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America's Coolest Stores

ACS 2011: Fifth Place, Big Cool: Hamilton Jewelers

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Quick facts

URL: www.hamiltonjewelers.com
Owner
: Hank Siegel 
Founded: 1912 
Latest redesign: 2010
Store and Case Design: ER Callison LLC 
Area: 4,100 square feet 
Employees: 120 
Tagline: “Where Style Is Timeless” 
Top Brands: Patek Philippe, Cartier, Hamilton jewelry and bridal collections, Roberto Coin


The original Hamilton Jewelers at the Gardens Mall in northern Palm Beach County, FL, was by all accounts a lovely upscale store, with 3,600 square feet of blond wood fixtures and a neutral palette of showcase materials.

None of it survived, however, when the owners decided to expand and remodel the location in 2010. The space was gutted and the store rebuilt from scratch.

“We felt the market was ready for something at a different level,” says store president Hank Siegel, whose family owns five distinctly different looking stores in Florida and New Jersey. (Hamilton Jewelers in Red Bank, NJ, finished in the top 10 in the 2007 America’s Coolest Stores Contest.)

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The new store that emerged from the remodel has a darker, edgier tone but still manages to be open and inviting. The uncommon natural materials employed, its dramatic layout, immaculate finishing and arty forms all help to reflect Hamilton’s reputation for attention to detail while enhancing customer value perceptions.

Raising the benchmark for what a jewelry store could be was of particular importance to Hamilton as it prepares to mark its 100th birthday. “This will be our model going forward,” Siegel says. “We wanted to wow our clients.”

And wow they did.

Store Highlights

History

Hamilton Jewelers is one of the oldest family-owned jewelry retailers in the country with its origins stretching back to 1912 in Trenton, NJ. How it came to Florida was something of an accident. Siegel’s grandfather Irving, who bought the business in 1927, was supposed to retire in Palm Beach in the early 1980s but soon grew restless, and before long Hamilton had a new branch in the form of a small shop on tony Worth Avenue. The Gardens Mall store was a more ambitious and riskier investment, as it involved taking one of the opening spaces in the mall when it was built in 1988 (more than 20 years later Hamilton is one of only two of the original 151 tenants still in operation.) The remodeled store pays homage to the company’s longevity with framed black and white photos that recapture some of its colorful history hanging from the walls. A marketing campaign to celebrate the centennial is encouraging customers to bring in old receipts while the store is also seeking to buy back Hamilton originals for its own collection.

Three Chambers

Every good jewelry store features a series of architectural compromises that balance being inviting with a luxury experience, openness with privacy, and security and other functional concerns with sales imperatives. One of the main ways that Hamilton achieved these goals was by breaking the store into three salons for bridal, timepieces and designer collections as well as a “Private Reserve” that provides a discreet viewing environment for guests. Meanwhile, the ceiling-to-floor glass fronts support the openness while “residential” touches like seating, contemporary lighting and coffee tables encourage relaxed conversation.

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The Hamilton Way

The Hamilton Jewelers reopening gala on Dec. 3, 2010 was an impressive affair that included dancers from the Florida Classical Ballet Company performing scenes from the Nutcracker with orchestral accompaniment, a Remy Martin cocktail bar and a wine tasting provided by California’s C. Donatello. And in line with what the company calls “the Hamilton Way,” a portion of the sales proceeds from the evening went to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Palm Beach. Giving back to the local community has long been an important part of the Hamilton makeup. Back in 1951, it was one of the first companies in America to sponsor a Little League team and it has maintained a host of civic and philanthropic affiliations in both New Jersey and Florida ever since. The store estimates the amounts raised through its efforts run into the millions of dollars.

Art Fixtures

Among the most remarked upon details in the store are the dramatic neck forms, produced in-house by Hamilton’s own visual merchandising team, and the central “Stix” chandelier, which was designed exclusively for the store by their architect. The arty touches support the store’s goal to build a “balanced alternative to traditional retail stores” for its customers.

Log On and Learn

Want to know how a jeweler’s website should look? Log on to hamiltonjewelers.com. In addition to the usual features — product galleries, online sales capacity, promotions, wish lists and product information — it includes:

• A function, a la FedEx, that allows customers to check the status of their repair online
• A digitized catalog for browsing its collections on the iPad
• A blog — and this could be first for an independent jeweler — that is actually updated on an almost daily basis.

The one thing the website doesn’t include is an archive of Hamilton’s marketing. A shame, really, because among the projects commissioned as part of its centenary celebrations was a particularly cool “short film” (at 1:28 minutes) for YouTube that depicts some stylishly attired couples listening to jazz at a Mad Men-era club. In answer to the question of whether your grandparents were cool, it ends with the closing tag: Hamilton Jewelers — “where style is timeless.”

What the judges say

Bruce Brigham: The exterior is elegance personified. The interior is soft and luxurious; the drapes add a soft elegance to this whole picture. There is a lightness to this design which I like. The lighting is excellent, too, and unobtrusive. The added expense of using curved glass seldom pays off… but in this store design it truly does!

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Curtis Bennett: I am very impressed how this store just breathes elegance and luxury in a mall space. This is not a mall store, this is where jewelry loves to be, loves to be on display and loves to be sold. This is a venue that certainly calls you in and invites you to enjoy the beauty around you and take some of it home with you.

Miho Koshido: It is an elegantly coordinated interior with an open and airy feel. It has a museum-like quality, which enhances the jewelry displayed without being intimidating. Neutral color scheme blends well in the store to become a perfect backdrop for any type of jewelry displayed.

Robin Rotenier: What is cool is that they are not trying to be what they are not. They are offering something solid, a great retail experience, good space, and they are cool by just getting it done right.

Glenn Rothman: Hamilton provides a lavish and opulent shopping experience.

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Separate pickup area

A distinctly separate service/repair area allows for efficient drop-off and pickup transactions for guests in a hurry while not disrupting those customers looking to slowly browse the store’s collections.

Free umbrellas

Hamilton Jewelers orders custom-made umbrellas that it hands out for free to clients on rainy days. “They enjoy the gesture and our name/logo is all over town!” says vice president Donna Bouchard. Cost? Less than $5 each.

  Shop Talk

“Win of the week”

This is a great story of customer service, an atta-boy/girl tale, or a client win that is selected by Hamilton’s training manager and published in a weekly “wind-up” document that is circulated among the company’s five stores.

This story originally appeared in the August 2011 edition of INSTORE.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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