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Need a 3-carat diamond or refuge from a tornado? This is your store. (Just leave your Longhorns t-shirt home.)

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Mitchell’s Jewelry; Norman, OK

URL: mitchells-jewelry.com; OWNER: Newt and Gina Mitchell; FOUNDED: 1981; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2013; AREA: 6,500 square feet; COST OF BUILDOUT: $1.3 million; MANAGER: Ryan Cannon; EMPLOYEES: 5 full-time, 2 part-time; TOP BRANDS: Verragio, Tacori, Kirk Kara, Scott Kay; TAGLINE: Where Oklahoma Gets Engaged; FACEBOOK: 8,823 likes; INSTAGRAM: 316


CHURCH BELLS RING the moment a couple steps outside Mitchell’s Jewelry after buying wedding rings. The chimes are digitally generated but sound real. Once the secret is out, the betrothed can alert the store to post congratulations, with their names, on a large digital sign facing the highway.

“Our customers love this and they all come to take pictures of it,” says Gina Mitchell. Many post those pictures on social media. Sometimes, a potential groom will ask to have congratulations posted early so he can drive his new fiancée by the store for a post-proposal surprise. The sign often goes up again on the wedding day, with interlocking wedding bands.

More than half Mitchell’s sales are bridal jewelry, and they own the trademark for their tagline: “Where Oklahoma Gets Engaged!”

It was a market Newt and Gina Mitchell conquered very deliberately.

Coins to Diamonds

Starting as a coin dealer in the 1970s, Newt Mitchell operated the largest coin show in Oklahoma for 16 years. He opened his first shop in 1981, added a bench jeweler, and soon gave up coins to focus on jewelry.
He met his wife when she came to his store in 1993 to have some jewelry repaired. They married in 1998, and together took the business to the luxury level, by offering increasingly specialized jewelry — particularly bridal. Mitchell’s is now the largest diamond importer in Oklahoma.

His secret? “You’ve got to give them value,” Newt says. “Customers are more educated than they were 10 years ago. They know what they want in terms of cut and clarity, and we make sure we listen and have the diamonds available.”

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In 2005, the Mitchells joined IJO, a nationwide cooperative of independent jewelers. Staff participates in the buying markets and training seminars each year. On biannual trips to Antwerp, Belgium, they buy direct from diamond suppliers, hand-selecting every loose diamond in the store. Twice a year, a diamond rep from Antwerp holds a trunk show in the store with $1 million worth of loose diamonds.

“We were looking for a way to brand our store, setting us apart from everybody else. Antwerp was a big part of that,” Newt says. “I’m guessing less than 10 percent of people in the jewelry business go overseas to handpick their diamonds, so it gives us a niche in the marketplace.”

Making the Big Move

Two years ago, they moved their store from downtown Norman, OK, to a site Mitchell had been eyeing for years: a glass-walled building just off Oklahoma’s main north-south Interstate corridor, leading in and out of Norman. The move more than doubled their space while providing ample parking, something they couldn’t offer downtown.

Turning a former bank, built in 1969, into the state-of-the-art store they envisioned took six months and $1.3 million. “Remodeling a building with fabulous bones is a lot like remaking a piece of jewelry you no longer wear,” Gina says.

Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with natural light and translucent shades project vendor-sponsored imagery to the street, while allowing a clear view from inside. All décor ties in to the jewelry: pearlized floors, metallic washed walls, freestanding cases shaped like faceted gems, and a back-lit wall of honey-colored onyx at checkout.

A few items from Newt’s humble entrepreneurial past were incorporated into the luxurious new digs. The stained-glass lamp in his office once lit a college bar he owned as a student. Custom mosaics installed by a local artist on the old storefront brighten a hallway, across from an oil painting of that storefront.

Diamond Giveaways

Mitchell’s most successful promotion is something Newt calls the “Antwerp diamond events.” These occur on the last day of overseas buying trips and during store events. Anyone who purchases a diamond or wedding jewelry in June, for example, is entered into a drawing to win a diamond worth as much as $5,000. So far, the store has given away 30 diamonds.

Last year, a young PE teacher at a local elementary school won a diamond ring at Mitchell’s, then tricked his girlfriend into attending a school assembly by telling her he was receiving a coaching award. As the Bruno Mars song, “Marry You”, began to play, he dropped to one knee and proposed in front of faculty, students and parents — and Gina Mitchell, who was in the audience. “Children that age adore their teachers,” she says, “so there were quite a few awws and tears.”

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Sports Bar

Who says jewelry and sports don’t mix? As a former offensive guard for Wichita State University and an avid supporter of local college sports, Newt Mitchell mixes them liberally. If the digital lightshow outside doesn’t give this away, the sports memorabilia in the new store’s lounge area will. It’s called the Sooner Room after OU’s basketball team.

The Sooner Room is favored by waiting husbands who lounge in the leather armchairs, sipping complimentary brews — Belgian, to tie in with the Antwerp diamonds — and catching a game while a piece is gift-wrapped or a significant other shops.

Out front, computer-controlled landscape lighting changes color to suit the season or celebrate a win for OU (Big Red) or OKC (Thunder blue).

During Mitchell’s Madness in March, when the Sweet 16 NCAA tournament kicks off, customers pick a basketball team whenever they make a purchase. If their team wins, they get their money back.

During football season, a jumbo video board at OU’s Memorial Stadium invites 80,000 fans to access Mitchell’s Facebook page with their smart phones and try for store prizes. “It gives a person another reason to get off the fence and buy something,” says Newt Mitchell, “because there’s a chance to get it free.”

PHOTO GALLERY (8 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Mitchell’s Jewelry

1. COMMUNITY SERVICE. Newt Mitchell loans his marketing expertise to raise funds for community organizations. A favorite is the Royal Family Kids’ Camp for abused, abandoned and neglected children in county foster care. “I believe that everything you do for your community will be given back to you,” he says.

2. TORNADO SHELTER. The store’s spacious basement served as a shelter twice last year, when the area was devastated by tornadoes. Now customers and businesses in the area gather in the Sooner Room to watch live news as storms develop. As one customer tweeted: “Mitchell’s Jewelry is where Oklahoma gets engaged and hides from tornadoes.”

3. TOO HOT. During Mitchell’s annual “Some Like It Hot” event, customers who buy jewelry in June receive their money back if the temperature reaches 100 degrees on July 4. In 2011, it hit 102. Cash payouts totaled $221,399 that year. The promotion was backed by an insurance policy, but Mitchell’s had to find a new carrier the following year.

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4. GOLDEN RULE. From the start, the store motto has been: “Treat everyone the way you would want to be treated.” A handwritten thank-you is sent to every jewelry and repair customer.

5. BUS BILLBOARDS. Newt has wrapped entire city buses in banners, turning them into moving billboards for designer bridal rings and Antwerp diamond events.

Try This

This year, Mitchell’s introduced “100 Carats in 100 Hours,” a four-day educational event where customers view a selection of loose diamonds and diamond-polishing demonstrations. Diamonds are presented in plastic sleeves with descriptions, pricing, and special financing terms. Trade-ins are granted toward new and replacement diamond purchases.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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