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Real Deal

INSTORE Readers Honor “Real Deal” Creator Kate Peterson

In this special edition of The Real Deal, our readers share their memories of Kate and her Real Deal scenarios.



INSTORE Readers Honor “Real Deal” Creator Kate Peterson


You can read that any way you like and it remains true. Kate has written INSTORE’s “The Real Deal” since the very first issue of the magazine in January 2002. Kate was also the “real deal” in management consulting, one of the most prolific, experienced and respected consultants to ever work with jewelry retailers.

Not only that, but she was loved across the industry for her down-to-earth demeanor, quick wit and boundless generosity.

Sadly, we lost Kate when she died from injuries suffered in a fire in her Maryland home in the early morning hours of Easter Sunday. She is survived by her two sons, Nicholas Peterson and Kevin Peterson; her parents, Paul and Connie Bykowski; one sister Beth (and Adam) Henning; two brothers, Tom (and Lisa) Bykowski and Jim (and Annette) Bykowski; nine nieces and nephews, including Marylee, Melany, Morgan, Miya, Dylan, Steven, Robin, Seth and Keith, and many cousins.

Kate was one of INSTORE’s biggest supporters, and we (the INSTORE team) are still trying to wrap our heads around the enormous loss of her insight and her unfailing willingness to help us in any way that she could. I will never forget how, at the first few SMART Jewelry Shows in Chicago, Kate stayed busy the entire time, speaking to audiences or helping us wrangle sources for our stories or trying to get new educational features off the ground (there was one where we basically put Kate at a round table in the middle of the show floor and invited retailers to sit down with her to hash out their problems … I’m kind of surprised more people didn’t take advantage of that, now that I think of it). She was super excited about the upcoming INSTORE Show, and we’ll miss having her there.


But in late 2001, when then-editor-in-chief (now group editorial director) David Squires was getting ready to launch INSTORE, he didn’t know Kate. Nevertheless, he was able to coax Kate and her then-partner Janice Mack Talcott to write the first installment of the Real Deal.

“The department was an idea of mine in the original outline of the magazine: real-life business scenarios, with my go-to example being trying to teach the salesperson who’s too shy to ask for the sale,” says Squires. “I don’t remember how we found Performance Concepts (Janice Mack and Kate) to populate the department. I’d just do a lot of internet searches and try to find somebody who was saying interesting things online.

“Anyway, I don’t think it was too long before the partnership between Janice and Kate broke up.

I remember thinking at the time that this was a very bad loss for INSTORE, because Janice was the more renowned expert due to her relationship with Hearts on Fire, and I was worried Kate might not have Janice’s name recognition or skill level.

“But Kate, obviously, came through in an absolutely massive way and almost single-handedly turned that department into the magazine highlight that it was. And

I also hope that writing the department, as well as her other work for us, in print and at events, helped build her status within the industry.

“She really was a blessing for our publication … and losing her is a tremendous loss.”

I’ve managed the Real Deal for more than 15 years now, and I will feel Kate’s absence keenly. Back when I was still a senior editor for INSTORE, I was assigned to manage submissions from our columnists — a task I still do to this day. And the Real Deal was the most complicated feature of them all. We had to acquire the copy from Kate, get it off to our artist to illustrate, then email the scenario to our readers and get their responses. That requires a fair amount of lead time … and that’s something Kate wasn’t particularly good at providing.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve emailed Kate and said something like, “Kate, if I don’t get that copy today, the Real Deal is not going to appear in this issue!” But it wasn’t that Kate was lazy or a procrastinator … anyone who knows her knows that couldn’t be further from the truth. She was just 100 percent committed to her clients. And her clients needed her so often that it was difficult to find time to write the Real Deal. But she always found a way to get it done, just in the nick of time, even if she had to write it on a plane at 3 in the morning.

And we’re fortunate that her clients needed her because that’s usually where Kate got her inspiration for the Real Deal. As she wrote in our Real Deal retrospective last January, “The question I ask most often when clients reach out for help with especially prickly situations is, ‘If I promise to cover up the identifying details really well, can I use this for a Real Deal?’”

Whenever Kate was asked how she kept coming up with stories, she liked to say, “We don’t make this stuff up … it actually happens!”


In March, for the first time ever, Kate sent me four Real Deal scenarios in advance so that we could get ahead on producing the artwork. I was excited at the time, but it means even more now because we’ll all get to enjoy two more installments of the Real Deal from Kate.

