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Custom extends to every aspect of this design studio, including the experience.

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Dutille’s Jewelry Design Studio, Lebanon, NH

OWNERS: Jude Dutille and Beau Maville; FOUNDED: 1959; RENOVATED: 2020; ONLINE PRESENCE: 3,700 Facebook followers; 61 5-Star Google reviews; Opened featured location: 2021; AREA: 500 sq. ft.; Buildout cost: : $185,000; STORE DESIGN: : Retailworks, Inc.; TOP BRANDS: Alexander Daas, Barton Perreira, Blake Kuwahara, Celine, Lindberg; EMPLOYEES: Dutille’s, Sylvie, Shinola, Lika Behar, Facet Barcelona


Jude Dutille and Beau Maville

Jude Dutille and Beau Maville

JUDE DUTILLE AND his son, Beau Maville, had known for more than a few years they’d have to expand the footprint of their store, Dutille’s Jewelry Design Studio, located in a stand-alone building on a downtown corner of Lebanon, a medium-size city in New Hampshire.

The store occupies the main level of a three-story brick structure built in 1925 and known by local historians as Richards Block. It’s on a picturesque New England green on a major route through town, so there’s more vehicular than pedestrian traffic. Lebanon is at the intersection of two interstate highways.

Although service is the heartbeat of the business, the shop and its goldsmiths were tucked away from public view in the basement, while Jude’s own bench was hidden in the back of the store. So when the office space next door became available, they jumped on it, hiring store design firm Retailworks to make the shop visible both from the street and from the showroom.

Like many store owners who expanded in recent years, Jude and Beau found their store wasn’t quite finished when COVID forced them into an eight-week shutdown. They proceeded by doing the remaining work themselves. Still, with COVID’s drain on the business, they began to doubt they even needed to expand.

“But as soon as we were able to reopen,” Jude says, “we realized that people really started talking about the need for social distancing. Doubling the space turned out to be perfect timing. Instead of two places to sit and meet about custom design, we had five places, all of them separate enough for comfort.”

Also enhancing the comfort level is an Idea Bar that serves clients microbrew beer, coffee and wine while they discuss their design ideas. Intimate design desks also support the focus on custom design. A TV behind the bar features sporting events or seasonal movies.

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The sound of a flowing water feature creates a calming divide between the buzz of the front-door traffic and the quieter bridal area, without a need for walls. Lyn Falk, founder and president of Retailworks, says water features like this one can add white noise to the environment and muffle other sounds. The workshop is a focal point where customers can watch goldsmiths at work behind a glass wall framed by custom-designed wallpaper depicting hand-drawn sketches of past work.

In the process of expanding, they updated and enhanced the larger facade by installing an attention-getting awning that wraps around the building in the brand’s primary color: bright royal blue. Inside, they kept the original tin ceilings, one of the most popular aesthetic features of the store, and added cherry showcases handmade by a local craftsman.

With the expansion, they soon realized that not only did they have room for everyone to breathe comfortably, but they were also in great shape for the post-shutdown uptick in business they experienced as they added more staff and welcomed more visitors than ever before.
Some of those customers even applied for jobs, and Jude hired more part-time staff than he had in the past, becoming more flexible about accommodating employee schedules.

Jude said they’d considered not having any inventory in their new space, but customers decided otherwise. Everyone wanted to come in for special occasions, to find something they liked and walk away with it. In addition, shoppers who come looking for one-of-a-kind custom the week before Christmas are politely redirected to a pre-made inventory case. “Our designs start with the stone, and we design something and put it into production,” Jude says. “If we don’t have a certain number of those things, we miss out on a lot of holiday business.”

The shop’s move from the basement allows for more natural light while being visible from the showroom as well as the street.

The shop’s move from the basement allows for more natural light while being visible from the showroom as well as the street.

Dutille’s Jewelry Design Studio has operated for three generations. After attending Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, PA, Philias H. Dutille purchased the J.S. Wolfe Jewelry store in 1959 where he was employed as a watchmaker. Jude, Phil’s oldest son, graduated with a diploma in Jewelry Repair and Stone Setting in 1983. He earned his Graduate Gemologist diploma from the GIA in 1992 and the following year bought the business from his father.

Beau, currently the VP of sales and marketing, joined Jude after high school and enjoyed the retail side. “It’s been a fun process growing the business,” he says. “It’s a very complementary partnership.” As Jude puts it, “I’m more of the detail guy, and Beau is everybody’s best friend, back slapper, and ‘give me your money’ kind of guy.”

In 2005, Beau attended the New Approach School for Jewelers, earning a Graduate Bench Jeweler diploma and learning CAD to bring the store into the next generation of manufacturing.

Dutille’s also acquired a fiber laser engraver, which allows jewelers to create signatures, hand-written messages, and unique design elements. They’re also equipped to micro-set small stones. “Our advantage is we embrace all the advantages of technology but never lose sight of the old-world skills,” Jude says. Jude’s youngest son Adam works part-time as an apprentice and assists with laser engraving.

Jude attributes much of the business’s success to creating operational systems that keep everything on track, an idea he picked up by reading business books. “If you find something that works, you document it and move on to the next issue and solve that with a system,” he says. “I try to get things running well and making sure that whether it’s a simple repair or complex custom design, it’s done right.”

On the other hand, Beau, on the sales floor, adjusts his approach to customers on a case-by-case basis, he says. “I could be with an 85-year-old lady and then a 25-year-old kid looking to get engaged, and thankfully, it’s very easy for me to switch from person to person.”

