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Cool Store: Molenaar’s

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Finally free-standing — Molenaar moves from strip mall to its own building.

Susan Molenaar Butterfield loved her old, downtown store in the back of a strip mall, the little place with the unassuming façade she had opened with her father, Jake, in 1985. She loved it so much that she talked to it. “I’d say, hello, goodbye, see you tomorrow,” she says. She had worked hard to become part of the family business and then to strike out on her own, and her first store represented a huge achievement. But over the years, she began to wish for more space and more presence, too. Ultimately she did more than wish it. In 2006, after years of keeping her eye on the bottom line, she opened her new, high-profile store just two miles from the old one. — EILEEN McCLELLAND

Molenaar’s

BOISE, ID

OWNER: Susan Molenaar Butterfield
COMPANY FOUNDED: 1941
FEATURED LOCATION OPENED: 2006
AREA: 3,000 square feet
ARCHITECT: Andy Erstad
DESIGNER: Shannon Lisk of Lisk Interiors
CONTRACTOR: Torry McAlvain; McAlvain Construction
COST OF BUILDOUT: $1.2 million
EMPLOYEES: Four full-time
TOP BRANDS: Simon G., John Hardy, Pandora, Lagos, JB Star, John Atencio, Zegahani,
SLOGAN: Let Your Love Show

Store Photo Gallery

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Five Cool Things About This Store

The exterior

Stand-alone Visibility

1 “When I was in the strip mall I didn’t have great signage or visibility. We carry gorgeous, designer lines and you didn’t expect to see this quality of merchandise when you first looked at the exterior. I wanted to give my customers something that represented what I did carry.” Now she’s still downtown, but very visible in a stand-alone building, which is easy to access and has plenty of parking. Gas lanterns outside hint at the warmth and quiet elegance of the interior as well as the quality of her merchandise.

Attention to detail

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Space Fit for a Queen

2 When it came time to move, Butterfield knew exactly what kind of ambience she wanted to create — warm, elegant and homey. She had saved photos of stores that she liked and she shared them with her friend, designer Shannon Lisk of Lisk Interiors in Kentucky, who made four trips to Boise to help with the project. Lisk traveled to Florida, too, where she met with representatives of Artco, who designed all of the showcases. Glass-beaded wallpaper, stone flooring, huge chandeliers, “green” lighting with dimmers and handmade chairs are all the result of the design team’s attention to detail. The final product is just what Butterfield had hoped for: “Customers feel like a queen when they sit in our chairs,” she says. “We have a coffee bar, with a fireplace and a TV playing ESPN. If a customer wants to talk over designs, we have two large chairs where we can discuss it in detail. Anyone would feel comfortable.”

The merchandise and the bottom line

Service Backed by Lines

3 New lines came with the new store, including Simon G., Charriol, Baume & Mercier, Pandora, Heidi Klum and John Hardy, and there is more room to create interesting display and boutique areas for their jewelry. Butterfield is very particular when choosing to work with a new company. “We are so strong in our service that if we can’t back it with our lines we’re going to be in a world of hurt,” she says. “I like to carry lines that are going to take care of me.” She has paid careful attention to her inventory this past year, in particular, reordering items that are selling but buying less than she used to. “I’m conservative, so my inventory is paid for. That’s just the way I like to do business and I do watch my bottom line.”

A young apprentice

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From first attempted sale to first store

4 Growing up, “Susie” was a tongue-tied teenager who did just about everything in her father’s jewelry business before she ever dared wait on a customer. “My parents worked side by side in growing the business and my dad struggled at first,” she says. “I would go back in the evenings with my dad, he would do the watch repair and I would clean the store.” By seventh-grade, she was doing the books for seven stores. At 16, she gave sales a try. “The first lady I waited on demanded someone older. That set me back a little bit but I overcame my shyness when I was a senior in high school.” Becoming a graduate gemologist also gave her an infusion of confidence. She majored in business in college, began working in the store in earnest and six years later became a manager. She partnered with her father to buy into her first store, and bought him out in 1985. She came to love it all, especially sales: “I love making people happy. If you’re going to be successful, you have to love what you do,” she says.

The Philosophy

Let your love show

5 “The one thing I’m proudest of is we are the oldest jewelry store in Boise,” she says. “Dad founded the first Molenaar’s in 1941 and passed away at 93 years of age last year. I am just so proud of the name that our parents have made and that we continue to make in our community. I work hard every day to keep their memory alive by treating others the way I would like to be treated.” The company slogan, “Let Your Love Show,” is not just a collection of words to Butterfield. Ten percent of proceeds from a Charriol trunk show were donated to a local hospital, where Butterfield is on the children’s board. She also received an Integrity Counts award from the Better Business Bureau, based on honesty, fairness and excellent service.

Five Questions With …

Susan Molenaar Butterfield

YOUR FATHER, JAKE MOLENAAR, PUT MOST OF YOUR CURRENT COMPETITORS IN BUSINESS. WHY DID HE HELP HIS STAFF OPEN STORES?
My father helped many of my major competitors get into the business. He would hire a talented manager and pay them a salary as well as a percentage of the profit. He would then allow the manager to slowly buy into the business and put their name on the store along with Molenaar. When the manager paid my father off our name was removed. They made money for my father, and so my dad gave them their start in the business.

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN THE BUSINESS?

My dad did the same thing for my two sisters and me. We each purchased our own store in our own location. The store I purchased from my parents was on Broadway in a strip mall about two blocks from Boise State University.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NEW STORE?
I have a lot of friends who live out of state, I’m very proud when they come to Boise, walk in my store and see it for the first time.

HOW HAS THE NEW STORE HELPED YOUR BUSINESS?
We more than doubled our business when we first moved in, which was really exciting.

YOU AND YOUR TWO SISTERS ALL GOT INTO THE FAMILY BUSINESS. ARE YOUR KIDS INTERESTED?
My husband and I have three sons, 18, 17 and 13, and I don’t push my boys at all. They’ve had other jobs, they’ve not worked in the store yet. They want to do other things first.

TRY THIS

Pay Tuition

BUTTERFIELD encourages her staff to be educated in the business through the GIA and the AGS and backs up her words of encouragement with hard cash for tuition.

TRY THIS

Move Things

“I move my merchandise around a lot more. People think that we get new things in all the time.” — SUSAN MOLENAAR BUTTERFIELD

This story is from the December 2009 edition of INSTORE

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