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Cool Store: LL Pavorsky Jewels and Gifts

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Lee Pavorsky Fought the cookie-cutter approach and won a warm stake in Philly

Lee Pavorsky’s personal touch is evident in all aspects of his business, from the fact he designed his store’s interior to the time he spends with clients, ensuring they get the custom-made piece they had imagined. In 2005, he gutted the interior of the 18th century, federal-style townhouse to which he relocated in 1993, ensuring he made the most efficient use of his 650-square-foot showroom space and achieving the warm but sophisticated gallery-like store he had always wanted.

LL Pavorsky Jewels and Gifts

Store Details

Philadelphia, PA

OWNERS: Lee Pavorsky
URL: www.llpavorsky.com
FOUND: 1988
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 1993
RENOVATION: 2005
EMPLOYEES: 3

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cool reason # 1: Rethinking the Store

He was looking for a way to use his space more effectively than the traditional jewelry-case layout allowed. “I wanted an island in the center of the store,” Pavorsky says. “I wanted people to be able to walk around and completely experience the environment.” But the architects and designers he contacted weren’t on board with his concepts and seemed determined to steer him toward something more “cookie-cutter.” So he took on the project himself, designing everything, including the 14-inch cases. “It was a little nerve-racking, but I knew what I wanted,” he says. “The only moment of angst I really had was knowing that if there were a problem, I couldn’t point my finger at anyone but me. When they delivered the cases, I looked at them and thought they were never going to fit. I panicked a little bit but after they laid everything out — it was perfect.” Architectural details and a marble fireplace add warmth while floating glass shelves on steel cables give the space a gallery vibe. “I was looking for something sophisticated, but still warm and inviting,” he says.

cool reason # 2: Bedside Manner

As a youth, Pavorsky had volunteered in retirement homes and emergency rooms before becoming a pre-med major in college. He says he was drawn to medicine, not only because it was a family tradition, but also because he enjoyed personal interaction with patients. But a year he spent in Italy on Temple University’s Rome campus took his life in a whole new direction. Under the influence of art history classes, and seeing the artwork of masters everywhere he looked, he was inspired to find his own creative outlet. That turned out to be jewelry. He applied to Temple’s Tyler School of Art to learn the aesthetics and attended GIA for the practical side of the trade. In 1988, with the help of his parents, he opened his first store. His bedside manner is still an asset as his finely honed listening skills are channeled into working with young couples eager to express themselves in unique, custom-designed rings.

cool reason # 3: Adding Giftware

The merchandise mix adds to the inviting nature of the store. “When we moved to this location we expanded to carry unusual giftware, art ware, ceramics and handmade items,” he says. “We wanted to set ourselves apart as a little different, and we also wanted to reduce threshold resistance. When you have art glass in the window, people feel comfortable coming in. Not every occasion is a jewelry occasion and we have other things to offer to our customers.”

cool reason # 4: A Custom Experience

The custom design process can be broken into two camps, Pavorsky explains. “We’ll have couples interested in unique engagement rings, we’ll show them different styles and they will bring me pictures of what they like or they will go through certain aspects of my inventory that can be combined, and then we do drawings, wax models and then the finished project.” The other aspect of custom design is redesign. It’s like having jigsaw-puzzle pieces without a picture of the finished puzzle. “Everybody always has something they bought years ago that they don’t enjoy anymore or that was inherited or given to them,” Pavorsky says. “What I love to do is transform old pieces into another item or multiple items that they will wear. It makes you feel like Houdini when you take these old pieces apart and put them back together in a new way. They are always amazed.”

cool reason # 5: No-pressure Approach

Pavorsky puts no pressure on his sales staff to make the sale or even turn the sale over. Instead, he stresses relationship building. “The last thing we talk about is price range. We don’t say, ‘What do you want to spend?’ Once I find out what style appeals to them, that style can be tailored to any budget that is comfortable to them. We invest the time to find out what they want as opposed to what they can spend. That has been key in making people feel very comfortable.

