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London Jewelers-“Cool” Story

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London Jewelers

Manhasset, NY

URL: www.londonjewelers.com

Owners: Mark and Candy Udell

Founded: 1926

Featured Location Remodeled: October 2008

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Architect: Callison RYA Studio

Cases and millwork: Halo Art

Area: 15,000 square feet

Employees: 160 companywide, 80 in Manhasset location

TOP 10 Brands: Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Cartier, Van Cleef andArpels, David Yurman, Panerai, Audermars Piquet, Roberto Coin, Judith Ripka andHarry Winston.

 

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By Eileen McClelland

 

Candy Udell stands calmly at the center of a maelstrom ofcivilized chaos in the London Jewelers’ showcase store in Manhassat, LongIsland, on a midweek afternoon. Little white dogs cling magnetically to herheels as three casually dressed customers also vie for her attention. Candy,despite a hectic day, even baked a cake for a noon meeting. Now she takes amoment to joke with a security guard about everyone’s No. 1 priority: Don’t letanyone walk off with the store’s most valuable assets: those little white dogs.

 

Despite its chic elegance, London Jewelers is anything butstuffy. How could it be, with four family dogs flying underfoot — running thelength of the many-roomed establishment — from the David Yurman boutique to thewatch salon, and up and down the sweeping staircase that leads to the giftwaregallery?

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“It’s our home,” Candy says. “Our vision was to be veryunique; to be someplace a customer would feel comfortable and not intimidated.”

 

Since they joined the business in 1973, Candy and Mark Udellgradually transformed London Jewelers from a small, mom-and-pop store in GlenCove, NY, with an excellent reputation for service, to what it is today: Abustling, high-profile Long Island business with five upscale stores, includingthe Americana Manhasset location. Candy had always loved jewelry while Mark knew— from the time he was 5 years old playing with a toy cash register — that hewanted to join the family business.

 

History

 

Charles London, an immigrant trained in watch repair,established trust among the upper crust of Glen Cove in the 1920s by servicingthe expensive, elaborate clocks found in mansions along the Gold Coast of LongIsland. His clients were the elite of the GREAT GATSBY circuit, including suchluminaries as the Vanderbilt family. In 1926, deciding he had a pretty enviablecustomer base already, he opened a jewelry store.

 

Fast-forward to 1947, when the business nearly slipped away,sold off to a non-relative. After the deal fell through, though, London’sdaughter Fran and son-in-law Mayer Udell, owner of a sweater factory, decidedto keep the business in the family. “My father-in-law wanted to sell the store,and there were no buyers,” Mayer recalls. “I said, “I’ll buy it, and Iimmediately started to learn jewelry. Then I sold my sweater factory and tookall kinds of watch-making classes. I wanted to know what made a watch tick.”

 

Mayer, now 88, and Fran, now 90, STILL report to work eachday, as do their grandchildren, Scott and Randi, the fourth generation. AndMark and Candy are amazed at how close they came to perhaps running a sweaterfactory, save for a twist of fate. Mark and Candy joined the business, brimmingwith ideas and youthful enthusiasm. But they didn’t want to sacrifice even afraction of the company’s honorable reputation. “My parents built a very nice,local, small-town business in a very honorable and ethical way. We wanted tokeep maintaining who we are,” Mark says.

 

London Jewelers moved to a bigger store in Glen Cove andMark found himself thinking big, too. “My mission, because we were very local,was to try and see if we could get the Rolex brand. It took me about two yearsto convince them that we were worthy. Finally, when they came to meet me, theyfelt I had the energy to sell the brand. We were successful with Rolex from Day1.”

 

They began to think globally. Every year after the Rolextriumph, London Jewelers added a brand in an effort to become a higher-endstore, and Mark and Candy began traveling to Basel, shopping for Italian goldcompanies to work with them on what were initially small orders. By 1980, they werereinventing themselves in other ways, too, adding locations, for example, whileentertaining and traveling with clients. They had realized they were in thebusiness of building relationships.

