Share Tweet A Playful Approach Yaf Sparkle shines brightly on New York’s Lower East Side. Published 1 year ago on October 17, 2019 By Eileen McClelland Instore November 2019 Issue Online Extra Yaf Sparkle, New York OWNERS: Yaf Boye-Flaegel and Torsten Flaegel; URL:yafsparkle.com ; FOUNDED: 2012; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2017; EMPLOYEES: 4 ; AREA: 1,400 square feet total; 720 square foot showroom TOP BRANDS: Vieri, Elements Studio NYC, Lyon Fine Jewelry, John Varvatos, Sarah Michiko; ONLINE PRESENCE: 8,600 Facebook likes, 4,515 Instagram followers, 161 Trip Advisor Reviews with a 5.0 rating. Yaf Sparkle is No. 6 of 1,001 shopping experiences in New York City on Trip Advisor; BUILDOUT COST: $85,000 ON A SULTRY JULY afternoon, an out-of-town customer, who had reluctantly left Yaf Sparkle without buying anything, returned soon after. She couldn’t shake the feeling she had to buy that pair of earrings that caught her eye. Even after sealing the deal, she was reluctant to leave. Her husband, resigned, was ready to sink into a chair in an air-conditioned reprieve from the muggy air outside. As his wife succumbed to a number of add-on purchases, he told store owner Yaf Boye-Flaegel that she had mastered the art of the ABCs. ABC? Yaf inquired. “Always be closing,” he said. Advertisement But Yaf said she had never heard that expression. For her, closing is about a lighthearted musical laugh and a playful “Hey, where are you going?” That’s what she might say if customers don’t seem certain whether they’re ready to leave or buy a second or a third piece of jewelry. Temptation is everywhere within reach, like low-hanging fruit. Add-ons abound in the form of stackable rings and layered pendants. She floats from one customer to another, jangling a pile of Julie Voss-designed bangles on her wrist with enthusiasm. She sells those gold-plated brass items as quickly as if they really are pieces of fruit. Yaf says it’s the hospitality she learned from her parents in her native Senegal that helps her so effortlessly create such a welcoming atmosphere. Working in other people’s jewelry stores before she had her own, she observed that her friends weren’t comfortable stopping by even to say hello, let alone to hang out. Now that she’s created her own environment with a Caribbean-music soundtrack that makes swaying to the beat impossible to avoid and a playful approach to mixing and matching layers and stacks of jewelry, everyone who happens by wants to stay a while. Sometimes a regular will dash in just to pull out one of Yaf’s “Goddess” cards from a stack to read an inspirational message guaranteed to improve their day. Or they might stop by for a hand-painted card, handmade candle or a New York postcard. There’s something for everyone. More than anything, though, they have become hooked on the positive, pervasive energy Yaf exudes. Yaf and her husband, Torsten Flaegel, a native of Hamburg, Germany, are adept at inventing ways to enchant everyone in their orbit. Torsten, long fascinated by the quality of light on the street, worked with Yaf on an event for the Manhattanhenge, also known as Manhattan Solstice, a time during which the setting or rising sun is aligned with the east-west streets of the main street grid in New York City. The sunsets and sunrises each align twice a year, on dates evenly spaced around the summer and winter solstices. For Yaf Sparkle’s Manhattanhenge event, there was music, a tarot card reader and a feeling that magic was in the air. The ranking fluctuates, but customers have voted Yaf Sparkle as the third-best shopping experience in all of New York City on tripadvisor.com. At most, though, only a third of Yaf Sparkle shoppers are tourists. The majority are New Yorkers. “Online sales are growing and online is what brings people into the store,” Yaf says. “We’re not on a main street, but we have lots of content online.” Affordable pieces displayed casually in the center of the store encourage shoppers to try something on. They see their store as a walk-in jewelry closet and encourage customers to bring in a special-occasion outfit to be accessorized. Yaf constantly develops her own collections, presents the work of new local and international designers and changes the displays every other week to stay fresh. “We have this internal competition of who can surprise our customer with the coolest new jewelry outfit that they didn’t consider wearing a day ago,” Torsten says. “There’s no being shy in our store; adorning oneself is fun and that’s what we are experts in. All in all, it is about being happy. Sharing a laugh is what keeps us in mind, and