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Marley  Fine Jewelry

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Marley Fine Jewelry, Pikesville, MD

OWNERS: Marley Simon, President (w/investors); OPENED: 2004 (New location); DECORATING COST: $750,000; STORE AREA: 3,200 sq. ft; ADDRESS: The Festival at Woodholme, 1809 Reiserstown Road, Pikesville, MD 21208; TARGET CUSTOMER: Middle- to upper-income women and men; PHONE: (410) 486-6686; URL: marleyfinejewelry.com; 2004 REVENUES: “We’re a seven-figure store.”


WHEN DESIGNING his new store, Marley Simon (known as “Marley” throughout the industry) took the same artistic approach that he does to designing jewelry. And it shows: like Marleyʼs jewelry, this bold store immediately delights the eye, but reveals its greatest beauties under closer examination. The neo-classically designed 3,200 square-foot store marks Marleyʼs third relocation in the Pikesville area. And it could very well be his masterpiece. The storeʼs grandly sweeping curves, and strongly contrasting wood and steel offer a dramatic setting in which to shop. Plus, Marley even has good luck on his side — the result of something he calls “accidental Feng Shui”. Apparently, some of the jewelerʼs customers, who know of the ancient Chinese art, say that the positioning of the storeʼs different elements is highly fortuitous. Says Marley: “It was never part of the original plan, but they say that weʼve [correctly] positioned certain shapes in certain places in the store.” Adds the jeweler: “People feel comfortable in the store, so perhaps we did something right … but by accident.”

Talking Cool with Marley Fine Jewelry

HISTORY

Originally educated as a graphic designer, Marley Simon found himself falling in love with jewelry design in college. That love has led to a 30-year-career in the jewelry business — most of them spent behind a jewelerʼs bench. But as the Marleyʼs retail business has grown, he has come to spend more and more time on the sales floor, where the 52-year-old artistʼs energy and enthusiasm canʼt help but clinch sales. It was in 1987 that Marley moved his business to an upscale mall in the affluent Baltimore suburb of Pikesville. Last year, it became apparent that his business was far too big for his former space. So he moved to a new location in the mall — only a few doors down from his old one in terms of distance, but light years away in terms of space, presentation and overall style. The new store has the space to offer roughly ten times more inventory, while also giving Marley room to expand the custom design jewelry end of his business and create individual departments like his SwissDirect watch counter, an area of the store where select name brand watches are sold.

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But, with a majority of Marleyʼs business coming from custom jewelry, the biggest key for the new store was that it needed to convey a serious approach to custom work … with a strong emphasis on creativity. Says Marley: “When people see this store I want them to say ʻHey, this guy can design jewelry!ʼ” Mission accomplished.

THE CONCEPT

It isnʼt easy getting the attention of customers in an upscale “lifestyle mall”. Marleyʼs competition includes 35 other stores, all of them frequent users of superlatives like “Top-end!” and “One of the finest in the country!” So, while there was an element of “keeping up with the Joneses” in his storeʼs redesign, Marley also wanted to move ahead — creating a retail store that was architecturally at least five years ahead of its time in terms of design and execution. Marley worked closely with Keith Kovar of GRID/3 International to create the storeʼs neo-classical interior design. “The fact that I am a designer and had many preconceived ideas for the interior, our thoughts and ideas worked very well together,” Marley says. “I think the most important thing that I conveyed to him was that I wanted a design that was both functional and totally different than any other jewelry store.”

To achieve that ambition, Marley started off with space — lots of it. With 3,200 square-feet to fill, Marley could afford to “live large”. He filled his store with grandly-sized fixtures — like a oval main jewelry counter that measures 10 feet by 20 feet, sizeable shadow-box jewelry displays and large plasma screens mounted on walls and columns.

To convey that sense of forward-looking luxury, Marley also made a bold choice in terms of design materials. Brushed stainless steel was combined with a rare, exotic wood from Africa — called wenge wood, and known for its dark brown color, tight and straight grain, fine black veins as well as its coarse texture.

