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Eileen McClelland

Cool Store Secrets to Success

A dozen ways these winning retailers stand out.



EVERY YEAR, OWNERS of America’s Coolest Stores generously share a wealth of ideas and strategies for success with our readers. I’ve compiled a small sample of what stood out to me from cool store applications and interviews in the past year, on topics running the gamut from how to deploy staff resources to how to improve online sales.

The 2022 America’s Coolest Stores contest will begin accepting entries online in January, with a deadline of March 15. Check soon for more information at and

NO OBLIGATION CUSTOM. Ralph Vandenberg of Vandenbergs Jewellers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, creates custom pieces with no financial commitment from the client. “I do caution that if they want skulls or crossbones on the item, then it is theirs,” Vandenberg says. The custom process is leisurely and detailed, though, so he’s only had to keep custom pieces a handful of times. “Being involved in the process sets them at ease, particularly when you take the time to do the CAD, a watercolor painting of the piece, and interact three or four times,” Vandenberg says.

THE STEALTH BAR. When Chris Carter and his mom, Beth Carter, built their new Carter’s Jewel Chest in Mountain Home, AR, they didn’t’ want to offend anyone in their conservative town by displaying alcohol. So, bottles are stored out of sight at their bar and only a beer tap clues in their clients. Response has been very positive, especially from young men who are nervous about engagement ring shopping and surprised they can have a beer in a jewelry store.

DIVORCE WORKSHOPS. At Make Made in Greenville, SC, Katie Poterala and Danielle Miller Giliam added divorce workshops to their class lineup as a twist on their wedding band workshops. They found the experience can be therapeutic for their clients through the “healing power of hammering, torching, melting and redesigning old jewelry into a beautiful new design.”

THE POWER OF PODIUM. Amy Astaraee, owner of BRAX in Newport Beach, CA, credits signing up with Podium as one of the best things she’s done for her business, not only for building reviews, but also for ease of payment and opening a dialog with customers through texting. Marketing has become a passion for Astaraee, who has 358 Google reviews with a five-star rating, and has set her sights on 1,000.

THINK LONG TERM. Robert Ramsey of Ramsey’s Diamond Jewelers in Metairie, LA, recognizes that advertising consistently is a long-term strategy. “The goal of advertising is not to drive traffic but to cause your store to be the one the customer thinks of immediately, and feels the best about, when they finally need what you sell,” he says. “Think long term, measure long term. Short-term thinking is for small-minded people.”

FORGE LOCAL RELATIONSHIPS. Patina Gallery in Santa Fe has commissioned artists they represent to create entire collections around a Santa Fe Opera production from its current season and supported it with extensive marketing campaigns and events. In 2021 artist Peter Schmid drew inspiration from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM and designed brooches and pendants around Queen Titania and fairies, and butterfly rings with moving wings.


MAKE AN OFFER. At Once Upon a Diamond in Shreveport, LA, a ‘MAKE AN OFFER’ button on website product pages encourages shoppers to initiate a negotiation. They also gift wrap each piece and include a hand-written thank you card sealed with a real wax stamped seal. “We try to bring the store to them,” says Jordan Brown, who owns the store with his father Steve and brother Nicholas.

A FREE RANGE STAFF. Andy and Jenn Koehn, owners of Koehn & Koehn Jewelers in West Bend, WI, describe their staff as “free range.” What does that mean? “We trust their personalities and abilities and encourage them to let their individual styles shine with their clients,” Jenn says. “Authentic. Really authentic. It’s a big deal for us, and a much better way for them to spend their time at work. Being their professional selves.”

INSTAGRAM COMES TO LIFE. “We work hard to create a unique visual presence that exudes our brand’s style across all our customer touch points, whether that’s through social media, our website or visiting us in our store,” says Amanda Eddy, owner of Amanda Deer Jewelry. “In fact, many in-store customers comment that our store looks just like our Instagram grid!”

TALENT SHOW. “We start everyone in sales and then after a few months put them where they seem to be shining,” says Chae Carter, owner of Carter’s Jewelry of Petal, in Petal, MS. “I like for everyone to run their own positions, so they get to really do whatever they want and create their own way once they’ve really learned the ropes. We have a lot of freedom at the company so the team members who are self-motivated and have real drive really thrive!”

MY JEWELER. Barry Peterson, owner of Barry Peterson Jewelers in Ketchum, ID, knows the importance of finding a way to connect to a customer on a personal level. “Those small town values can go a long way in the world of business and generating profit. We have been fortunate to create many loyal customers this way who say “Barry is my jeweler” just as if they were referring to their barber, their trainer, or their financial advisor.”

COMMUNITY SUPPORT. The BC Clark Family Fund works with Oklahoma City charities to support and grow the community. The company, owned by the Clark family, also supports their employees in their own charitable service efforts, by offering them eight hours of paid time off for volunteering, serving on boards or tutoring. BC Clark also initiated a program called Church Coupons, in which they offer to give 3 percent of every sale back to the church of the customer’s choice. “Oklahoma City is a thriving community, and we feel so blessed to be a part of it,” says Mitchell Clark.


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