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John Atencio’s design concept makes the most of the store’s enviable mall location.

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John Atencio, Lone Tree, CO

OWNER: John Atencio; URL: abbyjakobeyes.com; FOUNDED: 1976; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 1996; LAST RENOVATED: 2018; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN: Semple Brown, Denver; EMPLOYEES: 28; AREA: 600 square feet; TOP BRANDS: John Atencio Designs; ONLINE PRESENCE: 4.7 rating on Facebook; 11,995 Facebook likes; 1,838 Instagram followers; BUILDOUT COST: $600,000


John Atencio displays his own artwork in his stores, which complement his jewelry designs.

JOHN ATENCIO’S RETAIL environment has obviously evolved since the 1970s when he started his career selling his jewelry from a blanket at a fair in Aspen, CO. But in recent years, he’s intensified his commitment to invest in an eye-catching, experiential shopping environment that serves as the perfect showcase for his modern jewelry designs.

“I’ve learned that change is so vital to sustainability,” Atencio says. “Constantly moving forward sounds simplistic, but it starts with an attitude of creating a culture of constant change.”

The jewelry designer’s newest location in a Denver-area mall features a sheer glass facade that wraps the storefront from floor to ceiling, flooding the space with natural light from the mall atrium.

Two large liquid billboards use ultra-high-definition TVs that can be rotated to feature new designs or promotional events. The backlit John Atencio sign centers and frames the glass façade using cutting-edge LED technology. “We were able to increase the brightness by 10 times, making it far brighter and more impactful than any sign we have created,” Atencio says.

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So this store would be hard to ignore, even if it weren’t in a very high profile location between Nordstrom and Starbucks in Lone Tree’s Park Meadows Mall, which Atencio describes as the busiest mall in the Rocky Mountain region.

Inside, the 14-foot ceiling is designed with natural wood in a grid pattern to add dimension and drama while reinforcing the modern, organic aesthetic. “When we brought that idea to the contractor, he said it would never work because of the weight of the grid hanging from the glass ceiling,” Atencio notes. “So we did a foam core with a wood veneer over the top if it, so the ceiling where the lights are suspended is all just feather light.”

But it’s not all about looks. The store’s layout maximizes showroom space within a tight, 600-square-foot footprint, and jewelry cases are designed to increase display space by 40 percent.

At the front glass, six tall lightboxes with dividers create 12 jewelry showcases, half facing inside and half outside, that can be rotated throughout the day. The jewelry cases are custom powder-coated steel and natural wood that reflect the modernity of Atencio’s designs and the organic, Colorado influence that inspires him.

Atencio’s Boulder store, which opened in 2016, was featured as one of America’s Coolest Stores. The Boulder buildout was based on Atencio’s own market research and marked a departure from anything he’d done in the past. Innovations included movable showcases, using steel instead of wood, and infusing the space with dramatic colors. At that time, when he met with his design team he told them, “I don’t want to have anything that I’ve had before.’”

This time, for the Lone Tree location, his vision was even sharper. “I had my mind made up before I got to the point of sitting down with the store designers. I got them to dream or participate or work toward doing something special, taking what we did with Boulder and turning up the volume a little bit because of having the opportunity to have a gemstone of a store. It is my best store, so from a budget point of view, I felt comfortable making that kind of an emotional and financial investment.”

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Although Atencio has occupied this space in Lone Tree’s Park Meadows Mall for 25 years and had renovated along the way, this version is a total redo that reaffirms his commitment to this particular mall. “The really, really good malls are still generating a lot of business,” he says. “This is one of the best malls or THE best mall in the whole Rocky Mountain region; it’s in an affluent part of town with two main highways nearby. This mall seems to be chugging right along even though mall traffic overall is down.”

The food court is about 20 or 30 feet away, generating traffic between Nordstrom and the food court as well as his neighbor, Starbucks. “Everybody goes for coffee, and the traffic is such that you have thousands of people who walk by that store every day,” he says. “The unique store windows are critical to stopping them in their tracks.”

“When it was complete, I stood back and said, ‘Wow,’” Atencio says. “It cost more than I expected, but it also has more of a wow effect than I expected. I love the colors and how the art really comes through. There are pieces and parts of this store that people can talk about that reflect my artistic expression and commitment,” including his own art on the walls that is a signature of all of his stores.