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Five Questions with Lee Pavorsky

LL Pavorsky Jewels and Gifts has been voted “Best Place to Buy Jewelry in Philadelphia” by Philadelphia City Paper five times since 2000. What sets you apart?
It is a completely personalized experience. It’s not a chain store — we don’t have people who read tags and sell you items that are mass-produced. It’s about finding out their likes and dislikes and transforming them into a piece of jewelry they like and will wear for many years. I welcome people into my store like I would welcome them into my home and I think that means a lot.

How do you promote the store?
I maintain a list of around 1,500 people to whom we send e-mail newsletters and promotions. Every year we have a catered, customer-appreciation party at the store before Christmas.

How do you go the extra mile for clients?
Every employee is imbued with the objective of helping a customer any way we can. We don’t solicit repairs or battery changes but for a customer, we will do anything and everything. I’m happy to repair and maintain their jewelry.

What has been the highlight of your experience in the jewelry business?
I would say the relationships that I have made with young couples. I’ve been married for 19 years, and I enjoy the interactions I have with couples getting engaged, getting married, having families. I always have conversations with guys about engagement ideas, conversations with couples about the craziness of planning the wedding. I share my experiences with them.

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Your website is both easy to use and distinctive. What are your goals for your online presence?
I make it very personal. I want to tell you about me, and give you a feel for what it’s all about here. At that point you e-mail or call or stop in. That’s how the relationship starts. It’s not an e-commerce site. It’s a very personalized approach to a very impersonal medium. My customers know if they e-mail me, it goes right to my phone and I can e-mail them back.

Try This

Save your thank-yous

PAVORSKY posts his thank-you notes online. They look especially authentic, since they are scanned in their original, handwritten form. But the ones on the website are just a sampling. The thank-you collection also serves as a motivational tool: “I keep a whole drawer filled with them. If I am ever having a bad day, I open the drawer, pull one out and think, “Yeah, I did a good job.”

Try This

A day at the spa — for your jewelry

“IN NOVEMBER, we do something called The Jewelry Spa. We offer our customers free cleanings, tune-ups, and breathing new life into their jewelry. We’ll do repairs or restring pearls,” Pavorsky says. “It’s a way of thanking them by keeping everything sparkling and beautiful. When times do change and things get a little better, that’s going to be remembered.”

This story is from the June 2010 edition of INSTORE

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OVER THE COUNTER: EPISODE 4

Jewelry Store Owner Rewards Her Staff With the Ultimate Adventure

The owner of a new Colorado jewelry store gave her sales team a steep challenge. In this one-minute excerpt of the latest "Over the Counter", hear how the goal was set ... and learn what she did when they reached their goal. Catch the full podcast here.

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America's Coolest Stores

These Retailers Know What (Manhattan) Women Want

Couple creates inviting niche for Manhattan’s bridal elite.

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Marisa Perry, New York

OWNERS: Marisa Perry and Douglas Elliott; FOUNDED: 2002; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2015; ARCHITECT: Julie Hardridge/Architexture; EMPLOYEES: 5 full-time and 2 part-time; AREA: 1,000 square feet, TOP BRANDS: Douglas Elliott, Christian Bauer, Benchmark, Zenove, Marisa Perry


 

MARISA PERRY knew it was past time to move her store into larger quarters when she realized that the staff member in charge of manufacturing (the most organized man she’d ever met) had a desk so small that diamonds were sliding off its surface and becoming ensnared in electrical cords.

Transitioning from 500 square feet in Soho to 1,000 square feet in the West Village may not seem like that big a deal, but doubling the space of a ground-floor atelier is a leap of faith when Manhattan-size rents are involved.

The wish list was: spacious, functional, secure and compatible with the distinctive look and feel of the brand.

“We carried over the design elements of the store,” Perry says. “The chandeliers were a signature look in my old store, three chandeliers running down the center.” So, of course, the chandeliers made the trip to the West Village location on Hudson Street, which turned out to be perfect.

“It’s the bomb. It’s mind-blowing,” Perry says. “When I moved here, Hudson had a lot of closed stores. It’s turned out to be a spectacular location, which I did not know in advance of renting it. A lot of my customers find me by being in the neighborhood.”
The look and feel of the place also needed to appeal to a client of 25 to 35, the demographic at the heart of the business, which is shared by Perry and her husband, jewelry designer Douglas Elliott.

