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Cool Store: Worthington Jewelers

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Cool Store: Worthington Jewelers

And they’re always glad you came

BY JOSH WIMMER

Published in the November 2012 issue

Location: Worthington, OH | URL: www.worthingtonjewelers.com | Owners: Bob Capace and Joe Davis | Founded: 2000 | Remodeled Featured Location: 2011 | Buildout Cost: $560,000  | Area: 4,300 square feet | Employees: 7 full-time, 12 part-time | Tagline: “One of a kind, for a lifetime.” | Yelp Rating: 4.5 stars | Facebook likes: 513

“I had a guy who was in the other night. He was getting engaged and like, ‘Man, I’m kinda nervous about it,'” Bob Capace recalls. “I said, ‘You need a drink?’ And I took him upstairs and we had a shot of Scotch to calm him down. It was just fun.”

Don’t misunderstand: Drinking on the job isn’t a typical occurrence at Worthington Jewelers in Worthington, OH. But helping shoppers feel relaxed most definitely is.

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“Our standard greeting is within 30 seconds. And it’s not this stuffy, formal ‘Hi, may I help you?'” says Joe Davis, who co-owns the store with Capace. “It’s quite simply ‘Hi, how you doin’?’ Almost everybody comes into a jewelry store with some objective. You’re going to tell me what it is when you’re comfortable.”

The owners met about 15 years ago. Davis, a goldsmith, was working for a wholesaler who wanted Capace to help open a retail outlet. The wholesaler’s plan wasn’t feasible, as Capace already had a nicepaying job in corporate sales. (He still does; Davis runs the store full-time.) But Capace and Davis connected over a shared interest in creating a different, better kind of jewelry store.

Worthington Jewelers’ specialty, you might say, is communication. Most of their business is custom design, primarily engagement rings. (It doesn’t hurt that they’re in a suburb of Columbus, home of Ohio State University and its 50,000- plus students.) Employees are empowered to ensure customers stay happy. And scrupulous, open honesty takes precedence over making money.

For instance, a younger sales associate recently sold a just-delivered diamond before it could be screened as carefully as normal. After the customer left, the owners reviewed the stone’s specs. The certificate said it was the high-quality stone the customer wanted. But: “It really fell short of our standards. Neither of us was comfortable calling it what it was graded,” Davis says. So they contacted the client and swapped his purchase for a nicer stone that matched what he wanted. That meant eating all the profit.

“But we let him know: Here’s our problem. I’m not going to sleep at night, and God forbid you show this to another jeweler. Now it’s not just our personal relationship; it’s our professional reputation, too,” Davis says. “We could roll the dice and take our chances. But we had the chance to be a hero. And he’s never going to distrust anything else we say.”

Adds Capace: “We try to make apostles out of all our clients.”

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The strategy has worked. Worthington started out at around 1,000 square feet. “You had to leave the store to change your mind,” Capace says. The store was on track to exceed $2.5 million in business in that small space, prompting an expansion to 4,300 square feet total in 2011.

Situated on the town’s village green, which dates back to 1803, the 107-year-old original building now boasts a craftsman-style addition whose wide-open feel reflects the store’s corporate culture. Sun pours in through big windows, and minimal, elegant handmade cases guide shoppers along a graceful path through the showroom. The high ceilings and bright lighting give the area a smart, comfortable vibe. And the dark wood floor and redbrick wall lend it an air of classic dignity.

Communication was the big driver between the shop’s evolution into a custom design business. “You think you’ve gotten it all figured out,” Davis says. “We did a lot better when we realized we didn’t — but our customers did.”

So shoppers sitting down at Worthington get not a sales pitch, but a consultation. “The customer controls the whole experience,” Davis says. A seminal moment came for Davis during his earlier career as an architect, when his boss turned to him in the middle of a client meeting and said, “Would you just shut up and listen?”

“When I swallowed my ego, it just stuck with me. If you really can get to that point, people will tell you what they want. A really good salesperson will let the person who’s actually got the real investment do all the talking. Every one of our salespeople has a lot of fun with: Tell me exactly what you want and let me figure out how to get there.”

A long string of perfect reviews on Yelp and Google testify to the effectiveness of the technique. “Not only were they less expensive, but they actually listened to what I wanted and made [a] ring to fit, instead of trying to sell me what they had in the case,” reads one.

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“When you come in, we joke, we have some witty banter. We make people laugh,” Capace says. “It’s almost like you’re coming into Cheers. ‘Hey, Norm!’ Everybody’s happy.”

And you can get a Scotch if you need one, too.

Five Cool Things

1 COMFORT IS KING “You won’t see a single sport coat or tie,” promises Davis. “It’s intimidating enough for a young person to walk in. I don’t need them to feel like they’re underdressed. I don’t need to convince somebody I’m something I’m not.”

2A STERLING REPUTATION A client came in to sell what they thought was an irradiated yellow diamond. Later, the jewelers realized it was a natural stone. The store called the unwitting customer immediately, offering to either return the stone or write a check for an additional $1,500. “Those are pretty commonplace experiences,” Capace says.