there’s nothing easier than that once you understand that every customer is first and foremost a potential friend.” Advertisement The space itself, they say, was a raw diamond when they found it, veritably buried in layers of concrete. The little laundry that had occupied the space before them had cemented its machines into the ground, and the new landlord had no idea what lay behind the cement smeared on walls and floors. Months after they started digging, they realized that the old brick walls were in good condition. Even the ceiling was made of bricks with original ironwork between the arches. Once they got down to the bones, they pulled wires through the walls for showcases and laid out a beautiful wood floor. All of the wooden furniture is made from reclaimed wood. The store is on Broome Street on the Lower East Side, which has a lively street life as well as a cinematic quality. It’s just around the corner from the Tenement Museum, which brings tourists by the busload. Martin Scorsese recently transformed the block into a 1972 backdrop for the 2019 Netflix film “The Irishman”. The street also starred in the 2014-2015 Cinemax TV series “The Knick,” set in 1901. Adding to the charm, they scatter glitter across the sidewalk outside, a tactic that draws attention to the store even after it’s closed. They’ve also collaborated with other neighborhood businesses to host block-party sales events. Social media just adds to the energy. When Yaf announced her birthday on Instagram, she ended up with an impromptu in-store surprise party, where the director of “Dirty Dancing” danced with a former MTV VJ, a Broadway ballerina and a Wall Street broker. “Yaf Sparkle,” says Torsten, “was created out of the desire to provide an environment where fun, fashion and pleasure are combined as one. We know the day we forget that, we will be forgotten.” Yaf Sparkle’s previous location, also on New York’s Lower East Side, was featured as the No. 3 Small Cool Store in the August 2016 issue of INSTORE. VIDEO: YAF SPARKLE STORE TOUR VIDEO PHOTO GALLERY (33 IMAGES) Five Cool Things About Yaf Sparkle 1. Start ‘em young. The Yaf Sparkle team invites pre-K kids into the store for gem-education classes and birthstone giveaways. 2. Content-rich marketing. They’ve begun implementing automated email marketing, in which a customer will receive information about the pieces and the designer behind it. Their online database is segmented down to collection, metals and gemstones, so they can fine-tune their offerings. The idea is to provide continuous education. 3. In-house marketing. They use an in-house photo studio every day for model and product shots. In fact, 99 percent of marketing is created in-house. Social media is important, but they also rely on phone calls and postcards to share news of an event, a promotion or a specific gemstone that could be of interest. “Our newsletter marketing resembles our in-store experience,” Torsten says. “We don’t take ourselves or our product too seriously. Our love for local is what ties us all together. This is where we met our customer, and this is where we will see her again.” They improved their website to be increasingly ADA-compliant, which means it can be read by machines. 4. Block parties. Together with two other local shop owners they befriended, they gathered contact information for local merchants, set up a Facebook group and host regular events to brainstorm on marketing and event ideas. As a result, the group threw a neighborhood-wide event with 21 local merchants, each offering unique specials. 5. Good causes. Ten percent of net proceeds go to non-profits, most notably the ASB Foundation that Yaf founded in 2007. The ASB Foundation is an international humanitarian organization that supports the growth and development of the children in Koutal, Senegal, a small village created in 1968 to house people with leprosy and their families. The goal is to enrich the lives of the children who have been affected by their parents’ disease. JUDGES’ COMMENTS Julie Gotz: As a former New Yorker, I know how hard it is to stand apart from the thousands of other stores in the city. This is an amazing location with lots of cool and funky shopping options. The store has a great social-media presence and brings in a sense of community with their posts. Julie Ettinger: I so appreciate the energy and passion in this store. It’s so New York; the interior, the exterior, the video marketing all connect. I also love their passion for shopping local and pulling surrounding stores and community together. Barbara Ross-Innamorati: : Yaf’s enthusiasm and joie de vivre are what make this