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ACS 2010: Fourth Place Small Cool, Goldworks

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Allowing a love of jewelry-making to guide your business decisions is usually a recipe for disaster. But it has worked just fine for Goldworks owners Wren and Ted Hendrickson. Following their passion for well-crafted designs has not only determined their choice of what to sell, but also their business location, their hiring practices and the very cool design of their store. “Our art has always come before the question of how we might grow as a business,” Wren says. Indeed, the pair never actually had a goal of opening a store. “We just wanted to make jewelry. When we started, we were so young we didn’t realize how unlikely it was that we would succeed. I never imagined we would be where we are today.”

Quick Facts

GOLDWORKS DESIGNERS/FINE JEWELERS, Chapel Hill, NC

URL: www.goldworks-nc.com  |  Owners: Wren and Ted Hendrickson  |  Founded: 1990  |  Opened Featured Location: 2005  |  Architect: Don Tice  |  Area: 3,400 square feet  |  Employees: 3  |  Slogan: “Celebrating the traditional art of fine jewelry making”  |  Top Brands: Besides Goldworks’ own custom work, Hearts On Fire, Pandora, Galatea

Five Cool Things About This Store

The Back Story: A Couple of Hippies Made Good

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1Wren and Ted first met in Boston, and shortly after learning to make jewelry as a hobby in their early 20s, started selling their creations in stores, at craft shows and in galleries. After marrying and moving to North Carolina, they opened a tiny 600-square-foot store in Durham. “We had become familiar with the work of many other artists and decided that we wanted to include the beautiful handmade things we had seen at craft shows in our store.” The response from customers was warm and “flattering,” Wren says. Within a few years they outgrew the first store, and ended up, two moves later, in their current space in an upscale, community-oriented lifestyle center that features locally owned businesses.

Artisan Offerings

2Ted and full-time goldsmith Ken Weston make more than half of the items sold by Goldworks (predominantly designs made of gold, platinum and mokume-gane). Wren joins them on the bench about two days a week when business permits. “The jewelry we make really sets the tone for everything. It’s not specifically contemporary in style. It is original … but has a timeless, classical feel,” she says. Wren and Ted apply the same aesthetic standards to their buying trips to craft shows whether they are looking at hand-made jewelry, jewelry boxes or hand-blown glass items. “We look at the quality of the materials, the intrinsic design, its unique appeal, and not just what’s popular in the marketplace.”

Warehouse Echoes

3The space now occupied by Goldworks was little more than an empty shell when Wren and Ted moved in. The L-shaped space effectively breaks the store into two “galleries,” one with a focus on fine jewelry and the other on craft pieces. Both the front and side doors are framed by panels of glass mosaic, created by Thomas Meyers, a glass artist whose wares are sold in the store. Beside each entryway is a flat screen monitor running a slideshow of pieces the store has made. “In this way, the entire outside of the store functions both as a window into as well as a part of the store itself,” says Wren. The cherry wood columns throughout the store recall the business’s origins in a space that was once part of a tobacco warehouse in Durham.

Hiring Policy: Always Be Creating

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4The staff again reflects the store’s overriding love of art. All the employees have creative interests, from the goldsmiths to the sales associates (one of whom is a photographer, and the other who makes hand-made cards that are sold in the store). The employees are encouraged to balance their work and personal lives and are given time off to devote to their outside interests. “People have told me were crazy for giving people time off, but it makes for both happier and more interesting people, which they bring to their work lives,” Wren says. The added pay-off is a very low turnover. And if staff members do leave, it is invariably to pursue their artistic ambitions.

Changing Displays

5One of the first rules any new employee learns at Goldworks is don’t mess with Wren’s displays. She is, she says, “obsessive” about them. A common nature theme runs through many of the products sold in the store, and this is supported by table and wall art that uses flower and leaf designs as a motif. Vases of fresh flowers are placed around the store to support the theme (which is also echoed in the store’s print advertising). “I love to do the displays. I usually change them about every two weeks, but if we sell something big (a prominent piece) I might redo the whole section or the whole store.”

Exterior

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Interior

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Marketing

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         Shop Talk

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1. Printed cards. Given to people buying jewelry that include dates indicating when the piece should be brought in for cleaning or to be checked for wear, such as 30 days, 90 days, 6 months and one year. If the customer fills in all the boxes, she gets a $100 gift certificate at the end of the year.

         Hearsay

“You mean I traveled all the way from Charlotte to visit a mall?” — A customer who was surprised a store she’d heard such good things about was in a mall.

         Fun Facts

TED AND WREN each have their own jewelry-making style. Ted makes more men’s jewelry, while Wren’s jewelry is very feminine. Some couples, looking for rings that are unique from each other, will order a “married couple” set.

What the Judges Said

Kate Peterson: The wood and glass entryway is absolutely stunning — a great way to differentiate itself from all the typical mall offerings. I really like the clean, un-cluttered look of the store, and the way the two sides flow together seamlessly.

George Whalin: This elegant store consists of glass walls that beautifully show off its exquisite merchandise. Designing much of its own jewelry along with artistic home décor items, Goldworks provides a shopping experience unlike most other stores. And its marketing materials are as lovely as the store itself.

Ken Nisch: The dramatic geometry of the store’s space contrasts well with the very intricate and fine detail and craftsmanship of the product, creating radically different visual territory for what is sold, versus where it is sold.

Wolfgang Möckel: Wren and Ted Hendrickson both have a great sense of style, which comes across in the design of their beautiful store, as well as in the presentation of their jewelry, glass works and pieces of art. I like their nature theme, which can be seen anywhere you look, including in some of the jewelry.

Patti David: The layout of their showcases draws you in and makes you feel like you’re not in a conventional jewelry store.

This story is from the August 2010 edition of INSTORE

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