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8th Kesslers Diamonds location ramps up the design drama.

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Kesslers Diamonds, Grand Rapids, MI

FOUNDED: 1980; Opened featured location: 2021; AREA: 5,786 square feet; Buildout cost: $80,000; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Retailworks Inc., Pinnacle Construction Group, Riverworks Design Studio Inc., Lighting 4 Diamonds, Midwest Sign Co. ; TOP BRANDS: Gabriel & Co., Italgem and Kesslers branded merchandise ; EMPLOYEES: 139; LOCATIONS: 8


WITH A FUTURISTIC store in Michigan and a recently launched e-commerce business, employee-owned Kesslers Diamonds is in full growth mode.

Each Kesslers Diamonds location represents an evolution on a design theme. Their eighth store is the second in Michigan for the Wisconsin-based company.

The Grand Rapids location carries on the framework of what has become a brand identity with its booth-style consultation seating, a lounge and a concierge kiosk. It sets itself apart with three walls of windows, an attribute that originally attracted the company’s attention to the building, as well as high open ceilings and a unique design scheme based on curves and circles.

Jim Bretzel, director of operations, says he worked closely with interior designer Lyn Falk of RetailWorks to ensure they used the space to its best advantage within a budget.

Falk had a lot to work with, including natural light and high ceilings that open up the space.

Bretzel says keeping the open ceilings with exposed ductwork represents a departure from the dropped ceilings at other Kesslers locations. Custom-created circular floating clouds are made from a foam material, rather than heavy drywall, for an airy and economical effect.

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Laser-cut metal sheets that separate the booths echo that circular theme, as does an inset within the cash-wrap counter. “The fact the space is so tall and open allowed for dramatic design elements to become focal points,” Falk says. The circles also symbolize rings and a “forever together” motif.

Falk has been collaborating with Kesslers since 2003. “Every store we design, we do a new iteration of the old. It’s always evolving to be more on trend and to also reflect the community that it’s going into.”

Other design departures include using lighter tones, including warm gray hues. Because the space is so open, carpet squares in an oversize floral pattern are visually interesting without being overpowering.

Traffic flow was an important focus of the planning. The Kesslers experience begins with custom-created logo door handles. Once inside, clients are greeted at a concierge kiosk near the front door. From there, there’s a direct route to the POS for repairs or pickups.

“People can get a real feel for the layout within the first few seconds,” Falk says. “There’s not a lot of visual clutter. Everything has a bit of a rounded, curved essence, so that helps move traffic.” Walking lanes are wide. A polishing and ring cleaning area is easily accessible.

Marketing manager Lisa Hinek says this is Kesslers’ most experiential store. Several seating areas have been created, including a lounge with laser-faceted lighting on the ceiling. The lounge features a large screen that shows seasonal videos and photos of Kesslers products. Beverages, chocolates, and freshly baked cookies are offered every day. Further into the space, a bar with a gold-flecked stone top serves local tap beer.

The booth seating is perfect for clients to view loose diamonds and engagement rings privately. Seating next to the display cases is where custom designs begin, and custom-created men’s rings can be made on a touch screen.

A tech-driven goldsmith shop was created to house two goldsmiths. That space also features a “Style Seeker” program, where clients take a digital quiz to determine what style of engagement ring best suits them. This touch screen shows those images on the large wall-mounted screens.

Kesslers’ Second Michigan Location Builds on Success

Kesslers Diamonds is 100% employee-owned.

Employee-Owned

Richard Kessler, who founded Kesslers Diamonds in 1980, taught his employees to treat the business as if it were theirs and to treat clients the way they would want to be treated. In 2019, Kesslers became 100% employee-owned, and Kessler left the business in the hands of its employee-owners.

“Being an employee owner doesn’t mean that everyone makes decisions on hiring and firing,” Bretzel says. The company is managed by CEO Joe Gehrke, who reports to a board of directors.

To become an owner, employees must have worked a minimum of 500 hours in the company and be 18 years old. After the first year, money is put into an employee stock ownership plan account, based on the value of the company, and the employee’s portion is based on a percentage of their salary. Once an employee retires, they can draw from the account. The company has an open-book policy so everyone can see how Kesslers is performing financially.

“The better we do as a company, the better they do with their ESOP account,” Bretzel says.

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Hinek, who came to Kesslers from a larger corporation, has found that in an employee-owned company, everyone takes pride in client service.

“We have a sense of ownership and pride you won’t find anywhere else,” she says. “We treasure the lasting relationships we create with our clients while helping them find the jewelry of their dreams.