Marley says that, for many customers, “the first reaction is ʻI canʼt believe how beautiful and unique the store looks, without being intimidatingʼ. Or they say ʻItʼs so New Yorkʼ.”

THE STORE

Upon entering Marley Fine Jewelry, customers walk through a 12-foot long all-glass vestibule. Then, they emerge through the storeʼs interior doors into the main floor. The dominant colors are ocean blue and sand brown, colors associated with a relaxing day at the seaside. Sand brown ceramic tile runs through the entire store on in to the bathrooms, which are entirely done in tile. In the showroom the sand ceramic tile makes a transition to similarly colored carpet tiles which were installed with the intent of creating geometric patterns in the floor for a “retro look”, according to Marley. Matching pile carpet is added as an accent at the base of the display cases, all of which were created by Marley, and which total 130 linear feet.

The storeʼs over-sized display cases are echoed in the high-end drop ceiling, which was fabricated in 2ʼ x 2ʼ grids. The center display case — a massive ellipse — is both the storeʼs main service area and also the main focal point of the store. (It also happens to be the place where Marleyʼs own custom designs are displayed.) The storeʼs second-biggest focal point is the glassed-in presentation room which faces the vault. The glass walls are sandblasted with lines and the storeʼs logo — which hide enough to be a security feature when shuttling high-end valuables in and out of the safe, but reveal enough to invite curious glances from customers.

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The storeʼs walls are decorated in various manners. In the main showroom, the walls feature 3” x 3” art glass tiles that are a moonstone color, a cross between an ocean and sky blue. The storeʼs large pillars have the same color and sized tile. Both aesthetically pleasing and functional, the pillars offer structural support and provide a place to mount some of the storeʼs four high-end plasma display screens.

In another area of the store, a wall is covered with a metallic hand painted linen wallpaper that has a hand-troweled visual effect. The steely quality of the wall is brought out by the mixture of metal halide and halogen lighting in this area and throughout the store.

THE TECHNOLOGY

A neo-classical interior design theme wouldnʼt be complete without some high-tech touches. In addition to the storeʼs four plasma screens, which show photographs of Marleyʼs custom designs on a continuous loop, there is an Internet kiosk which store employees use as a tool to help customers explore gemstone and jewelry options online. Marleyʼs attitude toward Internet purchases is very open — if thatʼs what his customers want, heʼs there to help. Says the designer: “We believe that this is the next wave in our industry and we are confident that this will give our customers the ability to shop the Internet and eliminate the normal concerns that they may have.”

Of course, with his extensive bench experience, Marley made sure to fill his studio with the latest bench technology — including a laser-welder, plus a polishing and casting room, and a finishing room, each measuring 10ʼ x 10ʼ. To allow for easier precious metal recovery, studio walls are coated and fabricated without seams or corners for easier precious metal recovery.

THE PEOPLE

Old habits die hard, especially for a long time bench-jockey like Marley. But he is getting accustomed to spending more time on the sales floor. In fact, it could be argued that despite all the storeʼs new bells and whistles, the most visible feature of the store is what itʼs always been — the designer himself. The spotlight warms Marley each day as his storeʼs sole designer. “All of our customers get the chance to meet with me to discuss and design the piece of their dreams.”

With 11 staff members, most of them long-term employees, the team at Marley Fine Jewelry work hard to create a warm and friendly shopping experience for the storeʼs mainly upper-middle to upper-class customers. Like the inadvertent Feng Shui qualities of the store, Marley canʼt quite point to what management skills keep his staff around year after year. Says the designer: “We must be doing something right with so many people staying around for so many years.”

Marleyʼs staff is knowledgeable and well-trained with some Graduate Gemologists on staff, but he would like to do more gemological and sales training. “This store is two-and-a-half times larger and we carry ten times the amount of inventory,” Marley says. “Now that weʼre a more serious store we need to rethink our approach to training as part of this huge expansion.”

PHOTO GALLERY (6 IMAGES)

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