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America's Coolest Stores

ACS 2010: Fifth Place Big Cool, Lee Michaels

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Like a tailored tuxedo or the perfect black velvet gown, Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry’s Shreveport, LA, store embodies tasteful elegance and sophistication that is classic yet current, timeless yet fresh. Lee Michael Berg, CEO and president of the eight family-owned stores, says he’s in the business of providing impeccable customer attention, concentrating on the fine details and backing up sales with complimentary cleanings, inspections, updates and guarantees. He promotes a culture of “volunteer activism,” believing that it’s his responsibility to give back to the community through charitable contributions and donations of his time, and he recruits and rewards a top-notch collection of professionals who embrace his vision and passion.

Quick Facts

LEE MICHAELS FINE JEWELRY, Shreveport, LA

URL: lmfj.com  |  CEO/PRESIDENT: Lee Michael Berg  |  YEAR FOUNDED: 1978  |  OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2009  |  ARCHITECT: John J. “Ike” Capdevielle II  |  AREA: 5,000 square feet  |  EMPLOYEES: 9 (150 companywide)  |  SLOGAN: “The Name on the Box Makes the Difference”  |  TOP BRANDS: TIMEPIECES: Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Baume Mercier, Omega and TAG Heuer; JEWELRY COLLECTIONS: David Yurman, John Hardy, Roberto Coin, Jack Kelege, Leslie Greene and Mikimoto; Giftware: Steuben, Herend, Waterford, Baccarat

Five Cool Things About This Store

Staff Support

1Employees are chosen carefully, then treasured and nurtured. A master test that measures attributes of top performers is administered to applicants to identify qualities they might have in common with loyal and successful employees. A 401(k) plan, half-funded health insurance, personal congratulations from Berg following impressive sales, and birthday cards with a personal note from the CEO all support the staff. “Our employees come before our customers,” Berg says. “You can’t take care of your customers if you don’t take care of your employees.”

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Luxe Lighting

2The store’s lighting is designed to show each piece to its best advantage. Metal halide lights cast wider and whiter beam spreads, requiring half the number of fixtures and cutting down on heat, keeping air-conditioning demands minimal and manageable. Fiber-optic instruments over the bridal case keep each gemstone popping. Even chandeliers are special; created of oven-formed glass panels painted on the reverse side and backlit with images viewed through the glass, they were custom-made for the store by an artist in California.

Branding the Design

3Consistent, distinctive architecture leaves no doubt that the customer is in a Lee Michaels store; walls and cases at all locations are designed with curving, arching lines that keep the eye moving and keep the atmosphere graceful. Rolex wall panels of carved Ayers green granite from Singapore are sculpted to be reminiscent of Rolex watch box tops’ texture, and the clay tile roof, hand-fabricated copper cupola and fountain whisper of Mediterranean influences.

Mural, Mural, on the Wall

4Each of the six Louisiana locations features an imaginative art-deco-style mural that depicts the diamond’s journey from mine to bride’s finger. Artist Margaret Humphris has personalized each, however, to reflect something specific about the store and its region. The Lafayette store, for example, has a crawfish in its stream, the Baton Rouge store has a blue fish, a playful nod to the Blue Fish Grill, the eatery that formerly occupied the building, and the Shreveport mural depicts a vintage oil derrick, along with red ribbons in the stream, symbolizing the Red River.

Marketing Lee Michaels

5There’s a magazine, Lee Michaels: The Magazine of Life’s Celebrations, published twice a year. It features notices of store events, pictures of brides whose once-in-a-lifetime jewelry came from the store, photos of local social events, a Q&A feature, designer profiles, and top picks for the season.  Each “name on the box” ad features a photo of a local dignitary answering questions such as “My life is …” (one answer: “Full of joy.”) The final fill-in-the-blank in each is the same: “My box is Lee Michaels.”

Exterior

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Interior

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Marketing

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Quote-able

“I’ve been in business 32 years, and I’ve never had a sale. Once you do, you never stop. The customer consistently questions value.” — LEE MICHAEL BERG

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Response Cards

Guests are invited to finish the statement, “Dear Lee, I want to tell you …” on response cards provided post-sale, and online. “I look at them all, making sure we’re delivering what the customer expects. If a customer has something negative to say, I personally respond,” Berg says.

What the Judges Said

Bess Anderson: Traditionally, jewelry stores tend to design with rectangular showcases in mind. It’s refreshing to see this environment with lots of curves! The curves are inviting, easy to shop, and encourage meandering and browsing.

Candy Udell: The store has used a strong, distinctive architectural style to make this freestanding location stand out. This has been paired with an extremely warm interior feel with distinctive millwork to define sales areas dedicated to their brands. The interior is eye-catching, with great sight lines to each specialized area.

Gurhan: The Mediterranean-inspired architecture makes Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry stand out as a jewelry store.

Wendy Furrer: I like the exterior of the store — including the clay tile roof, hand-fabricated copper cupola and fountain highlight Mediterranean style architecture.

Jean Philippe Meunier: The exterior of the store in its setting is immediately striking with its architecture that evokes Spanish modern lines with art-deco elements; the effect is very clean, airy and spacious. Once inside the store the displays are elegant in cream and fine woods, enhanced with lovely wall murals, colorful fixture and a unique wall of granite that dominates the Rolex gallery. It all makes for a very pleasing, elegant space.

This story is from the August 2010 edition of INSTORE

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