with valued brands, and host trunk shows that showcase designers, they prefer to brand themselves and don’t emphasize vendor names.

“We work very hard to curate a beautiful and unique selection of jewelry, often one-of-a-kind, for our customers,” she says. “Clients we have a long-standing relationship with have come to rely on our eye for pieces that are a mix of both on-trend and timeless and are both quality and a value.”

They merchandise cases aesthetically, and don’t separate pieces based on designer or price. “We don’t want our customers to feel like there is a case they should avoid,” Howard says. “We love for our clients to try anything on, whether they can afford it or not.”

The business got its start when Dennis’ cousin won an emerald mine in a Bolivian poker game and gave Dennis a bag of rough, uncut emeralds. That gift eventually inspired Dennis to enroll in the GIA
in New York, where he earned his Graduate Gemologist degree. He returned home to Columbus and accepted a job at Lazarus, running the department store’s fine jewelry counter, and marrying Elaine, in 1986. They set up their
first jewelry retail enterprise in a corner of a hair salon in Bexley.

Rachel worked summers in the family store, then spent two years in Manhattan in public relations, before she decided she was more of a Midwesterner and returned to Columbus to work with her family.\ “It’s nice to be able to love the people you work with,” she says. “I may not always like them but I always love them.”

Five Cool Things About Star Jewelers On High

1. THE HOOD. The Short North is as fun as it gets. The first Saturday of every month is Gallery Hop, when businesses stay open late and revelers can hop from shop to shop. Every year, hundreds
of thousands of people flock to the Pride Festival, the biggest in the Midwest. The neighborhood also hosts Highball, called the nation’s “most outlandish costume party” by USA Today. Every Saturday in December, the Short North becomes the Short North Pole with Santa, carolers and sleigh rides.


2. THE SHOP DOG. Daisy the Australian shepherd loves to sit in the window and people watch- and brings customers in to say hi. After the move, however, Daisy gained 10 pounds due to the store’s proximity to a dog bakery, and is now on a strict diet.

3. THE FAMILY HISTORY. In the 1940s, Rachel’s greatgrandfather owned the building in which the store is located. “We kept the original floor, so it’s cool to know he probably walked these same floors 75 years ago, that there is a family spirit here in the building” she says. The building was originally a hotel for conductors and railroad workers, before it became retail and residential space.

4. IMPULSE BUYS. “In our transition from local jeweler to city jeweler, we’ve worked on bringing in more lines at budget-friendly prices,” Howard says. “Our $15 hand-beaded bracelets made by Nepalese women are addictive to both our budget-conscious and highend customers.”

5. WEBSITE WISH LISTS. “At our Ladies Nights events, every other month, women stay way past closing time to browse and hang, which we take as the ultimate compliment,” says Rachel, who encourages them to start wish lists. “Our new website isn’t shopable, but it gives everyone the option to add things to their wish list from home.”


“It’s so important to foster a love and appreciation for jewelry and we strive to be approachable and relatable,” Rachel says. “That might be why one of our favorite floor displays is our interactive ring pedestal. People can try on any ring displayed that they like, which mirrors our  drive to be open and welcoming.”



Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.



Moving Up — Not Out — with Wilkerson

Trish Parks has always wanted to be in the jewelry business and that passion has fueled her success. The original Corinth Jewelers opened in the Mississippi town of the same name in 2007. This year, Parks moved her business from its original strip mall location to a 10,000-square foot standalone store. To make room for fresh, new merchandise, she asked Wilkerson to organize a moving sale. “What I remember most about the sale is the outpouring excitement and appreciation from our customers,” says Parks. Would she recommend Wilkerson to other jewelers? “I would recommend Wilkerson because they came in, did what they were supposed to and made us all comfortable. And we met our goals.”

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