When the couple met in 2001, Perry fell in love with Elliott and his jewelry designs at the same time, she says. Elliott was then designing a fashion-driven, semi-precious jewelry collection, Elliott, which was sold at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, among other stores. Concurrently, he maintained a custom jewelry design business for private clients, for whom he created elaborate diamond pieces. Enchanted, Marisa saw an opportunity to create a new venture to bring Elliott’s diamond jewelry designs to the forefront.

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Prior to establishing her fine jewelry company, Marisa had a successful career in gourmet food marketing, working with top chefs and artisanal food producers. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she moved to New York City to work in the fashion world after graduating from L.A.’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

Together, they launched Marisa Perry Atelier in 2002. At the new location, Marisa Perry Atelier showcases Elliott’s artistry along with a curated selection of pieces by other designers. They specialize in diamond jewelry, with a particular focus on wedding jewelry, including engagement rings, wedding bands, and other custom-crafted pieces.

While the previous store had the look of a Parisian boutique, Perry wanted this one to combine classic and antique elements — French moldings, custom-made showcases and luxurious furnishings — with contemporary lighting elements and edgy art. Pops of color from fresh flowers add drama to the soothingly neutral room with its light and airy ambience and diaphanous white draperies.
A long, custom-made community table is the centerpiece of the store’s selling area.

“No matter what I have in my showcase, people want to design their own rings,” Perry says. “They want it round instead of emerald cut, 2-carat instead of 3-carat. We get a selection of diamonds in and they pick it. We make sure they get the best stone for their money.”

Salespeople can be as comfortable as clients when they’re collaborating around the table, where Elliott works on the pieces from drawing to execution, choosing every diamond, no matter its size, himself. Elliott and his team made 725 pieces of jewelry by hand last year.

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“Customers deserve the best no matter what they spend,” Elliott says. “But our average sale is around $30,000. This is not a refrigerator or a car. You can’t make a mistake with an engagement ring, and you’ve got to make sure these people are treated with love. If the diamond isn’t beautiful, we don’t sell it. Everything is bespoke and made in New York.”

The experience of shopping at Marisa Perry Atelier is elegant, of course, and serious, but also relaxed and inviting. Max 2.0, the couple’s chocolate Lab, is the company’s greeter.

“Every sale is a party,” Perry says. “We hand them a glass of champagne. On weekends, men don’t have to wear a suit, so they’ll come in with their dog, carrying a coffee cup and wearing gym clothes and buy a $50,000 diamond. It’s very relaxed, easy to just pop in. It should be really fun and not a science project like a lot of men make it out to be.”

Elliott says most of the New York brides-to-be he works with want the most delicate diamond rings possible with very thin bands.
While Perry runs the business and marketing side, Elliott runs design and production.

“He has his department and I have mine,” Perry says. “ If I want a piece of jewelry made I can tell him, but whether he makes it or not is his choice. I’m not allowed to interfere. He wants full creative control. Our marriage would not survive my butting in.”
On the other hand, Perry has complete control over branding, marketing, decor, and how the company is run.

“We’re very compatible and we’re both strong people,” Perry says. “He’s really bossy. I can be very bossy. By some miracle we get along well. We understand each other. We will ruffle some feathers, but it just kind of works. We do respect each other’s boundaries … sort of.”

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5 Cool Things About Marisa Perry Atelier

Behind the magic curtain. To accommodate celebrities and others seeking privacy, concealed pocket doors can be closed to make the back half of the store completely private. There’s also a side entrance behind a blue drape.

Trial period. Perry credits divine intervention for finally being able to have the level of talented staff she’s always wanted. But because of some difficulty hiring in the past, she began asking job candidates to work for three months before either party made a commitment.

