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Jeweler Thought This Was a Terrible Idea … But Look How It Worked Out

Scrap jewelry turns into treasure trove.

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When assistant manager Karen Edney proposed something that store owner Brian McCall thought was the worst idea he’d ever heard, he said, “Let’s try it.”

McCall is committed to trusting and empowering his staff of 11 to make decisions, even when he secretly fears they’re headed in the wrong direction.

Edney suggested that instead of scrapping sterling silver jewelry McCall bought in large quantities, they weigh it, put it in bags, price it according to weight and allow shoppers to dig for their own treasures. And although McCall thought it was a terrible idea, he never told Edney that until well after he was proven wrong.

“We have three bins mounded with this jewelry,” McCall says. “We offer women chairs and wine, and they go through it for hours. They feel like they’re getting one over on us.”

Edney says she got the idea when a customer came in looking for a silver cross, and she realized they had a whole shoebox of them in the storeroom. She polished one up, the customer said it was perfect and bought it. Voila. What could be simpler?

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When she got McCall’s OK to sell more items, she tried to organize them neatly, but as shoppers came in, they started buying the stuff even before she was finished displaying it. She realized her treasures needed to be presented less formally so that people could easily rummage through them.

“It’s just crazy,” McCall says. “People love the bargain. We’re in a more affluent part of town; it’s not like we’re at a flea market. But the reality is it is kind of a bargain. Some of it is QVC material that someone paid $75 or $150 for. I just weigh it up, because I don’t care, and they can buy it for $15 or $18. I can sell a ring for $20 that I would have melted for $4.”

The bottom line? The Silver Sandbox has become the No. 1 profit margin center for McCall and represents 10 percent of the store’s $1 million gross revenues. “I’m all on board now,” says McCall. “Every day I walk in and there’s a group of people sitting at the sandbox and I just shake my head. Now I’m looking for sandbox stuff, and I’m paying dealers a little bit more for their scrap sterling. They feel they’re getting one over on me and I’m doing the happy monkey dance because we’re killing it with this silly thing.”

Women book the space in the evening for bridal showers, charity fund-raisers and other events, where a gemologist might speak on the history of sterling silver.


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