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America's Coolest Stores

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest Stores

Retail winners to be announced next week.

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B EFORE WE ANNOUNCE the winners of the 2021 America’s Coolest Stores contest on Aug. 23, we’d like to introduce and thank our exceptional panel of judges, all winners in their fields of expertise. They’re specialists in marketing, store design, jewelry display, jewelry design and retail operations.

BIG COOL Judges

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresJennifer Acevedo is editor-in-chief/associate publisher of VMSD Magazine. She is a 25-year-veteran print journalist who has researched, spoken and written extensively on the strategy, design and marketing of retail and consumer brands. Born in New York City, she has enjoyed time living abroad, in Mexico City and Caracas, Venezuela, and is currently based in Chicago. Jennifer is a sought-after speaker and moderator at numerous industry conferences both in the U.S. and overseas and has served as a judge at various design and marketing awards competitions.

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresEmma Boulle is involved in operations, sales and design at de Boulle, which was founded by her parents, Karen and Denis Boulle in 1983. Emma earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and is working toward a GIA Graduate Gemologist degree. Five years ago, Emma and her family opened their second location in Houston, Texas, which earned America’s Coolest Store in the Big Category in 2016. Most recently, de Boulle renovated their flagship store in Dallas, Texas, after 20 years, and took first place as America’s Coolest Store in the Big Cool category in 2020.

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresGabrielle Grazi is vice-president of retail strategy and partnerships for the Natural Diamond Council, where she is leading an innovative and collaborative program designed for jewelry retailers across North America who share the mission in amplifying consumer desirability for the modern diamond dream. Gabrielle Grazi has held roles in executive field leadership, operations and marketing for best in class organizations across both fashion and jewelry industries for the past three decades.

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresAndrea Hill, president and CEO of Hill Management Group, is a management and strategy consultant with a deep specialty in jewelry and fashion manufacturing, digital marketing, business systems implementation and design, and jewelry industry supply chains.

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresLarry Johnson is CEO of Larry Johnson Consulting Services, a visual merchandising advisory firm, and the author of The Complete Guide To Effective Jewelry Display. His firm works with independent retailers around the world to increase profits by improving the presentation of their merchandise.

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest Stores

Eleanor Smith, a former VP of visual merchandising for Bloomingdale’s, spent over 25 years as a visual merchandising leader, designing and developing the overall in-store brand experience while overseeing 50-plus stores. Her goal was to create dynamic and inspirational experiences, always with a purposefully fun, storytelling and playful mindset to engage the customer.

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SMALL COOL Judges

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresHugo Kohl is owner of Hugo Kohl Fine Jewelry in Harrisonburg, VA, the 2020 winner of INSTORE’s America’s Coolest Stores contest in the Small Cool division. He is also president and curator of The Museum of American Jewelry Design and Manufacturing and a board member of The Providence Jewelry Museum. He founded HKmfg, a company specializing in the manufacture of vintage and filigree jewelry.

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresJennifer Markas is executive director of the Women’s Jewelry Association where she leads its strategy and fundraising efforts and oversees operations. Previously, Markas held positions at Tiffany & Co., Citibank Foundation, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art among others. She is a graduate of Boston University and holds a master’s degree from Parsons School of Design.

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresRuth Mellergaard is principal of GRID/3 International, an interior design firm that offers branding, planning, decorating, lighting and millwork details for stores, small offices, showrooms and spas, with particular expertise in jewelry store design. GRID/3 designs interiors using green products and sustainable lighting.

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresMichael O’Connor has been involved in the jewelry industry for over 30 years as a designer, marketer, celebrity stylist and TV personality. He works with designers, manufacturers and retailers to create and evolve their brands, and he has a line of jewelry and handbags under his own name available at The Danbury Mint. He is marketing director for The Plumb Club.

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresJeff Prine estimates that as part of his duties as a journalist and consultant, he has visited more than 1,000 retail doors in the U.S. and abroad, not to mention his research into e-commerce sites, where he often is a content creator. A specialist in B2B editorial, Prine was executive editor at Modern Jeweler and editor-at-large at Accessories Magazine.

Meet the 2021 Panel of Judges for INSTORE’s America’s Coolest StoresJennifer Shaheen is chief digital officer for Hill & Co., a U.K-based firm focused on helping responsibly sourced diamond, gemstone and jewelry businesses execute strategies that harness digital technology with business strategy to increase revenue faster. Shaheen is also president and founder of The Technology Therapy Group, an online education platform empowering businesses to harness the power of digital technology.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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