Sales strategy. “We do a lot of training, and Douglas and I are involved in every sale. We talk strategy before every appointment. If they’re walking in my store — unless they’re here to shop for a gift — they’re going to buy an engagement ring. It’s just a question of whether they buy it from us or not. There’s lots of competition from the Internet and 47th Street, but people are willing to pay more for our settings, because they are better.”

If the shoe fits. They created a Christian Louboutin sales incentive program. “When any employee hits a certain profit margin on any given sale, we take them to the Christian Louboutin men’s or women’s boutique for a pair of shoes of their choice,” Perry says. “We love that brand and we wear that designer shoe most all the time.”

Only precious metals. “I was selling tungsten carbide because I love it, but I’d have to tell a guy I didn’t recommend it because if something happens, you can’t cut this ring off your finger,” Perry says. “It’s dangerous. The ER can cut silver and gold right off you, but not tungsten carbide. I’m like the mother hen for my customers. I want them to have something they can leave to their son or grandson.” Elliott strongly agrees that men’s bands should be made only in gold and platinum. “If you want to wear wood on your finger for the rest of your life, that’s your business, but you won’t find it here,” he says.

 

Try This: Be Specific About Responsibilities

The buck stops there. Each team member has specific jobs for which they are ultimately responsible. “It’s great for me as an employer because if something doesn’t happen, I know who to go to,” Perry says. “The buck stops there.” Not having assigned responsibilities for every staff member is the most critical mistake business owners can make, Perry says.

And Try This Too …

Express yourself. “We have started to put extra emphasis on encouraging our employees’ individuality by having them dress in their own unique style and sell in their own unique way,” Perry says. “We think it is better for them to be different from one another and create a balanced set of skills and talents over all, then all be the same, and all offer the same things. Employees are happiest when they can be themselves and are encouraged to develop their own self in a safe and happy environment.”

 

What Our America’s Coolest Judges Said

  • Sofia Kaman: Everything about this store is so cohesive, and represents high-quality craftsmanship. From the online experience to the marketing materials, to that adorable dog, I’d want to shop here!
  • Lyn Falk: Great story and fun interior with interesting pops of design elements (chandeliers, black and white wall mural).
  • Tiffany Stevens: Inviting and organized; very attractive.
  • Mia Katrin: The husband and wife collaboration is a nice touch. A compelling story for a bridal boutique!
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    America's Coolest Stores

    Louisiana Jewelry Store Is Inspired by Residential Design and Museum Interiors

    The Fakier family creates a museum-quality retreat customers would be happy to call home.

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    AT THE HEART of Fakier Jewelers in Houma is an international love story.

    When Louisiana-native Greg Fakier met his wife, Montreal-born Manon Phaneuf, in Switzerland at a school for young jewelry-store owners, it quickly became clear that they belonged together.

    Naturally, there were some obstacles to overcome. Manon spoke French and Greg spoke English, with very few words in common. But love won out over language. “To make it work, he has to be your soul mate,” says Manon — now, of course, fluent in English, with an intriguing inflection that is part French-Canadian, part Louisiana. “Her teacher told her that she would never learn English,” her husband says. “He was wrong! The accent is the best part of her English.” 

    Manon had planned to take over her father’s jewelry store one day, but once she met and then married Greg, she found herself worlds away from Montreal. Greg says Manon brought great taste to his family jewelry business when she joined the operation in 1983. In addition, she brought knowledge of an ahead-of-its-time inventory control system her dad had developed, which helped the Fakier business grow and thrive.

    Greg’s grandfather, George Fakier (pronounced Fa-Kay) had founded the business in 1928, selling jewelry first from a briefcase and then a very small storefront alongside a clothing store. In 1967, George moved the business into a renovated 4,300 square-foot former movie theater. George died in 1977 and Buzzy, his son, died just 18 months later in 1979.

    Greg was just 17 when he and his younger brother, Glenn, were faced with the decision of whether or not to succeed their father, Buzzy,  in the business. Somehow, it felt natural to commit to that, even as a teenager. “There was some infatuation with the jewelry business, just being brought up in it,” Greg says. “I don’t think we had anything else on the horizon that we had locked into. So we said, ‘Why not?’”

