Barry Peterson Jewelers, Ketchum, ID
OWNER: Barry Peterson; URL:barrypeterson.com; FOUNDED: 1972; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 1991; RENOVATED: 2019; STORE DESIGNER: Barry Peterson; EMPLOYEES: 4 full time; 3 part time; AREA: 5,800 square feet total; 1,500 square foot showroom; TOP BRANDS: BPJ Originals, BPJ Custom, Facet, Carl F. Bucherer; BUILDOUT COST: $400,000
Barry Peterson knows that the shop is the soul of his business.
FOR 25 YEARS BARRY Peterson spent much of his day in his shop on the second floor of his jewelry store, dashing up and down the stairs to see customers. Because the entire shop was out of view, customers had little to no idea that he manufactured as well as sold jewelry.
“The Christmas before we redid it, I had a customer ask me, ‘Do you make jewelry here?’”
“Only for about 48 years!” replied Peterson, who has owned a succession of full-service jewelry stores since the late 1960s. “People didn’t have a clue that we did the work upstairs.”
So, when it came time to renovate, he wanted to emphasize that point, while at the same time be at the center of things. He moved his own shop to the first floor, while leaving the rest of the manufacturing operation upstairs.
Now when shoppers walk in, they see the workshop near the front corner of the store and know that the work is done in house, which offers reassurance. “So many people used to ask the question, ‘Are you sending my stuff out?’ I work on very expensive pieces and do restoration. This is a good confidence builder to know that it’s being done right here. It builds trust.” The special-order custom business has gone through the roof and become just as active, if not more active than buying inventory from other vendors, he says.
Peterson’s got a good view of the sales floor, as well as what’s going on outside on a main street of a commercial district. “I’m sitting in the catbird seat,” he says. “I can hear the conversations salespeople are having, and once in a while, I chime in. it gives me a lot more insight into what customers are looking at and looking for and how they are reacting to the store. It’s more fun to come to work.”
If a customer or staff member has a question, he’s readily available. “The consultation table is separate from my main office, and I can pull tools off the bench for measuring. People just love it; they feel like they’re part of the shop.”
The whole floorplan changed from a formal, stand-behind-the-showcases arrangement to a gallery design. The cash wrap area also became more open and integral to the store, since it seemed to Peterson that prior to that change, salespeople clustered near the back of the store.
“I wanted everyone to be part of the store,” he says. “The staircase was already there, but it was more like a column staircase. There was a solid wall from the cash wrap to the edge of our vault. We opened all that up. I tore that wall out and we used the same staircase but removed the walls on both sides. We designed the steel railings where the solid walls had been. The only thing left from the original is the steps, hand railing and the wood posts at the bottom.”
The renovation also uncovered the walls of the vault, which had been covered with sheetrock.
Whimsical windows draw attention to the store, which is at the center of a commercial district with pedestrian traffic.
Also creating a buzz is the seating area in the center. If the shop is the soul of the store, the lounge area is its heart. “That’s been a total hit,” Peterson says. “It’s a great spot waiting for a watch battery or an appointment.
And a lot of our customers who are elderly like to park themselves in those chairs and we can have conferences right there.”
It’s also where he, his wife, Candice, and their team often convene at the end of the day, meet informally, and relax with a cocktail.
Peterson served as main contractor for the renovation, converting a jewelry design program to an architectural one and producing 3D renderings. He employed electricians, tile setters and a friend who did the steel work.
Redoing the store was a breeze for Peterson, who grew up doing woodworking with his dad, a potato farmer who didn’t care for farming and preferred to work with his hands. He and his dad made cabinets and even remodeled houses together.
Peterson designed the showcases and the store layout. The most challenging aspect of the project was juggling the new and old components, like getting old pieces, such as beaten-up showcases he’d designed years ago, out of the building gracefully.
When he was getting ready to put everything back together, though, a pipe broke upstairs, flooding a storeroom in the basement and destroying the ceiling panels he had stored there and was planning to reinstall. On the bright side, his insurance company paid to install a new ceiling and clean out the storeroom. “It set us back three weeks, but we ended up doing more than we had planned on, and that helped us clean up our act.”
Design details, including a showstopper of a handmade carnelian chandelier, elevate the whole look while expressing the custom soul of the store. “We had bought carnelians to make sconces at our home and didn’t use them after all, so it was my wife’s idea to make the chandelier,” he says.
