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America's Coolest Stores

Cool Store: Nancy and David Fine Jewels



Quadruple the space, still the same intimate feeling.

A House Transformed

When Nancy and David Stone expanded their store from 650 to 1,500 square feet, they quadrupled their linear display space, updated the lighting, recreated cabinets and flooring, and installed a full bar — but what they did not do was drain the space of its character and charm. The vintage building looks essentially the same, inside and out. “It’s a 75-year-old building that looked like a house,” David says. “It still looks like a house. We haven’t taken that house and transformed it into a modern office building. We are inviting people into our home. We were trying to combine being bigger without losing the intimate feeling we so treasured in our store. We were dedicated to being true to who we are — a creative design team.”

Store Details

Nancy and David Fine Jewels
Milburn, NJ
OWNERS: Nancy and David Stone
TOTAL AREA: 1,500 square feet


Five Cool Things About This Store

cool reason # 1: Radiating Warmth 

If you have success with one thing, just do the same and do it better. Why try something else? We wanted warmth and we achieved exactly what we set out to do.” The custom cherry-wood cases were the handiwork of a furniture maker who had never built showcases before. “I wanted all of our pieces to look more like furniture,” he says. The old floor was ripped out and replaced with wide-plank wood floors in a mahogany shade. Old halogen and fluorescent lighting was replaced by energy-efficient fiber optics. “It makes the diamonds sparkle and creates no heat, no discoloration of any displays and no melting of anything.”

cool reason # 2: Designer Marriage

Nancy was 14 and David 17 when they began dating. By the time Nancy turned 17, she had started to make jewelry, and when she graduated from college, David was making more money selling her jewelry than working at his entry-level corporate job. “He said, ‘Maybe we have something here, maybe we should make a business of it,'” Nancy recalls. They married in 1982, and David quit his corporate job to sell jewelry full-time to boutiques. “At the end of the day my bag was almost empty and I came home with checks and cash and orders,” he says. In 1985, they won designer of the year at JA New York, leading to orders from Saks and Fortunoff. They opened a retail store 10 years ago to spend more time with their three children.

cool reason # 3: Service on a platter


David and Nancy will go to any length to care for customers. One example: A client came into the store the day before Thanksgiving to have her rings cleaned. David happened to be talking about his annual tradition of frying a turkey. The customer mentioned she was expecting 25 guests due for dinner and had never tasted a fried turkey. David immediately offered to fry one for her. So on Thanksgiving Day, David fried it at home sent it to the client in time for dinner. The following week, the client and her husband stopped in to express their thanks. The turkey, they said, was the best their guests had ever tasted. They made a $38,000 purchase. “She asked if I’d fry her turkey again this year, and I said absolutely,” David says. “She’s become an incredibly good client and she’s given us a tremendous amount of referrals.” The Stones also collect business cards and provide customers with non-jewelry-related referrals, everything from matchmaking to job placement. “If somebody says, ‘Do you know a nice boy for my daughter?’ That’s certainly in our best interest to pursue. We’ve successfully made three matches that turned into engagements,” David says. If a client leaves a voicemail message when the store is closed, the computer e-mails the message to the staff’s smart phones, allowing for an immediate response to the customer. If necessary, the store will open and assist a client with a “jewelry emergency,” such as a last-minute birthday or anniversary gift.

cool reason # 4: Offbeat Marketing

David contends all the other jewelers in town are fighting for the same space in the same local publications and billboards. “I have my own way of getting customers. If they’re going to zig, I’m going to zag.” A $40,000 donation to the township to purchase a clock that has become a landmark is one example of his marketing methods. The clock – displaying the store name – is on a corner about 200 yards from the store in the middle of an upscale shopping area. “A tremendous amount of goodwill came from that,” David says. “Within the first month that clock went in we had a client spend $100,000 with us. We got the customer from the clock. When I delivered the piece of jewelry they said, ‘By the way I want to thank you for donating that clock to the town.’ They never would have come into the store at that moment if not for the clock. Now all the other businesses and jewelers in town are complaining, ‘Why didn’t I have that opportunity?’ But we saw the opportunity.”

cool reason # 5: Nancy and David are the brand

When they first opened the store, the Stones featured designer brands as well as their own goods. But David found that shoppers were more likely to price shop for designer jewelry. “When you’re selling designer product – and we had some strong brands in the store at the time – shoppers go on the Internet, find an authorized retailer somewhere else, and they make the purchase elsewhere with a short margin,” Nancy says. “The store is the brand. I didn’t want to become a store featuring all these branded jewelers and losing my identity, so we sold down most of the branded jewelry.” Now Nancy and David are the brand, whether the jewelry is custom made or from a nonbranded manufacturer. “I want you to be buying a Nancy and
David piece in Nancy and David packaging,” Nancy says. “So our designs are supplemented with beautifully made, upscale, but generic pieces of jewelry from around the world.”

Store Interior


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Store Exterior

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Owner Interview

Why did you go in to retail?

NANCY: Traveling was just not conducive to raising a family. We found this beautiful space
and David became more behind the scenes and I became more involved in sales. You have to make choices. Our three best designs are the children.

What was the biggest adjustment you had to make, moving from wholesale to retail?

NANCY: The hard part was not getting to travel as much as I used to.

Anything else?

NANCY: You need a lot of patience dealing with consumers, but the retail customers in customdesign work generally don’t know what they want so they defer to us in our expertise. There is a lot of handholding and a lot of guidance in custom design.

What is the result of all that personal attention?

DAVID: All that handholding and patience nurtures the client and ensures continued patronage. As a result, many times it goes from a several-hundred-dollar purchase into tens of thousands of dollars.

How has the addition of a bar and TV lounge helped your business?

NANCY: “We have a beautiful area that we made for husbands who would prefer not to be in a jewelry store. We had a doctor looking at an engagement ring with his girlfriend, and the basketball game was going to be coming on, and he said, “Can we go now?” I said, “Well, we have this beautiful flat screen TV – and he ended up staying for an hour and a half and we made a $40,000 sale.”


All marketing is designed to support the Nancy and David brand.


Bake cookies.

“My daughter said ‘Why don’t you make some homemade cookies and serve them to your clients?’ I said, ‘I’m not a baker, I’m a cook.’ But together we tweaked some recipes and made them proprietary. Often, it is the cookie that motivates clients to come in and get their jewelry cleaned — not the other way around.” David also donates baskets of cookies to charity events, bundled with $100 gift certifi cates. “It comes back to us in droves. I always believe in good will.” Nancy says customers complain if David doesn’t bake and that he even custom-designed a cookie for one client.

This story is from the February 2010 edition of INSTORE



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