    While the boys learned the business, their mother, Lois, and two aunts orchestrated the transition and held it all together, even after a devastating robbery. “Mom was the glue,” Greg says. “And she still comes in every day.”

    Sadly, Glenn died suddenly in 2004. Greg, Manon and Lois continued to work in the renovated theater, all the while envisioning what they’d like a future store to look like. “We tried to make this more of a home, a museum and a jewelry store mixed into one,” Greg says.

    It’s hard to imagine a museum — or a jewelry store for that matter — that feels comfortable enough to move into, but that is precisely the feeling that the new Fakier Jewelers evokes. Airy, light-filled rooms with high ceilings, soothing neutrals predominated by white, and sophisticated furniture inviting enough to sink into all conspire to give the illusion of a high-end home. “I wanted you to be able to come in and sit down, have a cup of coffee and feel like you are home,” Manon says. “I wanted comfortable, but elegant. Now clients say, ‘I would move here to live.’”

    After years working in a space that had its drawbacks — one of which was that Manon, who worked behind the scenes in an isolated cubbyhole of an office, couldn’t even see the sales floor or the customers — they decided it was time for their dream store, which took about two years to build. They grabbed the location in the heart of downtown Houma overlooking a bayou when it became available six years ago. 

    In their previous store, showcases created barriers between customers and staff. “We decided that in this store, we were going to be 95 percent shoulder to shoulder — and the customers love it. It’s an enjoyable experience to be on the same side of the counter with your customers looking at jewelry together rather than upside down,” Greg says. He also wanted some chairs on wheels, so that if a customer stopped to chat anywhere in the store, he could roll a couple of chairs over and offer them a seat.

    They agreed it should be white and bright with color provided by accent touches and the jewelry itself. And they wanted it to fit in with its surroundings and to reflect the charm of Louisiana, while at the same time being different enough to create a local sensation. It was a tall order.

    Manon compiled design ideas from photos she had seen and places she had visited, particularly New Orleans, Montreal and Paris, and then worked with The French Mix interior design firm of Covington, LA, to pull it together. “We wanted to bring a little bit of that French culture in the store,” she says. “I would take one picture of something I liked — like long windows in Paris — and another part I liked from something else.” The French Mix team understood her idea of blending antiques with comfortable seating for everyday function. “It’s a clean look and the focus is on the jewelry,” she says. 

    Emily Robin, design assistant for Jennifer Dicerbo of the French Mix, says while Manon loves antiques, she also wanted the space to be modern. “It has a classic French elegance with a crisp modern twist,” Robin says. Starting with a white foundation is an interior designer’s dream, she says, because it allows for endless options. “You can always layer on top of that with curtains and dark furniture,” she says. “Museums are primarily white because you want to focus on the art. Here, the art is the jewelry itself.”

    It’s clean and pristine without being sterile; textures and draperies warm it up, dress it up and enhance its elegance. Plentiful natural light makes it inviting, too. A mix of warm and cool light makes diamonds sparkle like crazy, Greg adds.

    Robin says the Fakiers didn’t want to cut corners in any way that would water down the experience; they wanted to “wow” the city of Houma, in which they are very well known. The furniture is a blend of antiques and pieces made especially for the space, including custom showcases. Most of the art was custom made by Greg’s sister-in-law, Cynthia Colis.

    The chic, comfortable vibe even extends to areas shoppers won’t typically see, such as the sleek employee lounge, a luxurious departure from the typical break room.

    “I’ve never worked with people who care so much about their employees,” Robin says. 

    She cites the example of both the break room with the full kitchen and comfortable seating, as well as the restroom, reserved for the staff and outfitted with a console, beautiful mirrors and an ottoman.

    The new store attracts three to five new customers every day, who are nearly always inspired to exclaim, “Wow!”

    “It gives us the opportunity to be the new hot thing,” Greg says.