store so special. You can feel her love of what she does loud and clear through all of her online marketing, including her videos. I also love the custom-design page that seeks to educate her customer on the design process. Finally, her philanthropy and the foundation she started is important and brilliant. Hedda Schupak: This business clearly “gets” both millennials and female self-purchasers, two sectors that are critical for our industry to do a better job in attracting. I love the fact that customers can walk in and try on fashion jewelry, but then there’s fine jewelry that costs five digits yet doesn’t look too precious. I love how they restored the original building under layers of soulless concrete. Eric Zimmerman: Today’s retail environment is all about creating an experience and connection for the customer, and Yaf Sparkle is succeeding at just that. I also love the job they have done in making their store part of the culture and energy within NYC’s Lower East Side community. Related Topics: jewelry stores in New YorkOnline Extra click to Comment(Comment) Up Next Urban Planning Background Helps Ohio’s Welling & Co Find Perfect Location Don't Miss Perfecting the No-Pressure Engagement Ring Sale at Portland’s Malka Diamonds & Jewelry Eileen McClelland Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them. Continue Reading Advertisement SPONSORED VIDEO Wilkerson Testimonials A Liquidation Sale during a Pandemic? Wilkerson Showed Them the Way For 25 years, Stafford Jewelers of Cincinnati, Ohio, was THE place to go for special gifts, engagement diamonds, high-end Swiss watch brands — in other words, the crème de la crème of fine jewelry. But this summer, the Stafford family was ready to retire. So, they chose Wilkerson to help them close up shop. “One of the biggest concerns was having the sale in the middle of COVID,” says Director of Stores Michelle Randle. Wilkerson gave the Stafford team plenty of ideas as well as safety guidelines, which they closely followed. “All of the employees felt safe, the customers coming in the door felt safe and we did a lot of business,” says Randle. How much business? “The inventory flew,” she says. Translation: They sold millions and millions of dollars-worth of merchandise. Randle calls it, “an incredible experience.” Would she recommend Wilkerson to other retailers who are thinking of thinning their inventories or retiring? “Everyone got more than what they expected out of the sale. You have to hire Wilkerson. They’re amazing.” You may like Ohio Jewelry Store Owner Grows Up With Her Customers Midwestern Cool Store Lets Staff Shine For North Carolina Jewelers, the Future Is Here and Now Promoted Headlines JYE’S International is Seen in All the Best Cases The Sylvie Collection Knows What Women Want Sylvie Collection From Chain to Casting, National Chain Group Does It All National Chain Group Advertisement Latest Trending Videos Big Survey22 hours ago Here’s What Surging Gold Prices Have Meant for Jewelers Press Releases24 hours ago IIJS Virtual 2020, A Game Changer for the Indian Gem & Jewelry Industry Press Releases24 hours ago GJEPC Invites Entries for The Artisan Awards 2021 Photo Gallery4 days ago 12 Photos That Show Off the Wow Factor at Thollot Diamonds & Fine Jewelry in Colorado Big Survey1 week ago The Guy Who Bought 13 Rings, and Other Tales of Serial Engagements Big Survey1 week ago 7 Out of 10 Jewelers Surveyed Said They Do Not Want to Add a Brand Sponsored Content1 week ago A Liquidation Sale during a Pandemic? Wilkerson Showed Them the Way Sponsored Webinars2 weeks ago Podium Presents: 5 Crucial Customer Experience Improvements to Make as You Reopen Jimmy Degroot3 weeks ago Video: How to Smooth Out the Chaos in Your Jewelry Store and Create Harmony Instead Advertisement SubscribeBULLETINS INSTORE helps you become a better jeweler with the biggest daily news headlines and useful tips. (Mailed 5x per week.) Latest Comments Most Popular Photo Gallery4 days ago 12 Photos That Show Off the Wow Factor at Thollot Diamonds & Fine Jewelry in Colorado Big Survey1 week ago The Guy Who Bought 13 Rings, and Other Tales of Serial Engagements Big Survey1 week ago 7 Out of 10 Jewelers Surveyed Said They Do Not Want to Add a Brand Big Survey22 hours ago Here’s What Surging Gold Prices Have Meant for Jewelers Big Survey2 days ago 25% of Jewelers Are Drinking More This Year Because of COVID-19 Sponsored Content1 week ago A Liquidation Sale during a Pandemic? Wilkerson Showed Them the Way Big Survey6 days ago What’s Wrong with Millennials? Here’s What Jewelers Say Sponsored Content1 week ago Why Have 1,800+ Jewelers Switched to BriteCo?