Zorells Jewelry, Bismarck, ND
URL: zorells.com; FOUNDED: 2005; RENOVATED: 2019; EMPLOYEES: 9; AREA: 5,600 square foot showroom; 7,000 square foot total; TOP BRANDS: Veraggio, A. Jaffe, “Goosebump Collection”; ONLINE PRESENCE: 8,395 Facebook followers; 803 five-star Google reviews; TAGLINE: “The diamonds can’t be beat on the corner of 9th and Sweet.”; BUILDOUT COST: $1.6 million
Tim and Sharon Ell turn heads in their hometown with their elegant attire.
WALKING OUT OF the door at Zorells Jewelery, a customer who had just purchased a 60th anniversary gift for his wife kicked up his heels as the store’s locally famous wedding bells pealed.
He re-enacted the moment until it was just right for his daughter, who captured it all on video.
Magical moments like those delight Zorells owners Tim and Sharon Ell every day. “The community loves that we celebrate the moment with them,” Tim says. “We offer a world-class product, but to give them something they don’t get anyplace else, that’s where the magic is.”
Every time an engagement ring or anniversary gift is purchased at Zorells, a team member rings a doorbell that launches chimes inside and outside the store. The exterior wedding bell tower is adjacent to a proposal garden with a wedding chapel style gazebo and rose garden where proposals and photo session take place.
Everything about the Zorells experience is designed to give guests goosebumps, Tim says, a goal he is so enthusiastic about that he trademarked the phrase, “Give her goosebumps.”
“We do not bring in a product or implement a new event or procedure without asking ourselves if that new product, event or procedure will give our customers goosebumps. If the answer is yes, we do it; if the answer is no, we don’t. We never stray from our mission to give our customers goosebumps.”
The store itself, expanded and reinvented in 2019, is designed with goosebumps in mind, too.
Because the Ells love classic, romantic movies from the 1940s and 1950s, they asked interior designer Leslie McGwire to dream up a setting that would personify Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The bridal-focused store boasts marble-look porcelain floors, custom chandeliers that look like diamond waterfalls, wallpaper that suggests the fabric of red-carpet gowns, and large black and white portraits of favorite actors and actresses framed in gold.
McGwire confesses that when she first heard the idea she was skeptical that such a design motif would fit the demographics of Bismarck, a city surrounded by farms and ranches. “I said, your location does not go at all with what you’re telling me.
Are you positively sure this is the direction you want to go? It was such a crazy conversation!” But the Ells told McGwire they wanted to offer the local population a level of glitz and glamour they’d otherwise only be able to find on a trip to
New York or LA. “After they said all that, I said, ‘Let’s go!’” McGwire recalls.
Chandeliers were designed to look like diamond waterfalls and built on site.
One challenge was sourcing chandeliers with the right look and fit; McGwire ordered many crystal strands and the general contractor assembled them on site. “Our custom chandeliers are just awesome, and I don’t think there’s a day goes by that people don’t talk about them when they come in,” Tim says. “They look like diamonds are spilling out from them. The largest one is 6 feet in diameter and is a true statement.”
As far as vintage movie photos, McGwire cautioned moderation. “So when you walk in, it’s upscale with a touch of the old Hollywood,” says McGwire, who also created textural drywall that looks like an upholstered wall with buttons on it, giving it a tufted look that brings to mind those trademark “goosebumps.”
Her favorite part of the project, though, is how the large jewelry cases, which form an island in the middle of the store, flow with the overall design, and how the ceiling is designed to emphasize that space.
The expansion was complete just about four months before the pandemic shut everything down. Once people began venturing out again, Zorells became an important destination in Bismarck. Clients began to frequent the Chandelier Wine Bar to enjoy a mimosa; women made it a stop on a girls’ day out to have their rings cleaned and have a look around.
Zorells’ unique shopping experience draws people from a large geographical area. “It’s such an impressive showroom for a remote part of the country,” Tim says. “They feel like they’re on Fifth Avenue in New York when they come in” and not the second largest city in North Dakota.
The bar is decorated with vintage movie photos.
“We’ve been busy. It’s been like Christmas for us every day for a year and a half at Zorells.”
Tim got his start as a 19-year-old diamond cutter and worked two jobs — often 80 hours a week — for 14 years to save the money to launch his own business, a goal he achieved in 2005.