3EMPOWERED EMPLOYEES “We’ve established probably some of the best human capital in the market,” Capace says. “And that has really helped differentiate us.” Worthington looks for industry vets who love their jobs but hate compromising on quality to make a sale. “They love never having to make an apology,” Davis says. And they’re paid hourly, rather than on commission, to cultivate team spirit. “To a person, every one of them loves it,” Capace says.

4HANDCRAFTED CUSTOM “This is one of my big hangups: It’s not my ring,” Davis says. “It’s my job to figure out what the customer means and how to make sure the engineering works.” The store doesn’t do much CAD (“It doesn’t move quickly enough” compared with a sketch), and focuses on following the client’s lead.

5IT’S YOUR PARTY Worthington holds about eight events a year — with gift bags, margarita machines and chocolate fountains. “And you must stop in on Christmas Eve to see my hideous Christmas sweater,” Capace says. Saturdays, the store has wedding cake for shoppers to enjoy. And kids get Ring Pops. “We say, ‘You can’t have this till your mom’s done, so you don’t get everything sticky.'”

Q&A WITH BOB CAPACE AND JOE DAVIS

BEST ADVICE EVER GIVEN To do the right thing even if you lose money. (Bob)

FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK Guerrilla Marketing — it got us to where we are. (Bob)

BEST ADVICE EVER RECEIVED Stephen Covey: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” (Bob)
“You have the time to either do something right or now, but rarely the time to do it right now. When in doubt, do it right.” (Joe)

ADVICE FOR A NEW STORE OWNER Revenue makes up for a lot of mistakes. (Bob) Concentrate on good communication.
Associates often see different parts of the same picture. (Joe)

PITFALLS TO WATCH OUT FOR Assuming hanging a shingle will make people come in. (Bob)
Assuming your data tell the whole story. (Joe)

WHAT SUPERPOWER WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE? Have everyone like me (Bob)

WHAT HAVE THE LAST FEW YEARS TAUGHT YOU? Life is short. Enjoy it! (Bob)

HOW DO YOU STAY CURRENT? Observe everything in advertising and then see how many people actually wear it. (Joe)

IF THE STORE WERE ON FIRE, WHAT ONE THING WOULD YOU SAVE? My photo of the original building. It was a gift from a friend. (Bob)
Bob’s picture of the original building. I’d make him buy it back for a ridiculous amount of money. (Joe)

IF MONEY WERE NO OBJECT, I’d add a second floor with an elevator to my store. (Bob)

WHEN I MEET PEOPLE, THE FIRST THING I NOTICE ABOUT THEM IS their smile. (Joe)

FAVORITE FLICK (EXTRA POINTS FOR JEWELRY LINK!) The Wizard of Oz (it has ruby slippers) (Bob)
Pulp Fiction (quotes from this movie got me and my wife together; and it could involve jewelry — we never know what’s in the briefcase.) (Joe)

FAVORITE WEBSITE Yelp — great resource on where to eat, drink, or shop (Bob)
Pinterest — great insight into what people are looking at and exposure to ideas I haven’t thought of but wish I had. (Joe)

I AM HAPPIEST WHEN… I am on vacation. (Bob)
I see someone receive a piece we made (or alternately, when Bob is on vacation). (Joe)

WEEKEND ACTIVITY Ohio State football — Go Bucks! (Bob)
Work on my own house. (Joe)

FAVORITE DESIGNER
Van Cleef & Arpels (Joe)

TRUE TALES

Davis used to have hair down to his shoulders — until an older client who was quite fond of the store’s administrative manager approached, looked him dead in the eye and asked, “Are you Nancy?” “That happened nine years ago, and I still have not heard the end of it,” he says.

Two years ago, a deer found its way into Worthington’s urban neighborhood. Spooked, the animal crashed through an antique glass window that led into the store’s shop. Goldsmith Linh Phung — “5 foot 8, 105 pounds soaking wet, wearing a visor that magnified everything tenfold,” Capace says — was showered with glass, diamonds, hair and blood. “He very calmly stood up and said, ‘I think I need to go home now.'” (The deer escaped too, never to be seen again.)

TRY THESE

Instead of scrapping silver pieces that customers bring in to sell, Worthington puts them out in baskets labeled $5, $10 and $20. “They can pick out four or five silver items at $5 a piece that we would have scrapped for $2,” Capace says. It’s a win for the store and for shoppers with smaller budgets.

Rather than just donate an item to a charity fund-raiser, Worthington fills 150 shot glasses with water and drops a gem in each (one diamond, the rest semi-precious), then freezes them. At the event, the charity sells them for $5 or $10 each. At the end of the night, when the ice has melted, the jewelers ID the stones for the buyers, giving attendees a chance to get to know them. “When they come and talk to us at these events, nine times out of 10 they’re in the store within two weeks,” Capace says.

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