Custom design and repair work are supported by in-house jewelers.
“We bought probably every carnelian in the U.S. to make that chandelier. It took us at least two months of all of us working on it a little bit at a time. We had it all laid out in our front window. People could see all the carnelian beads laid out on the table. We had the frame made, and then we hung the frame. As we finished the strands, we would hang the strands up on stainless steel earring hooks we found. There are 280 strands of necklaces hanging on the light. People are quite amazed that it’s made out of gemstones.”
Other distinctive design details include steel floor tiles imported from Spain, a vaulted ceiling made of Malaysian walnut and a grand staircase with Alder wood banisters. Candice chose the antelope carpet.
The reaction to the renovation has been enthusiastic, and the finished product has become marketing material.
“I have customers who bring house guests in just to see the store,” he says. “In ads, we’ve been using the store as a backdrop. It’s a conversation piece among my old customers. Concierges send people to see it. It’s become more of a destination.”
Five Cool Things About Barry Peterson Jewelers
1. A JEWELRY ARCHITECT.. “With custom, I’m more of a jewelry architect; an architect works with the ideas and throws in their own 2 cents,” Peterson says. “There are a lot of impractical jewelry designs out there. We do a lot of repair and restoration. You learn what not to do.” Peterson asks clients to research what they like online before meeting. “It helps me because I can read their tastes,” he says.
2. THE SHOP MANAGER. Peterson has a stepdaughter, as well as a son and a daughter from his first marriage. Four and a half years ago, Peterson met Alan, a son he didn’t know he had, who was born when Barry was just 19. “He looks like me, skinnier and with hair. He looks like I did 40 years ago.” Before the two finally met, Alan was a mountain groomer for ski resorts in Jackson Hole. Now he’s the shop manager for his father and trains new employees. “Alan has taken to it very well,” his father says. “He had interests in gems and rock hunting on his own before we met. It was natural for him to fall into it.”
3. THE ONLINE PRESENCE. Adding full-time marketing staff member Rebecca Larson has enhanced the store’s online presence. Larson oversaw an overhaul of the website, which allows for starting a custom consultation virtually, as well as curbside pickup and local delivery. They also use a QR code in their window displays to link to a virtual catalog.
4. SURVIVING SHUTDOWNS. Just six months after Peterson opened the renovated store, COVID shut it down. But Peterson and the team managed to keep things going by spreading out in the spacious store. “I was able to work in my workshop downstairs, Rebecca online, and my son upstairs, so we just came to work with all the lights off and did curb service. We didn’t miss a pay period and we kept the employees all busy.”
5. WHY SUN VALLEY? This year marks Peterson’s 50th in the Ketchum/Sun Valley area. “I grew up close to here and used to come here on family vacations when I was a kid. I had lived in Lake Tahoe, Carmel, Park City and St. George, and they just didn’t click for me. My dad said, ‘Why don’t you go to Sun Valley and check it out,’ and I’ve been here ever since.” The area is a tourist attraction, so Peterson gets to meet people from many walks of life. “I feel very fortunate to be sitting in a situation like this, where I can meet people from all over. You name a city, I probably have a customer there. That’s been one of the highlights.”
PHOTO GALLERY (15 IMAGES)
- Michael O’Connor: Great-looking store that visually gives you the impression that you need to explore to discover all its treasures.
- Ruth Mellergaard: I like this story; it’s very interesting. There are some stunning areas. How lucky this town is to have Barry as their jeweler!
- Jennifer Shaheen: Barry looks like such a great person to know. The store and personality images really communicate this personality. There is an opportunity to connect more with the market digitally.
- Jeff Prine: Editorial style product and trend information is strong on the website and elsewhere. Nice varied merchandise and photos in social media. Smart use of QR codes, especially in window displays. Exceptional interior design.
- Hugo Kohl: Beautiful interior. Interesting pieces.
Try This: Travel Jewelry Replicas
“No lab-grown diamonds. I’m a natural diamond guy. I very rarely work with any synthetic stones at all. Occasionally, we will make CZ jewelry as a replica of a major piece for someone who wants to travel with it. Some of these pieces are so expensive they just leave them in the bank and haul out the CZ. Their friends are not going to question whether it’s real or not.”