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Cool Stores Sneak Preview: Here’s What’s Coming Up in 2018

Learn from the best — and coolest.

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I LEARN SO MUCH every year from interviewing the winners of our America’s Coolest Stores feature. I hope you do, too. Please enter this year’s contest. We’d love to hear about what sets your business apart. The application — complete with tips for success — will be available online in January at americascooleststores.com. There’s a category for you, no matter how small your operation might be. I’ve been told that just entering makes you cooler!

Still to come from January to June 2018, we’ll be featuring more winners from the 2017 contest in the pages of INSTORE. Here’s a preview of some of the lessons you can expect to learn from next year’s featured stores:

Change With the Times

Jewelry designer and retailer John Atencio opened his first store in 1976, but he’s not afraid to change with the times. When planning his newest store in Boulder, CO, he told his design team that if they had any inclination to do things like they’d done in the past, he would replace them. How is the store different? It has a loft or gallery vibe and cases are movable to make the space more versatile for events.

The result? The jewelry glows against a dramatic backdrop and people “come out of the woodwork” to attend events in the store.

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Fit in With Your Neighborhood

When friends and co-workers Joni Hamilton and Shelia Butler set out to create their own store, after years in the jewelry business, they chose a location on Hermosa Beach, CA. The store is as airy and upbeat as the neighborhood with floor to ceiling windows letting in views of palm trees and a cheerful peacock theme.

The result? People feel so comfortable in the store they stop by to see what’s new and enjoy a bloody Mary or a glass of wine. They start looking around and they leave with a little – or a big – something. Price points range from $200 to half a million.

Offer Something Extra

Branham’s in East Tawas, MI, owned by Ken Branham and Joyce Hill, has created a Treasured Memories room for clients to prepare for outdoor weddings, since Northeast Michigan’s beaches, rivers and landscapes provide incredible natural settings for nuptials. The bridal party can use Branham’s space to get dressed, and have hair and makeup done, then have their photo taken on Branham’s staircase or in front of the fireplace.

The result? Customers love it and Branham’s has the opportunity to form a more lasting relationship with the newlyweds.

Remember Your Roots

Jacquelyn Koerber’s parents, Mike and Felecia Koerber, started their business out of the trunk of their car, buying and selling scrap gold jewelry, then later moved a few showcases into her dad’s sister’s beauty salon. So in 2015 when the business grew into its dream location in New Albany, IN, the family was determined to keep the business as warm and welcoming and informal as ever. Jacquelyn has since taken the lead at Koerber’s and although she has modernized some aspects of the business – a focus on Instagram for example – she works hard to convey her parents’ sense of hospitality and gratitude for each client. “They really treated customers as friends and family,” she says. “My mother has an impeccable memory not only for faces, but for names, kids’ names, where they went to school.”

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The result? “People continue to shop here because they get that level of personal customer service.” They also tell their friends.

Tell a Compelling Story

Pyrrha designers Wade and Danielle Papin met in 1993 and began handcrafting jewelry at their kitchen table in Vancouver, Canada. The self-taught husband and wife team experimented with a number of styles, materials and techniques before discovering a box of badly damaged wax seals at an estate sale in 2004. The Victorian-era wax seals were the inspiration for Pyrrha’s line of signature talisman jewelry. In 2010, Pyrrha entered retail in LA, opening its flagship store filled with antique objects and displays that complement the jewelry. Each piece is made by hand and each talisman has a unique, symbolic meaning culled from heraldry.

The result? Customers spend hours in the store searching for the symbol that speaks to them.

Location Counts

Alchemy 925 is a contemporary jewelry and fine craft gallery near Boston, owned by Munya Upin and Kirsten Ball, that represents 50 artists. They chose an ideal location to express their personalities and taste – a 19th century Victorian house – that stands out from other buildings on the street. Both partners are big fans of mid-century design and their interior space was blessed with beautiful, natural oak floors, which were the perfect starting point for their design aesthetic. “We wanted something elegant and stylish and sophisticated,” Ball says. They designed all of the jewelry cases based on that aesthetic, “with slender legs and simplicity,” and to complement some display pieces they loved, including a mid-century modern credenza.

The result? The exterior attracts customers and the simplicity of the interior design allows the jewelry to shine.


This story is an INSTORE Online extra.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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After 42 Years in Business, They Chose Wilkerson to Close Up Shop

After 42 years, it was time for Gina McHugh to hang up her bench tools and plan on doing something completely different. She and her husband, Mick, had a beautiful Binghamton, NY store — The Goldsmith — but in late 2019, the time felt right for retirement. They called Wilkerson. “They’d always been a part of our bridal jewelry selection,” says Gina, “and I felt really good about their quality and service. So, when we were looking for someone to work with us, Wilkerson was a natural.” With the kind of service and support Wilkerson is known for, Gina says their sales consultants made their retirement sale, “successful and quite easy.”

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