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Cool Store: Torin Bales Fine Jewelry

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Hanging out with Torin Bales success at a crossroads.

 

TORIN BALES is a man with a vision. When he moved to Victoria, TX, 17 years ago, he was looking for a family-friendly place to open a destination jewelry store. But from the beginning, he had set his sights beyond Victoria (pop. 60,600) in a region known as the Crossroads. His dream was to create a destination store for 12 million people in three big Texas cities — Austin, San Antonio and Houston — all within an hour and a half drive of Victoria. In 2008 he took the next step toward that goal by moving from a store with less than 2,000 square feet into a 7,100 showplace in a heavily trafficked location.

Quick Facts

Torin Bales Fine Jewelry

Victoria, TX

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WEBSITE: www.torinbales.com 
OWNER: Torin Bales 
AREA: 7,100 square feet 
BUSINESS FOUNDED: 1994
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2008 
ARCHITECT: Michael Malone of Dallas
BUILDER: John Schuemack 
EMPLOYEES:
TAG LINE: Experience the difference 
TOP BRANDS: Rolex, David Yurman, Mikimoto, Tag Heuer, Pandora, Charles Krypell, JB Starr, Scott Kay, Spark, Precision Set

cool reason # 1: the new store ‘store sucks them in’

The store is on Victoria’s Loop, an Interstate artery with restaurants and retail. The relocation has been an unqualified success. “It’s unbelievable,” Bales says. “During the worst recession since the Great Depression, we’ve run a 30 percent increase. I think it’s completely due to the move, the excitement of the new building, the style, the way the merchandise is displayed. The merchandise is able to breathe better and it shows a lot better.” The building, he says, is like a magnet. True to his vision, it has attracted customers from Houston, San Antonio and Austin, just driving by. “It sucks them in,” he says. Next step? In 2011, he began marketing in earnest to his target trio of cities.

cool reason # 2: showing off the merchandise

There are 18 north-facing panels of glass on top of the showroom, near the roof. The double-paned, stormproof, bullet-proof windows allow natural illumination of the showroom but because of their location, there is no distracting glare or security risk. “You can’t duplicate natural light. I can turn off all the lights during the day and it still shows beautifully.” Around dusk, he can turn on the up lights, which creates a pleasant ambience, as well. Finally, LED lights are employed in all counter cases. Bales refinished every existing showcase and wall case from the first store, integrating them with an additional five new counter cases and new wall cases for a total of nearly 200 linear feet of display space. The builder incorporated crown molding throughout the entire rear area of the store, even the repair shop, for a highend, finished look. The store has an airy, uncluttered look with comfortable seating, a flat-screen TV and a private viewing room.

cool reason # 3: custom and exclusive brands

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Pandora is the only line in the store not exclusive to Torin Bales in Victoria. “If someone wants to buy a piece of jewelry in those collections, they have to come to us.” Mike Matthews, a certified master jeweler, works in the shop with CAD. A TV monitor displays custom pieces he has created, which creates an incredible amount of interest, Bales says, allowing custom design to sell itself.

cool reason # 4: advertising affordability

Torin Bales strives to overcome the perception that the store must be too expensive for the average shopper. Since he began advertising that bridal sets start at $1,200, the bridal segment of the business has quadrupled, becoming his single best category.

In October 2010, Bales introduced Pandora. “You don’t need to say a lot more than we carry Pandora, because people know the price,” Bales says. A full-time staff member is dedicated to Pandora sales, assisted by a college student, who also markets Pandora on campus. Pandora’s introduction was heralded by a banner ad on the front page of the regional daily newspaper, ads in weekly papers in surrounding counties, two billboards and an aggressive radio package. Bales is optimistic Pandora customers will be converted to Torin Bales customers. “Our closing ratio is very, very high,” he says.

cool reason # 5: hospitality on tap

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He attributes his closing ratio to hospitality. Customers — including an engagement-ring shopper in the U.S. military stationed in Iraq — have told Bales that their shopping experience was the most positive they’ve ever had. Offering guys an ice-cold Blue Moon beer on tap is sometimes all it takes to win loyalty for life and get them to tell all their buddies about you. “One guy on a Saturday morning came in, and I said, ‘Would you like something to drink? A cold beer?’ It was 10 o’clock in the morning, so I said it kind of jokingly. He said, ‘Yeah I’ll take a cold beer.’ So I went to get it and he said, ‘You’re serious?’ “We offer everyone a drink, anything from water, a soft drink, beer or wine. Our goal is to carry the finest jewelry in a beautiful environment but have an incredible shopping experience.” Hospitality includes cleaning jewelry thoroughly and checking prongs at no charge. “Meanwhile, they look around, have a glass of wine,” Bales says. Hanging out at Torin Bales starts to seem perfectly natural.

Store Interior

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Store Exterior

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Store Marketing

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Five Questions with Torin Bales

YOUR FATHER IS A JEWELER IN CORPUS CHRISTI. DID YOU EVER WANT TO DO ANYTHING ELSE?
No, I never did. In 8th grade, we had a career education class. I still have my booklet from the class, in which I said I wanted to be in the jewelry business.

WHAT APPEALED TO YOU ABOUT IT?
I like people — I like the sales part of it. To me, jewelry is a happy business. People are happy when they come in. I love nothing better than to work with a customer on a bridal set. To me that’s the happiest part of our business.”

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR 2011?
A 2,000-square-foot events room is a work in progress, scheduled for a 2011 debut. It will be the new site of the annual catered Christmas open house event, which attracts as many as 500 people. A jazz band is a highlight. There is usually a charity aspect to it, too.

TELL US ABOUT A CHARITY-BASED EVENT YOU’VE HOSTED.
We recently held a hospice fundraiser that featured chefs from around the area preparing different types of food for a true smorgasbord. The evening was highlighted by a guest chef from Houston who put on a special cooking presentation. Unbeknownst to the attendees, we were going to auction off the chef. The winner
would have the chef come to their house and cook a five course meal for 10 people. The auction brought in much needed funds for the hospice and the chef has promised a return trip this year.

WHAT DO YOU SELL IN ADDITION TO JEWELRY?
We have a great selection of fine art glass, Holland belt buckle sets and William Henry knives.

Try This

FACEBOOK CONTESTTorin Bales regularly integrates Facebook into his paid marketing activities such as a 2010 promotion that asked people to share their “love stories” for a chance to win a 1-carat diamond. He also uses traditional ads to drive traffi c to the Facebook page, where he runs photos of featured items. “I go on the radio every other week on four stations and advise people to friend us. That’s increased our numbers tremendously. And it’s all free.”

Play List
THE STORE was built with a full audio system, so they can play XM/Sirius, CDS or radio. Primarily, they play Water Colors on satellite radio. “It’s a little bit jazzy, but soft enough, not a lot of vocal. To me that’s the best kind of music to play because it stays pretty consistent. For a special event, they’ll play something a little different, like country and western for a “Bring Your Boots” event featuring Texas artists.

This story is from the May 2011 edition of INSTORE

 

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