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Commentary: The Business

EAT Gallery Owner Reflects on 2019 Coolest Honor

Simon and Laurie Watt brought treasures to small Kentucky town.

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Simon Watt

MY FIRST VISIT to Maysville was in 1990 to sell to a custom jeweler who had a wholesale line and called the town home. He took me to lunch, and in downtown was this classic “greasy spoon” Morgan’s Diner, or as everyone in Maysville called it, “EAT’s,” because of the classic neon sign that had hung from the building for 40 years. In those days, downtown Maysville was a typical Midwestern/Southern river town that had seen its boom years well in the past. As happened in many small towns, Walmart moved in “on top of the hill” and slowly killed off all the independent stores.

Morgan, the owner of the diner, died and the building fell into disrepair. In 2005, Laurie and I decided to buy the building to help revive downtown. Now that we had bought a building, what better use of it but to open a gallery and showcase all that is wonderful in the world of gemstones, jewelry and minerals? Laurie and I wanted to bring what we loved from the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows since 1981 to Maysville!

We contacted our favorite customers from our gemstone business and asked them if they would like to have their jewelry in our gallery, and a business was born. That was in 2006, and although it has been a struggle to generate enough sales in a small river town in rural Kentucky, we have slowly developed customers from the Cincinnati area, which is about an hour’s drive. In 2016, Katherine Cotterill took over as manager, growing the online and custom business.

Katherine was inspired to enter the “America’s Coolest Jewelry Store” contest in 2018, and we came close to an award. She regrouped, hired a professional photographer, rethought her pitch, and boom, we won in 2019! Now our little town of Maysville has in our block the “Coolest Jewelry Store” and a “Top 10 quilt store in America”!

It’s not easy to figure out the best way to market in today’s digital world, but we have been quite successful with advertising on the local NPR radio station and on-screen at the independent movie house in Cincinnati. Katherine was able to use the publicity from this award to get us some great coverage on two of the major network stations in Cincinnati.

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The long-term effect of winning “America’s Coolest Jewelry Store” is difficult to calibrate, but we are sure that the award has put us at a very special advantage in our local market. We always knew that we had a cool store, but to have it confirmed by INSTORE was just icing on the cake!

Gem dealers Simon and Laurie Watt own EAT Gallery in Maysville, KY, which was featured in the August 2019 issue of INSTORE as America’s Coolest Store in the Small Cool Division. They also own the wholesale gem business Mayer & Watt.

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