This quote from poet Mary Oliver was one of Kate’s favorites: “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it is over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

I think we can safely say that Kate achieved her goal of making her life something particular and real. As real as the Real Deal.

The Big Question

What have Kate Peterson and her Real Deals meant to you over the years?


Marcus M.
Midland, TX

I didn’t know Kate personally, but I’ve always enjoyed her contribution to INSTORE with the Real Deal. For many years now I have read, related to and responded to these stories and situations. I always looked forward to reading the Real Deal emails, responding and then seeing if I made the upcoming issue with my words of “wisdom.” I also really enjoy seeing other insights and seeing how I might view a situation differently. Again, I didn’t know Kate personally, but she and her talents will certainly be missed. Rest easy Kate.

Bonnie F.
Troy, OH

Kate contributed so much to the processes of our store over the years. She started by helping my father over 30 years ago, and she was still working on projects with me in 2023. It is so hard to stay relevant in any industry over the course of a lifetime, but Kate was always at the top of her game! I loved her honesty and the fact that she was so direct. Kate never held back or sugar-coated anything. A lot of times, with business owners. consultants only tell us what they think we want to hear. Not Kate! I always read her Real Deal articles because they were so relatable and it reminded me that we as an industry all experience similar situations together. She used one of our scenarios AT LEAST once! Kate was a force in our industry and the world will not be the same without her. She will be truly missed!

Mark and Monika C.
Rockford, IL

Here at Clodius & Co. Jewelers, Kate will be forever missed and never forgotten. Over some 20 years, she helped us get on track for growth, helped solve and give us tools to handle personnel problems. More than that, more than one “Real Deal” story evolved over real incidents we endured and then shared with Kate. The best memories, ones we will hold close, were after store hours, talking about our industry and some of the people who keep it so interesting. Talking about our families and dogs. Getting cool gems out or showing off things from our collection. I remember looking at one crazy piece of antique gold work and speculating about what it was. Kate took a picture and tweeted it out to her network, and in a matter of minutes, we all knew what it was. Amazing. Love of jewelry, people, animals, travel, good food and good wine. Never lacking for interesting things to talk about. Our lives were enriched by knowing her.

Denise O.
La Grange, IL

My eyes are leaking as I write. Kate Peterson, the loss of your presence will send a ripple effect through our industry. When you are stumped as an owner/manager for an answer for the most bizarre circumstances, you could look to Kate Peterson for answers. Either with a quick email, a column reference or a lunchtime recon mission through decades of old INSTORE magazines. She and our community brain hive provide brilliant insights on professionally handling the audacity, indulgences or politely worded refusals to a particular customer situation. Many times, my business savvy depended on a fresh fueled response I gleaned from the pages of INSTORE’S Real Deal columns from Kate Peterson. I am grateful I have an archive that is even more important now that we have lost an iconic negotiating professor and industry collaborator. Thank you for the legacy you’ve created and the wisdom you shared.

Drue S.
Albany, NY

I always enjoyed reading the “Real Deals” and challenging myself to answer them in an intelligent yet sensitive way. Customers can be so challenging these days, and yet, we cannot afford to lose many! The situations were always interesting with the many answers enlightening! I hope they can continue without Kate and I wish her family and family of friends my sympathy and best wishes.

Babs N.
Bozeman, MT

I met Miss Kate at my very first SMART Jewelry Show in Chicago. As she is known for, she made me feel as if she had been excitedly waiting all day to meet me, and she made me feel like I was the most important person in the room. Considering how her schedule was surely PACKED during the show, it is remarkable to me that she took the time to thank me for coming to speak and assure me that she would be listening in. She seemed to have memorized the info I had sent in for my speaker bio; and I continue to look back on that and marvel, as I have no such ability. Over the years, we made sure to always connect at shows. Considering how long it took me to “find my people” in the industry, I’m ever so grateful she was one of them. Miss Kate, I can’t believe I won’t see you at the next show … but I bet I’ll “feel” you there.

Elizabeth M.
Brockton, MA

There are so many things I admire about Kate. She always made me feel like my call was the most important call of her day, and she didn’t forget anything. The Real Deal is my favorite article in the magazine. I look forward to it every month. Her pride in her son showed in those blue eyes whenever we spoke of our kids. Kate will be missed by me every day.