 

In 1984, they opened their store in Americana Manhasset, astrip center known as the Madison Avenue of Long Island, where BMWs are ascommonplace as Chevys in less rarefied environs. In 1996 they opened an EastHampton store and watched their celebrity clientele grow as well.

 

Mark was a pioneer in establishing branded boutiques withinhis stores, an idea that finds its ultimate expression in Americana Manhasset’smost recent incarnation.

 

“At that time, jewelry was not branded at all,” Mark says,“but when we were displaying jewelry in the store we started to see that if weput all the rings together, the looks didn’t fit together. We learned it wasbetter to keep the lines together. Our Wheatley location became the firstbranded store.”

 

Four years ago they began planning a major expansion ofAmericana Manhasset.

 

They separated the watches from the jewelry and askedseveral brands to open boutiques — each with its own signage and entrance —managed by London Jewelers. David Yurman, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartierobliged. In all, they went from 3,500 square feet to 15,000 square feet, overthree years, completing the project in October 2008, and now having fiveseparate but adjacent storefronts in one location.

 

Becoming a Destination

 

Architect Steven Derwoed, associate principal for CallisonRYA Studio, says the store design reflects the Udells’ personality. It’s allabout welcome and warmth.

 

“London Jewelers has been able to create a conviviality inthe store that has to do with their business,” Derwoed says. “I can’t tell youthe number of times I saw the same people in there every Wednesday and they hadstopped by just to see what’s new and say hello. People like to be around theowners, and the next step is to create a welcoming retail environment. If weget people to come back more frequently, they will ultimately spend more moneythere. People spend money where they spend their time. London Jewelers hasnever been about the hard sell.”

 

The project began with the renovation of the designerjewelry and diamond salon. The challenge was to accommodate a large number ofbrands without making it feel crowded, so merchandising needs drove designdecisions.

 

“We wanted to create something that was open, morearchitecturally significant with a broader, more statement-y presentation ofjewelry. We were trying to make this space feel larger and also trying to makethe flow more effortless for the customer,” Derwoed says. “The approach wasdriven by aesthetics but it also had a very, very focused businessperspective.”

 

One key was to use curved cases, which add a feminine flairwhile maximizing the lineal footage. The left side of the store is anchoredwith huge, sweeping, waves of cases, and the right by a statement piece foundin a New Orleans antique shop — a steel, hand-engraved safe, circa 1870, thatbelonged to the Rothschild family in Paris and looks like an armored armoire.

 

Full circular cases anchor the center of the store,providing an airy and elegant means of displaying key pieces, and creatinginviting negative space around them. (Sales associates access the cases throughan easy-to-use, pull-out drawer with a spring lock.) The minimum passagebetween any two cases is 6 feet, but in most cases, it is more generous thanthat.

 

The flow invites exploration.

 

“If you walked through the store once and made a circle,you’d feel like you had been exposed to all the product offerings, but then yousee there are all these little nooks and crannies along the way, where you canbrowse, out of the main traffic flow, for privacy,” Derwoed says.

 

Pierre Beauchamp, president of Halo Art, which built thecases and millwork, says those niches and shadowboxes required meticulousattention to detail. “It is the most fabulous store we’ve been involved in,”Beauchamp says. “We have seen big stores, but to have this intimacy within thiswide space, it’s really unique. It’s a combination of all the elements — thehigh ceilings, the chandeliers, the curved stairway, the long display unitscast into the wall. It’s more than a jewelry store. It’s a small castle.”

 

Every detail and material contributes to the overall effect.Carpets were custom made as was all of the wood paneling — and even the chairs.Carpeting, paneling and tapestries absorb sound in a busy environment. Floor toceiling windows bathe the space in natural light that glints off Italian marblesurfaces.

 

Derwoed also suggested connecting the London Jewelers storesdirectly with the branded boutiques so shoppers could walk back and forthwithout going back out to the street. “It created a sense of consistency andflow that you don’t necessarily get from the exterior,” since each façade has aseparate brand identity.