“We are encouraged to make decisions, but wise decisions. Employees think a little harder about buying and spending money, and ask ‘Are we doing it the most effective, efficient way?’”

Being an employee-owned company serves Kesslers clients in many ways, Hinek says. “When you come to Kesslers, you can expect that each person you speak with
will be passionate about what they do, the company they work for, and anyone who comes through our doors.”

Kesslers prefers to promote from within rather than look outside the company to fill positions. Turnover is less than 26%. Since everyone is an owner, physical inventories are a high priority, with very little to no loss as a company.

Kesslers’ Second Michigan Location Builds on Success

E-Commerce Growth

In 2020, Kesslers launched its e-commerce business with the goal of giving clients an experience similar to that of being in the store from the moment they land on the home page. If they need help, they can reach out via Podium chat to get an answer, set up an appointment, or complete a sale.

In 2021, Kesslers began quarterly online giveaways and, in the process, gathered thousands of new email addresses.

In 2022, they purchased a Lightbox to continue to create videos of the jewelry represented online with the goal of having most, if not all, engagement rings online with a 360-degree video. Having a full-time photographer/videographer on staff makes that possible. They hire local models and talent for monthly photo shoots, with a priority on inclusion and diversity.

While previously the marketing focus was nearly all on radio, Kesslers has diversified in recent years.

“We like to market the Kesslers brand,” Hines says. “Our radio ads tell a story to the listener and are geared toward the masses, whereas our digital presence is geared toward a more specific client focus or jewelry items.”

Kesslers’ Second Michigan Location Builds on Success

Five Cool Things About Kesslers Diamonds

1. LIFETIME WARRANTY. Kesslers warranties everything for a lifetime, including the center diamond of an engagement ring.

2. GIVING BACK. Kesslers’ eight stores support non-profit organizations throughout the year. In a partnership with Children’s Wisconsin Child Advocacy and Protective Services and Helen DeVos Child and Family life team to create and donate more than 15,000 “Brave” bracelets for children and adolescents who may have been abused or are going through medical procedures and follow-up care.

3. IN-HOUSE EDUCATION. Each employee attends Kesslers University training, which covers diamond knowledge, jewelry basics, and “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” based on the book by Stephen Covey. Refresher courses are scheduled every quarter.

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4. WORK-LIFE BALANCE. Most sales and support staff work a four-day work week. Stores are closed on Sundays to give everyone a consistent day of rest.

5. LAGNIAPPE. Kesslers’ in-house photographer created a special presentation feature for custom pieces. Along with their custom jewelry, customers receive a framed 4-by-6-inch professional picture of their piece.

PHOTO GALLERY (18 IMAGES)

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • JESSE BALAITY: My first impression with Kesslers Diamonds is that this store understands its customers. The ownership structure, inclusionary model imagery, and the built environment all project a sort of grounded and caring feeling. The store feels fun and unpretentious, but not too casual as to undermine its status as a purveyor of luxury goods. I particularly enjoy the repetition of the rings and diamond iconography in different mediums, from the ceiling elements to the greenery.
  • GABRIELLE GRAZI: It is cool to be kind. One of the most remarkable things about Kesslers is their commitment to Inclusion. One example is their partnership with Best Buddies, a global not for profit organization that creates opportunities for friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and offers support for the 200 million individuals that suffer from social, physical and economic isolation.
  • LARRY JOHNSON:  I really like how the interior of this store looks. Inviting, Interesting, full of selection, organized and presented in an attractive way.
  • REBECCA RAU: Hats off for converting to an ESOP! This is exciting to see in the jewelry space.
  • MEG TERRY: This store has the feeling of a hospitality design with the large-scale carpet and the booths along the glass wall. These features give this store a sense of individuality

 

Try This: Guerilla-Market Using Your Unique Packaging

“Our Michigan store’s initiative was to get more people in that market to know who we were,” Lisa Hinek says. “We came up with Kesslers Keepers. Our employee owners in the Michigan market left our signature red Kesslers bags around different areas of town. In each bag was a card that talked about our Kesslers Keepers promotion, along with an empty box.” People who found the bag were invited to come to one of the two Michigan locations and redeem their empty box for a sterling silver Moon & Back Pendant, with the ability to upgrade to a larger Moon & Back Pendant in gold. They partnered with two Michigan radio personalities and ran paid and organic social media. The initiative was a hit, and 40% of the approximately 200 bags left throughout the city were redeemed.

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