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Custom Advantage

When Jude assumed ownership of the store, he built upon the high level of customer service his father was known for, while also making custom design his main focus. “In the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was more ‘here’s the bridal case, pick out the one you want,’ and we’d send them on their way. But I always started out as a bench guy with a custom angle,” he says.

He found himself in a coveted niche, he says, when Pinterest and Instagram came along, and gave everyone a way to collect and express their fanciful design ideas. “While most of our competitors rely on showcase sales, we have a competitive advantage by devoting a lot of our energies to top-notch services and capabilities.”

Services, from restorations and custom designs to general jewelry repairs, make up 50% of the business. A dedicated service manager oversees all service-related operations and schedules each goldsmith’s time in advance. That approach helps manage repairs efficiently while providing customers with reliable estimates and turnaround times. Each day in a morning meeting, the appointment schedule is reviewed, ensuring everyone is prepared to offer each customer the best possible experience.

New Hampshire Jewelry Retailer Creates Unforgettable Experience Through Strong Processes and a Focus on the Client

What Customers Want

Dutille’s commitment to creating one-of-a-kind engagement rings is the foundation of the business. Increasingly, customers are drawn to the artistry and precision of handcrafted rings, set with precision cut diamonds or unique colored stones. “To respond to this shift,” Jude says, “we’ve expanded our custom bridal business and have seen a significant increase in the number of carat-plus diamonds we’ve sold, all set into custom mountings.”

Despite current trends, some of their savvy customers are more likely to ask for a Montana sapphire than a lab-grown diamond. Sapphires are popular, particularly green and teal varieties. And customers seem increasingly aware that there’s a sapphire found in the U.S. and are asking specifically for Montana sapphires. “That’s a great niche to have a variety of loose stones in stock,” Beau says.

“Everybody has a position on synthetics,” Jude says, “but we’ve stayed away for the most part. If we have a conversation with a young guy who thinks he really wants a synthetic diamond, we’ll talk about it, and if he really wants it, we’ll go out and get it. We’re not that snobbish about it. But it’s our responsibility to advise based on what we know and what we’ve experienced.”

They have noticed more requests for yellow gold and fewer halos in settings, but with custom, the “trends” are simply what each individual wants. “More people want things that are singular, unique and speak to something important in their life,” Jude says. They don’t stock too many plain diamond solitaires because they’re rarely requested.

Demand in New Hampshire is high for minimalist, wearable jewelry. Many of their clients enjoy hiking, biking and skiing and need their rings to be practical.

“We advise them up front,” Beau says, “with diplomatic education.”

Five Cool Things About Dutille’s Jewelry Design Studio

1. HISTORY ON DISPLAY. At Dutille’s, history can be a conversation starter. On display in the store are a large silver, hand-engraved plaque and an 1880 Joseph L. Hall safe. The plaque, engraved by J.S. Wolfe, the original store owner, dates to 1910 when he was a student at the Philadelphia College of Horology. Both items offer a glimpse into the store’s rich tradition of jewelry-making.

2. DIVERSE STAFF. The staff includes former customers, New England natives and a former owner of a high-end clothing boutique.

New Hampshire Jewelry Retailer Creates Unforgettable Experience Through Strong Processes and a Focus on the Client

3. DIGITAL COMMUNICATION. Even before the pandemic, Dutille’s was leveraging digital communication channels like text messages, emails, Facebook, Instagram, and video chat to provide long-distance consultations and manage projects. They’ve since expanded and streamlined their online offerings and added Clientbook, which integrates seamlessly with the Edge POS system. Now they’re gaining an average of 60 new online customers each month.

4. CUSTOMER DONATIONS. With each ring cleaning and polishing, customers donate $2 or more, and all proceeds go to support a selected local non-profit organization.

5. TEAM MARKETING. Jude’s sister, Louise, has a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design and is Dutille’s marketing manager. She coordinates Dutille’s “team marketing” strategy, which encourages all employees to promote the business. Some of the most engaging content has proven to be the before-and-after pictures taken by the staff, which not only showcase Dutille’s “done on-site” philosophy but also provide customers with a glimpse of what’s possible. Every aspect of marketing is done in-house, from content creation and editing to print ads, social media, web design and site maintenance.

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PHOTO GALLERY (15 IMAGES)

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • ELIZABETH ROSS BREWER: Owner Jude and his son Beau have made service No. 1 in their business. They have created many lovely experiences in store which keeps new and existing customers coming in and staying longer.
  • MEGAN CRABTREE: We were truly wowed by the customercentric approach of Dutille’s. The incorporation of an Idea Bar in the interior is an excellent example of enhancing the store’s atmosphere and ensuring the customer’s comfort. We were also thrilled to learn that Dutille’s invites team members to contribute to the marketing strategy. It shows the diverse creative energy that exists at the different levels of the organization.
  • KATHLEEN CUTLER: One remarkable aspect that sets this store apart is their attention to detail when it comes to understanding and meeting customer needs. Through a deep understanding of their clientele, they have gone above and beyond to offer a diverse range of amenities, such as the enticing Idea Bar and a delightful selection of microbrews and coffee.
  • MARIE MCCARTHY: Nice focus on customer service, bespoke and appointments. I love that clients can watch the process. Daily meetings are fantastic! It must take the customer service to the next level!
  • LESLIE MCGWIRE: A nice combination of old-world charm and modern aesthetics with an open-space plan. The tin ceiling looks beautiful. The light and dark blue give an added impact to the overall space.

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