    PHOTO GALLERY (17 IMAGES)

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    5 Cool Things About Fakier Jewelers

    1. CELLPHONE AUDIO TOUR: “My wife and I like museums, and when you go to a museum you can rent the audio tour, so I thought, why not in a jewelry store?” Greg Fakier says. The app is accessed from the store’s website and customers use their own phones, listening to descriptions associated with each display. It’s also a novel way to acknowledge the importance of mobile window shopping. “As far as the consumer coming in to learn about the diamond, nothing has changed except how they buy it. If you don’t embrace the Internet you’ll be left behind. The consumer now comes in with their phones in their hands, usually with something they saw on our website.”

    2.WATERFRONT PROPERTY: The newly engaged are invited to attach engraved locks to a gate that encircles a pergola in back of the store and hurl the keys into the bayou. The idea was inspired by the tradition in Italy and France of attaching locks to bridges as a symbol of love. Customers who bought rings from Fakier in the past are invited to participate, too. Engagements are celebrated with Champagne toasts and sealed with locks in the romantic, waterfront spot.

    3. JUST FRIENDS: Fakier says the business shies away from having a rehearsed sales approach. “We are here to help guide the customer in the direction to find what they want. These customers are not targets. We do not have a method. There are no approaches. We don’t believe in it. We don’t like it. We treat our customers as friends, which they are.”

    4. SIGNATURE DIAMOND: Fakier has designed and patented a diamond called Momenti di Luce, which means “the moment of light,” offered in round, emerald, cushion and princess, as well as oval and pear on request.

    5. FOURTH GENERATION: In 2011, the store welcomed Adam Courtney, a fourth-generation member of the family, who is the son of Greg’s sister, Susan. Adam is a bench jeweler and apprentice engraver.

    Try This: Create a Text Club

    • Customers can sign on for a text club to remind them to come in and get their rings cleaned and checked. Every Friday is “free cleaning Friday,” celebrated with Champagne. Sometimes the event includes giveaways or prizes. The texts aren’t used for other forms of marketing, and the cleaning reminders are well-received.
     
    JUDGES’ COMMENTS

    Jill Maurer: Fakier Jewelers is a beautiful store that feels like visiting someone’s home.

    Geoffrey Brown: On key with trends while still being authentic and personable online. Love how they incorporate their clients into their social media, making them feel a part of the brand.

    Laura Davis: Fakier is setting the bar. Their story is amazing, their store is sublime and they so get customer experience. The unique experience signatures are perfect. The events are perfect. The site is wonderful. I know exactly who they are and they do, too. Wonderful.

    Katherine Bodoh: I like the bright, open and modern feel of the store’s interior. It is very inviting and fresh. The exterior has a lot of large windows, which creates openness and natural light.

    David Lampert: I like that they have their own diamond cut.

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    America's Coolest Stores

    Crafting a Surprising Customer Experience Comes Naturally to Stephen Webster

    Beverly Hills boutique combines art, events and a lounge to showcase designer’s theatrical flair for jewelry.

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    Stephen Webster opened his Beverly Hills store so that he could have control, at least in one location, of the customer experience.

    Stephen Webster Beverly Hills Boutique, BEVERLY HILLS, CA

    OWNER: Stephen Webster;   LOCATION: Beverly Hills, CA;   URL: stephenwebster.com/us;   OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2010;   FOUNDED: 1989;   LAST RENOVATED: 2018;   AREA: 3,500 square feet;   EMPLOYEES: 2 in the store; 48 overall;   INTERIOR DESIGNER: Kevin Micallef;   ONLINE PRESENCE: E-commerce enabled; 4.6 stars on Facebook


     

    IMAGINE WALKING into a jewelry store to find a guy lying on a couch with a Louboutin stiletto embedded lethally in his chest. Or so it seems.

    For British jewelry designer Stephen Webster, staging a murder mystery in a Rodeo Drive boutique is a perfectly reasonable expression of experiential retail. Created to highlight a jewelry line he called “Murder She Wrote,” Webster took the show on a world tour, producing it 15 times in far-flung locations, including Russia.

    That collection centered on mythological, real and fictitious women murderers. “I had that storyline and that could have been enough, but I wanted to really engage our clients. So I created the idea of this guy, a womanizer found dead, and surrounding him are all the women in his life — his chef, his trainer — they are all characters in this thing.” And no, Webster didn’t play the dead guy; he was the narrator.