All that, though, was only the beginning. When Barney’svacated the two-story space next door, London Jewelers ultimately decided totake half of it, creating a large space for its watch salon as well as creatinga gift gallery upstairs.

 

“It really became more than any of us imagined in terms oflifestyle destination,” Derwoed says.

 

5 COOL THINGS

 

Immersion marketing

1. It’s a way of life for the Udells. They have a marketingdepartment, they socialize with clients, host frequent events in and out of thestore, publish their own jewelry-style magazine, and have a London Jewelersjingle, written by Jake Holmes and Paul Shaffer, that they won in a charityauction for world hunger. “We won the bid — after much bidding — and Jake cameout to see the store,” Candy says. “He wrote the jingle in a week and Mark andI went to the studio to see Paul and Jake and the whole band record it! It wasso much fun… And it’s the perfect song for us!”

 

A seamless look

2. In addition to separate brand boutiques with individualfacades, brand areas within London Jewelers are clearly delineated yet blendperfectly with their surroundings. “It’s done by design so everything is in ourmonotone colors. The brands worked with us and our colors,” Candy Udell says.

 

Afficionados’ salon

3. Watchmakers, who can be seen working behind a window inthe watch salon, are certified to repair nearly every brand the store carries.A custom-built humidor behind glass doors is available for customers to storetheir cigars, adding to the room’s masculine vibe. The humidor is crafted ofsolid Spanish cedar, the wood best able to balance the temperature and humidityof the space. It’s the perfect spot for watch-centered parties and fairs.

 

Invitation to relax

4. The gift gallery is near the store kitchen, whichfacilitates party planning. Clients are invited to sip an espresso or glass ofwine while they lounge on a sofa accented with throw pillows swathed in a cozy,sweater-like material, and watch a plasma TV hung over the mantel. Crystal onopen shelves glitters in the sunlight against floor to ceiling windows.Shoppers peruse selections from Jay Strongwater, Mackenzie-Childs and vintageChanel, purchased from a Paris antiques dealer.

 

Cases and the craftmanship.

5. Using different wood in similar-looking styles lendsindividuality to each room while retaining unifying features. Halo Art selectedindividual logs to begin the project, rather than purchasing pieces of veneer.Each piece of veneer cut from the log and pressed to suit specific cases. “Thatgives the nicest wood feature for each specific case,” says Halo Art presidentPierre Beauchamp. The watch salon cases were built with rist-cut white oak fromchoice northern U.S. trees, and stained a dark brown. For the balance of thestore, Halo Art employed European steamed beech veneer. Mixing the dark woodwith chrome features adds a contemporary accent.

 

HEARSAY

“One day the (family) dogs were going crazy in front of thedoor, and someone came in and said, ‘Do you sell any dogs?’”

— London Jewelers sales associate

 

TRUE TALE

“We had one customer, a lonely guy from a famous family,(since deceased) who hung out at a bar every day and if a woman talked to himat the bar, he would bring her into the store and say, ‘I want you to set myfriend up with dubies and riamonds,’ which was how he referred to rubies anddiamonds. He was born in July and he loved rubies. He would usually set a$10,000 to $20,000 budget. And all because the person had spent time with himat the bar. At one point he was doing this a couple times a week.” —- MarkUdell

 

TRY THIS I

Give your excellent service a name.

“London Calling,” a VIP service designed to personalizeshopping, offers everything from bringing jewelry and watches to a client’shome or office to introducing clients to celebrated jewelry designers. Oneexample of personal attention: In spring 2008, a London Jewelers managerreceived a request for a 32-carat diamond ring from a loyal client wintering inFlorida. The manager contacted the diamond dealers in New York, located theperfect stones and then traveled to and from Florida on the same day,accompanied by security, to accommodate his client’s request.

 

TRY THIS II

Pack a bag.

“If you’re in business and you want to meet customers whocan buy what you sell, you have to go where they are and be with them in arelaxed environment. You have to travel with them.” — Candy Udell

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