Allison Leitzel W.
Hershey, PA

While Kate’s Real Deal scenarios often gave me anxiety, she would assure me that this was natural based on my stable DISC analysis (thanks, Kate!). Kate was so many things. She was a leader, a mentor, a role model and a friend. I have the greatest respect and admiration for Kate. She was the trifecta of intelligent, witty and personable. Kate was the type of person who you wanted to be around, and you always felt smarter in her presence. My favorite memories of Kate are simple ones. They are the times when I had the opportunity to sit one on one and have genuine, authentic conversations, often while enjoying a drink. As a mom, I admired the way Kate beamed when talking (and bragging) about her sons. From savvy cryptocurrency advice to news of becoming a grandmother, she was loving, happy and proud. When I close my eyes and picture Kate, I will always see her smile and the way it glowed when she talked about her family and her dogs.

Mark L.
Fort Myers, FL

Kate and I had just been communicating about a “Real Deal” scenario we experienced and wanted to write about. I loved brainstorming with her, and whenever she asked me to participate in something, I always said “YES!” I will hold onto great memories with and of her.

Elva V.
Dallas, PA

Having encountered several “sticky” situations over the years, I often relied on the intuitive responses to Kate’s scenarios. She knew how to highlight each incident, giving each of us a perspective on how to do the “deal” in those situations. The Real Deal assured us that we were not alone in our efforts to solve our customer issues while creating the smallest ripple on the pond.

Lori V.
Plymouth, IN

We have known Kate for a long time. She has always helped us with whatever we had going on. She used one of our scenarios for one of the INSTORE cases. She was always helpful and very knowledgeable. She will be missed for sure!

Angela P.
Geismar, LA

I met Kate Peterson when I worked for Charleston Alexander Diamond Importers. They hired Kate and Performance Concepts to train us. She was the most knowledgeable and industry-savvy person I have ever met. She had THE answers to every jewelry or client or peer situation. She was a mentor and a friend and remained so for 15 years. Rest in peace Katie P. You are loved and admired. You were the Real Deal.

Josh R.
Montgomery, AL

I listened to Kate at many of the shows she attended. I picked up a handout or printed an email from one of the seminars she had at the SJTA show and printed the list of I think it was 15 closes … and I taped it to the mirror in the work bathroom. I would read them when I washed my hands every day to get better at closing. One day I was washing my hands, and a client and friend had added his own close to the list. He said to “call your frat bros and get them to come in and buy, use our common bond to close the sale.” I mentioned that one time to Kate at another event I saw her at, and she said well he was right! I was so looking forward to hearing her again at this past Alabama Jewelers Association convention and was saddened by the news of what had taken place. Thoughts and prayers to her family and friends.

James S.
Westborough, MA

Kate’s article was the first thing I read in INSTORE Magazine. I have a few of those customers; have been in business for 46 years.

Joel M.
Fuqua-Varina, NC

Kate was the first consultant I hired after Scull & Company. She had just started Performance Concepts. She did a lot to help me grow my business. We worked the SMART Jewelry Show together from the start. After that, we seemed to end up speaking at the same places and even traveled together sometimes. We had a lot of shared beliefs and even shared the same birthday. Her loss will be devastating to our trade and to her many friends. I miss her already.

Alan L.
Cape May, NJ

Some people make an impact that seems larger than life. They seem to navigate the bumps and turns successfully and then they are willing to share their experience.

Sarah Hurwitz R.
Frederick, MD

Kate was instrumental in helping us with a smooth transition during a crucial time in our business. With her keen observation, humor and kindness, she provided the best possible support for us during a rebrand and leadership transition. I counted on Kate tremendously as a mentor and friend. It’s a big hole that has been left in our industry and our lives without Kate.

Patricia H.
Frederick, MD

Long before I knew Kate personally and professionally, I loved reading her Real Deal column. Often it was the first page I turned to when I picked up your magazine.

Recently, Kate had become a mentor and friend to our daughter, Sarah, as she was preparing to take over Presidency of Colonial Jewelers from Jeff and me. Her insight, sense of humor, and kindness meant so much to Sarah, and I was so appreciative of her presence in our lives. We will miss her terribly.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.



She Wanted to Spend More Time with Her Kids. She Called Wilkerson.

Your children are precious. More precious than gold? Absolutely! Just ask Lesley Ann Davis, owner of Lesley Ann Jewels, an independent jewelry store that — until the end of 2023 — had quite a following in Houston, Texas. To spend more time with her four sons, all in high school, she decided to close her store. Luckily, she was familiar with Wilkerson and called them as soon as she knew she wanted to move on to bigger, better and more family-focused things. Was she happy with her decision? Yes, she was. Says Davis, “Any owner looking to make that life change, looking to retire, looking to close, looking for a pause in their career, I would recommend Wilkerson. Hands down!”

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