    Soon his clients were vying for parts in the production, and he sent them kits equipped with props to get into character. The collection itself included a smoking-gun pendant, a poison-apple ring, a barbed-wire necklace and dagger earrings.

    The idea arose from the tradition of English murder mysteries like those written by Agatha Christie. “Everything I do comes from being English, or being me, or if I can bring in an element of something that makes people smile,” he says.

    Above all, Webster knows the power of storytelling.

    “Everybody talks about experiential retail these days,” he says. “I think we’ve always offered that. They know they are coming to something fun, a bit of a party, a bit of a surprise. I’m not necessarily saying, ‘Just come by and look at my jewelry collection!’”

    His U.S. flagship store is an experience in itself, from its circular layout and leather display cases in the round, to its neon signs and the No Regrets lounge on the second floor.

     

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    Welcome to Stephen Webster’s Club

    Webster opened his boutique in Beverly Hills to control the retail experience in at least one location where his jewelry is sold.[/caption] “I was thinking that I wish I could express a bit more of our personality, because I’m so connected to this jewelry that it is an extension of my personality,” he says.

    The Mediterranean-style building is round with a stone facade, a commanding location and killer views, at the pinnacle of Rodeo 2, a grand pedestrian open-air mall that resembles an Italian piazza, complete with cobblestone paving and a cafe patio along the street. Neighbors include Tiffany and Rolex.

    The interior has theatrical flair, even on an ordinary day. New collections are displayed in a round leather showcase arrangement at the center of the first floor. An island of carpeting circling the showcase offers definition in a sea of poured concrete floors etched with jewelry motifs.

    Upstairs, there’s an art gallery, lounge and event area with a bar and banquet tables, where Webster and friends can easily accommodate dozens of guests for catered dinners.

    “We made a bar, we made a lounge, it felt a bit like coming to a club,” he says. “And you can come up here and see the things that I enjoy. I’ve done many, many shows with artists, photographers, musicians, fashion designers. The first floor is always Stephen Webster. The second floor is what Stephen Webster likes.”

    When he moved in, he reached an agreement with his landlord to tear out the walls and low ceilings of the second floor — previously used as office space — to make it the wide-open loft he envisioned. Now, open to the rafters, it takes full advantage of the panoramic views of Wilshire Avenue and Rodeo Drive.

    This year, the store got a facelift after Webster began to think the decor and finishes looked a bit tired and not as modern as they once did. Removed was a massive sculpture in the center of the showroom that had lost its allure. Carpet was replaced and the ceiling repainted. New showcases were designed to complement window alcoves. New furniture replaced the old.

    Besides freshening up, they also created a cozy lounge space on the first floor, where shoppers can settle in with a drink to make the experience more comfortable.

    “I think the store is absolutely 100 percent a reflection of what we are as a brand,” Webster says. “I feel like it crosses over and reflects the product we make.” For one thing, it’s a neutral design, neither feminine nor masculine, which is significant in itself when it comes to the Stephen Webster brand. “I learned my trade making jewelry mainly for women, but I always loved men’s jewelry. I launched our first men’s collection 20 years ago, and straight away, you saw that women were starting to buy the men’s. Our clients think that way, they’re not in a box particularly.”

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    Webster Attracts the Like-Minded

    The designer’s rock-star reputation and renowned sense of humor, the unusual events, the jewelry display and the stories behind each collection all converge to create an avid following.

    “Once they get to drink the Kool-Aid, they tend to just get right into it,” Webster says of his collectors. “They want to know more, to look behind the scenes and become part of it. And especially in this place where you can engage with the brand way beyond what you can do in a space that’s not my own store. I’ve actually tried to replicate a bit what we were doing here in my store in London.”

    At one point, Webster’s customers could have been described as distinctly different from one country to the next. As the world has become more connected, he says, that’s no longer true. “I know it seems weird to say that. And it might have been true when I was first a jeweler in America and I went back to England. I liked the Americans. They had enthusiasm. And I had to struggle to find that client in England, but now I find you attract someone who is interested in what you’re offering, anywhere. Russians want as much fun, as much drama, as Americans.”

