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Cool Store: Marquirette’s Exquisite Jewelry

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Marquirette’s brints big-city chic to the deep south.

MARQUIRETTE’S EXQUISITE JEWELRY

Montgomery, AL

OWNERS: Lyle and Marguirette Fields
URL: www.marquirettes.com
YEAR FOUNDED: 2003
DESIGNERS: Yann Cowert of Infinity Architecture
TOTAL STORE AREA: 2,850 square feet
SLOGAN: “How Do They Do It? They Make It. They Really Make It!!”
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 18
TOP-SELLING BRANDS: 85 percent Marguirette’s designs; some Norman Silverman diamonds

JEWELRY DESIGNER Marguirette Fields had a retail store in Montgomery, AL, that she describes (with its leopard-look accents and cases around a fountain) as a “poppin’-lookin’ little place.” New Yorker Lyle Fields followed in the diamond-business footsteps of his father and uncle; in 1965, he was sorting diamonds as a summer job between semesters at the University of Rochester. After graduation, he specialized in purchasing diamonds in Antwerp and Ramat Gan, Israel, traveling to major diamond trading centers worldwide. After Marguirette and Lyle met (at a jewelry show at Dallas’ Anatole Hotel) and married, they joined forces to open Marquirette’s Exquisite Jewelry, an elegant, upbeat store that could be described as Times Square meets the Mardi Gras — chic New York City class shaken and stirred with the good will and love of celebration embraced by the Deep South. — JUDY TRUESDELL

Five Cool Things About This Store

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Focus on Inventory

1 The store’s interior is clean and sleek, with the walls virtually bare of art or anything that would draw customers’ eyes away from the cases that are chock-full of inventory. The gently curving walls are painted a Ralph Lauren metallic pewter/silver, and 10-foot mirrors keep the look open and bright. “People are comfortable and the store feels spacious,” Lyle says. Fool’s gold dust adds texture to the walls and catches the light. Pale blond travertine floors are polished and shining and a 6-inch granite slab tops the full bar in the rear of the store. “It’s always fresh and light and clean,” says Marguirette. “Customers say they feel like they’re on Fifth Avenue in New York.”

Economical Curves 

2 Inspired by a trade magazine article Marguirette saw years ago about a store in Philadelphia with curved display cases, the Fields had curving cabinetry custom-made. They figured out how to copy the design in an economical way. “We had straight cabinets but made little wedges to go between them to create the curved look.” Showroom walls are also curved, and the graceful, rounded lines are echoed in columns and a suspended decorative sphere. Why all the curves? “The lines are curved like a woman’s hourglass figure,” Marguirette says.

Comparison shopping

3 Though security guards always are on site, the Fields believe in a relaxed shopping atmosphere. “I’m not that afraid of ‘snatch and grab’ [theft],” Marguirette says. She’s a fifth-generation Montgomery native, and she knows almost everybody who comes through her door. “I’m not opposed to having four to five things out on top of the counter if people want to look at it and compare as they shop,” she says. “It’s not the kind of store where we hand the customer one piece, they try it on, then we take it back and put it away.” Sales staff model jewelry for customers, especially for men making purchases for their wives or moms. “Shoppers interact with our salespeople, have a drink — they feel at home.”

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“The happening place”

4 The Fields know how to throw a party. Pet charities include the Alabama-based Joy To Life Foundation for breast cancer research and prevention, and Montgomery Cancer Wellness Foundation. In October, the store hosted a pink-martini-night fund-raiser and decorated in pink. They also hosted an art show for Troy, AL, native artist Nall, utilizing the subtle backdrop of the store’s pewter walls as a gallery. Waiters wearing bow ties provided food and bar service to attendees; in addition to two bars in the store, there’s a full kitchen. Marguirette also serves on the board of the Alabama Shakespeare Theatre, and she and Lyle recently hosted a 3,100-person fund-raiser complete with a Beatles tribute band flown in from Liverpool, England, and brought to Montgomery by limousine. At a recent holiday open house, the Fields realized they wanted to invite more people than their store could hold, so they rented a local restaurant and set up display cases from the store, re-creating Marquirette’s Exquisite Jewelry inside the restaurant. “Hosting these events makes us the happening place,” Lyle says.

Customized wish lists

5 The store keeps a computerized wish list for each customer. Lyle, who writes software as a hobby, created a system within the store for cataloging inventory and assisting customers in making selections. “We have a picture of every piece in the store,” Marguirette says. “When customers see one they like, we drop the style number into the computer.” A wish list is generated for each customer, and each item is identified by its components. “We might list, for instance, a 10-carat oval sapphire or a 3-carat diamond ring by a customer’s name.” They keep the information in-house and assist husbands in their efforts to surprise their wives with jewelry they’ve already admired. They also print out the lists for shoppers to take with them. “I always tell the ladies to put the list on their husband’s pillow at night.”

Store Images

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Five Questions

THERE’S A CHINA SHOP IN YOUR STORE, FEATURING SUCH BRANDS AS HEREND, WATERFORD, VILLEROY & BOCH AND VIETRI. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO ADD CHINA TO YOUR INVENTORY?

Bromberg’s in Montgomery closed a year ago, and it was the only store that carried non-department-store china. Also, we think it’s a natural next step for brides who have just chosen their engagement rings.

WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF THE OLD-WORLD CUSTOMER SERVICE YOUR STORE PROVIDES?

We gift-wrap everything we sell, and, if the customer would like, we deliver it. Even inexpensive purchases, such as a $125 cameo necklace we made out of a single earring, are treated the same as a $100,000 sale.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE SIZE OF YOUR STORE’S CLIENT LIST?

We have more than 10,000 people in our customer base.

DO YOU MAKE JEWELRY ON SITE?

Yes, it’s a working jewelry store. There’s no clutter, but people get to see how it’s done. Actually, it’s the same with our china — it’s not made in the store, but Deedee Sternenberg, who’s worked in jewelry and china for 30 years, works with brides to mix and match pieces to form place settings.

WHAT STRENGTHS DOES LYLE BRING TO THE STORE?

He grew up in the business, and he also has a strong manufacturing background — he can make anything!

This story is from the May 2009 edition of INSTORE

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