Custom-built lightbox cases with dividers revolve to rotate the merchandise.

Inventory and Reinvention

Atencio has a core, best-selling inventory that each store stocks. From that base, each location is merchandised differently. “We don’t find that the same customers exist in every market, and we don’t want to waste money on inventory by having everything the same in every store.” In addition, some customers visit multiple stores and appreciate the fresh discoveries.

He’s also aware his client base is changing, and his client demographics are moving away from baby boomers, once a huge piece of the business. “It’s really interesting, because when I first got going, I started making jewelry that was really different than what was mainstream, and over the course of working with my customers, I did things that were a little more mainstream. Now I need to go back and do things that are really different to attract that younger customer.

It’s a little bit back to the future. I am bringing back some of the old designs and we’re having good success with that.”

He’s also in the process of finding new ways to add to his most successful collections. “People do collect and want to add to what they’re wearing,” he says. “The price of metals and stones keeps going up, and people want to have a longer life span with their jewelry.”

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Atencio is comfortable with reinvention. “In my personal DNA, I live a little closer to the edge than a lot of people would be comfortable with,” he says.

“I do like to be challenged. It’s part of the process that keeps me happy and healthy. I’ve had to constantly reinvent. And with my 45th year in business coming up, I know I have to continue to change. It’s something I’ve accepted and feel comfortable with in terms of staying active and staying in business.”

PHOTO GALLERY (11 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About John Atencio

1. ORIGIN STORY. Atencio first started designing jewelry when he wanted to give his girlfriend a ring while at Colorado State University. “I searched and searched for the perfect ring. Unable to find one, I designed the ring myself,” says Atencio. “That was the start. The rest is history.”

2. THE GRAND OPENING. For the opening of his Lone Tree Park Meadows location, Atencio partnered with Colorado charity There With Care to directly support local families and children facing critical illness. For every silver piece of jewelry sold, Atencio donated an Easy Meal Care Bag for families. For every gold piece, he provided a meal for a family of four facing crisis. There was also a digital donation “jar,” where guests could donate as they wished simply by swiping their card. The Denver development director spoke during the evening, which was attended by nearly 100 friends and family members.

3. MORE FOR MEN. Atencio expanded his men’s and women’s wedding ring offerings in the past year. For the men’s collection, he worked with Lashbrook to create several existing designs in alternative metals black zirconium and Damascus steel. In women’s bridal, he built on the concept of Refined Elegance by introducing an Elite Diamond Ring Collection of larger scale rings designed to accommodate fancy shape center stones ranging from 2 to 6 carats. Created in 18K gold, the collection includes 12 unique designs, each named after a powerful and noble woman in history. For example, Nefertiti, Theodora, Cleopatra, Elizabeth and Diana to name a few. The collection’s theme is “Discover Your Nobility.”

4. VISUAL MERCHANDISING. Atencio recently created a visual merchandising position to help the team create a measure of consistency across all seven stores. It’s important to carefully merchandise each store based on what sells best, he says.

5. CENTRALIZED TRAINING. As he’s grown into multiple locations, Atencio has found that training has become more difficult and that there’s greater turnover in personnel than he experienced previously. “The fundamentals of our brand remain pretty consistent,” he says. “We’re working on doing a better job of bringing people in and having a program we can share with them to get them up and running; then as they are in different stores, they have to become more specialized in their particular market.”
 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Benjamin Guttery: Designers are finding new ways to show their stockist partners how to tell their story. John Atencio has always been on the cutting edge of this. The interior of his latest boutique feels cavernous and like you’ll discover something new around each corner of it. Clean lines and unique textures abound throughout the space.
  • Elle Hill: John Atencio has conveyed the story, the storyteller and the jeweler in all its efforts both in-store and online. The jeweler himself has evolved with the consumer and stayed not only relevant, but also ahead of the curve. The art conveys his unique personality and fingerprint.
  • Bob Phibbs: I like the variety of partner charities and the desire to innovate.
  • Michael Roman: Nice combination of color tones. The warmth from the wood looks nice with the bold signage on the back wall.
  • Mark Tapper: I really like the openness and lighting of having the full glass store front. It makes the store look friendly and approachable.

 

Try This

Whether or not you are the artist, try adding art to your decor for another layer of interest and a splash of color. Work with an artist or multiple artists whose work complements your jewelry lines or your own designs and reflects your store’s attitude.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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