    Although Webster offers e-commerce, only 10 percent of transactions are completed online, and he’s confident his clients prefer an immersive brick and mortar experience, whether they find that in his own locations or through one of his retail partners. “I think it’s about creating an excitement or buzz that’s just about what you are,” he says. As much as he enjoys hosting events in his own environment, he’s also felt that level of excitement spread through his retail partners, right from the start. His first trunk show was in Idaho, where he found an avid audience. “It was great,” he recalls. “At the end of it, we all went out in the woods and had a bottle of tequila.”

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    Five Cool Things About Stephen Webster Beverly Hills Boutique

    1. WIDE REACH: Stephen Webster has a workshop and design studio in Mayfair, a flagship store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and a salon on London’s chic Mount Street. In recent years, the brand has expanded globally with 150 points of sale worldwide including the United Kingdom, United States, Russia, Dubai, Japan and Hong Kong.

    2. EYE-CATCHING ARTWORK: When Webster opened his Beverly Hills store in 2010, his friend, artist Tracey Emin, gave him one of her signature handwritten neon signs to hang in the boutique. It reads “I Promise to Love You” inside a heart — appropriate for a store where people buy wedding and engagement rings. Also on display are Webster’s personal sketches for his designs, other neon signs designed by Webster and Emin, and Shark Jaw installations, echoing Webster’s love of the ocean and sea creatures.

    3. INDUSTRY ACCLAIM: In June, Webster won the “Best in Innovative Design” award at Couture for his earrings from the upcoming Vertigo Collection, to be released in 2019. Last year, he won the Cindy Edelstein Award for Human Spirit at the Couture Design awards, for his 40-year contribution to the jewelry industry, his support of new designers through the British Fashion Council’s Rock Vault platform, as well as his charitable work and dedication to ethical sourcing and sustainability. Among other awards are a three-time win of the British Luxury Jeweller of the Year Award, Diamond Jeweller of the Year, Jewellery Designer of the Year and UK Jewellery Brand of the Year.

    4. THE LAST STRAW: Webster recently partnered with the Plastic Oceans Foundation to develop the ‘Last Straw,” a $175 sterling silver straw, as part of a commitment to environmental responsibility that reflects his love for the ocean and its creatures. He designed the straw to be reusable and eliminate the need for plastic straws. Each is hand-engraved with the owner’s name. Ten percent of sales benefit the Plastic Ocean Foundation.

    5. FAIR TRADE GOLD: Webster has always been an advocate of ethically sourced materials, traveling to mines in Tanzania and Peru to meet the mining communities and trace the origins of the precious materials he uses. He is now an ambassador for Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold and in 2016 was awarded the Butterfly Mark powered by Positive Luxury, which recognized Webster’s tradition of producing fine jewelry with sustainability at its heart.

     

    Try This: Tell a Good Story

    Webster recognizes the importance of a good story. Each of his jewelry collections has a storyline attached to it. For one of his latest releases, “Fish Tales,” Webster wrote an actual book to accompany it. Each letter of the alphabet is rendered in gold, but wrapped with some kind of sea creature, such as electric eel for E. The book describes each of the featured 26 creatures.

    America’s Coolest Stores: Judges’ Comments

    • Katherine Bodoh: Stephen has a great POV and it is reflected in the store design and his social media presence. I appreciate his work on the Last Straw project.
    • Jill Maurer: Gorgeous store with a distinct point of view. It manages to be exclusive and inviting at the same time. It’s a place where I could feel both excited and relaxed. Love love love!
    • Geoffrey Brown: I really felt drawn to the brand, right away. It’s something that you want, but also leaves you wondering what is next. It can fit any type of person in any type of situation.
    • Laura Davis: Stephen knows who he is and his aesthetic, values and story shine through. He also knows his audience, and it shows. There’s a little whimsy, a lot of cool and a siren call for the elite set that wants to shine uniquely. His pieces are stunning, as is the presentation and photography. Just wow. Sets the bar.
     
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