Tim encourages his family and team to express their personalities at Zorells. Quirkiness attracts attention.
“You can’t train or learn uniqueness,” he says. “My wife Sharon wears full retro pinup dresses and wild hats to work nearly every day. Our sales manager son, Tim Jr., wears his vintage fedoras, derbies and bolo hats from the ‘50s each day. We drive our 1950s antique cars and trucks to work as often as the North Dakota weather allows.”
When those wedding bells aren’t chiming, guests listen to Frank Sinatra and doo-wop.
“The romance of years gone by and the classics is what we are about, and we give our clients a story that they want to tell their friends. It all starts with our unique cast of jewelry professionals, right down to my dedicated Star Wars nerd goldsmith that collects toys and comic books,” Tim says. “We stand out and that is how we like it.”
Five Cool Things About Zorells Jewelry
1. Pop A Gem Event. As a benefit for the Make a Wish Foundation, Zorells’ staff fills the store with a few hundred balloons. Inside each is a gemstone, including a grand prize diamond or sapphire. They work with their vendors, who donate a majority of the gems. It allows Zorells to donate 100 percent of the proceeds and grant at least one child’s wish.
2. Cruising culture. Tim makes custom furniture out of classic cars: Zorells’ coffee bar is part of a 1958 Buick and his desk is the rear end of a 1962 Impala. In the summers, they drive an original factory pink 1959 Dodge Coronet to work they named “Cary Grant,” or their 1952 Chevy, “Bogart,” or “Ann Margret,” their ’66 Mustang. Tim and Sharon met as kids cruising Bismarck’s Main Street. “I was with my guy friends and Sharon was with her lady friends,” Tim says. “She got on the back of my motorcycle and she never got off.” So some days they ride their Harley, “James Dean,” to work.
3. It’s a Wonderful Life. This year, for the 75th anniversary of the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, Karolyn Grimes, who portrayed the character Zuzu in the movie, contracted with Zorells to be interviewed on an auditorium stage before a screening of the movie on Black Friday weekend. Any client who makes a purchase is also invited to have a picture taken with the actress. Because one of her memorable lines in the movie is, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings,” Zorells will sell angel wings and halo pendants in conjunction with her visit.
4. Advertising maestro. Tim has written and produced ads that have won ADDY awards. He has trademarked multiple marketing tag lines, including “Give her goosebumps,” “Wine and Shine,” and “Zorells is where Bismarck goes to propose.”
5. Honeymoon included. Realizing there’d be pent-up demand for honeymoons in 2021, the Ells found a way to send 80 couples to Cancun. Any couple who spent more than $4,000 on an engagement ring also got a honeymoon. Tim bought dozens of the vacation packages at a time and launched the promotion in January that continued into the spring. He found that “a whole lot of people in central North Dakota” got engaged because they wanted to go to Cancun.
PHOTO GALLERY (13 IMAGES)
- Jennifer Acevedo: The space is stunning.
- Emma Boulle:I love the bar area with the black and gold accents. The flapper-style chandeliers are striking.
- Gabrielle Grazi: Love the nod to nostalgia! Even the tag line feels like it is of the era, “The diamonds can’t be beat on the corner of 9th and Sweet.”
- Andrea Hill: These guys have a brand, they understand it, and they convey it consistently online, on their website, and even in the clothing they wear and the cars they drive to the store. The Old Hollywood theme works — and doesn’t come off like kitsch — because they clearly enjoy it.
- Larry Johnson: Old movies, old cars, the bells, the goosebumps, all combine to make this a success. We could all learn a few things from Zorells.
- Eleanor Smith: Great personalization, customer friendly environment and marketing strategy.
Try This: Celebrate in Your Own Way.
You don’t have to ring bells if that’s not your style. But Zorells’ uniquely over-the-top experience should serve as inspiration for other retailers to develop distinctive ways of celebrating the special occasions of their clients. “It’s the little things that separate the good from the great,” says Tim Ell. “We all do the big things: We all offer great service, are here for you after the sale, have a friendly atmosphere, are locally owned, etc., but what do you do and offer that no one else does? I focus on the little things every day at Zorells and try to find a way to add them or remake them into a part of the memorable experience my customers enjoy. My tip is do the big things to survive. But, focus on the little things to thrive.”