Katie Diamond Jewelry, Ridgewood, NJ
OWNER: Katie Diamond; FOUNDED: 2007; Opened featured location: 2015; Last renovated: 2020; EMPLOYEES: 5; TOP BRANDS: Katie Diamond Jewelry, Sia Taylor, Brett Lauren, Misa Jewelry
METALWORKING ISN’T BRAIN surgery, Katie Diamond says, but that’s part of its appeal.
After graduating from FIT, Diamond tested the water in two very different fields. She quickly realized pre-med at Fordham University wasn’t for her, but that metalworking spoke to her soul.
“It came more naturally to me,” she says. “I seriously couldn’t be happier with my choice. Even though it’s not brain surgery, my daily stress is so much less. I feel a part of people’s happy moments and play with pretty things every day.”
She launched her venture by designing some pieces for close friends and family and picked up a serendipitous surname when she married into the Diamond family, which had strong ties to the jewelry industry.
Diamond launched her first official collection in 2007 and sold her jewelry wholesale to trendsetters such as Steven Alan, Barney’s, ABC Home, Ylang23 and Blue Ruby. Her husband, Dave Diamond, assists with fine jewelry production and with bringing her custom design work to fruition.
Katie Diamond has created a light and bright showroom.
In 2015, she opened her first retail location in a spot close to home that she had always dreamed about. She saw it as an opportunity to introduce a store with a city aesthetic to suburban New Jersey. Her wholesale business became secondary as she realized how well retail worked for her.
“I was happy being on the trade-show circuit, but I love being connected to the end consumer,” she says. “It feels really good to help someone with their jewelry or resetting their rings for a 20th anniversary or reworking somebody’s mother’s jewelry. I absolutely love when someone tells us an amazing story about their grandmother or mother who has passed and what their jewelry means to them. It’s this emotional connection that you get to be a part of.”
Also surprising to her was the speed of her retail success. “Retail seems to be booming. I had heard so much about brick-and-mortar being dead in a way, and I never felt that,” she says. “I think people value that human connection. They tend to come in and spend 20 minutes to an hour catching up, talking and looking at everything. You can find anything online, but the experience of going into a live store is alive and well.”
The space, which doubles as a studio and storefront, is in a house that is one of the oldest standing buildings in Ridgewood, NJ. Built in 1790, it’s blessed with charming architectural details and luminous natural light. Each of four rooms in the space has a different feel, yet together they have a cohesive flow.
During COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020, Diamond and company found time for a DIY remodel. She and her team built a new cash wrap, painted the walls, and sourced new displays and cases. They built some cases from scratch after finding inspiration on Pinterest. “As designers, we all like to build things,” she says. “It’s just another avenue of the job that allows us to be creative.” What they didn’t build, they found. “We have an antique shop around the corner from us with a quirky owner, and it’s packed top to bottom with amazing things.”
A wide variety of jewelry displays suited to the boutique style of the business exudes casual charm and encourages browsing.
Without a large ad budget, Diamond grew her retail business primarily by word of mouth. “We’ve been lucky that we have a positive reputation and word gets around fast in a small town,” she says. “Instagram has been huge for us.”
Although web sales are not particularly strong yet, Diamond has learned it’s important to have an updated and aesthetically pleasing website; nearly everyone who stops in mentions seeing items on the website or on Instagram. “It’s all interconnected for us,” she says. “Being a local business in a small town, not a big city, partnering with local charities and supporting what’s going on in the community is important. Doing good has brought good back to us.”
Word of mouth buzz has also been instrumental in launching and growing a piercing annex, which Diamond opened at the urging of her staff. It was added to the store pre-COVID and has been wildly successful. “Our clientele is upscale and on trend, so that whatever is going on in Brooklyn or in Manhattan they have their finger on the pulse,” she says. “To be able to offer a local version of this trend is great for relationship building.”Offering piercing on site has, of course, boosted sales of earrings. “Everyone has two, three, four, and five holes in their ears,” Diamond says. “Since we offer so many delicate hoops and stud earrings and often show them all worn together, we noticed an increase in interest for additional piercings. We work with our clients to pick the perfect spot for another piercing and style their ear accordingly. Then, our in-house piercer Amanda pierces them on the spot.”
Pre-COVID, Diamond hosted private champagne piercing parties with discounted earring prices. She hopes to bring back the parties soon. They also host pop-up shops in the store’s back garden with other women-owned local businesses, “like a bougie farmer’s market,” she says.
Five Cool Things About Katie Diamond Jewelry
1. Non-jewelry products. Diamond supplements her jewelry inventory with products in other categories, such as gift and apothecary, which she says gives her store a bigger personality and a deeper experience. Curation is based on her own love of the products and a desire to create the kind of store she’d like to shop in. It’s also driven by a desire to banish the intimidation factor that comes along with more expensive inventory. “I never wanted anyone to feel pressure to buy in my store. I want them to feel as great buying something that’s $18 as buying something that’s $1,800,” she says.
2. Cool neighborhood. Independently owned neighboring businesses include a high-end beauty products store, restaurants, a boho-preppy clothing store, hair salons and an antique store. Neighbors work together on events.
3. A positive vibe. Diamond looks for team members who exhibit a willingness to “do anything from vacuum to get knots out of a customer’s necklace and do it with a smile,” she says. “It’s about the energy of being helpful and being part of a team. Everybody has been with me for multiple years, and we all feel connected and connected to our community, too.” With six team members responsible for handling most operations around the store, each typically gets a say in most aspects of the business. Everyone has some jewelry making or assembly knowledge and is able to take care of basic repairs on the spot for customers.
4. COVID-era convenience. After offering local delivery and curbside pickup during COVID restrictions, Diamond discovered that many customers preferred those options, particularly those with young children. “It’s such a simple thing, but we never thought to highlight that before,” she says. “People don’t have enough hours in the day. To know we can do drop off has been huge.”
5. The wholesale side. While it’s a smaller part of the business now, Diamond continues to sell to other retailers. “It came down to who we liked to work with, who was easy to work with, who made sense to work with. I didn’t want to chase people for sales, and I didn’t want to chase people for money.”
PHOTO GALLERY (15 IMAGES)
- Hugo Kohl: The boutique is very cute and the lace-style rings are unique.
- Michael O’Connor: I love the way things are presented in a holistic manner that allows for wardrobe building.
- Jeff Prine: Adding a piercing annex is just one example of this retailer’s excellent skills at addressing women self-purchasers. Excellent use of merchandise shown on ears, etc. along with examples of layering and trends. The store’s interior is welcoming and feminine.
- Jennifer Shaheen: It’s clear this store knows who they are and who they want as a customer. This store attracts and appeals to 20- and 30-somethings. Overall, the approach is clear and focused.
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