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Ohio Jewelers Masters the Art and Science of the Private Dinner

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FOR THE PAST 15 YEARS, James Free Jewelers of Dayton, OH, has made an art of hosting private dinners that bring together popular designers with handpicked customers. But really, the detail that goes into planning these parties makes it more science than art, says owner Michael Karaman.

THE IDEA

Designers Meet Fans

In December 2011, James Free Jewelers served dinner at the Moraine Country Club to designer Barbara Westwood and nearly 30 of her biggest local fans.

That “Exceptional Occasion,” took place just a few weeks after the store had hosted a Roberto Coin private dinner, “Nel Mondo Della Fantasia,” in the Tower Club in Beavercreek, OH. Peter Webster, co-owner and head of U.S. operations for Roberto Coin, attended the event and introduced new designs.

On both occasions, invited guests dined on their favorite foods paired with wines from around the world.

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THE EXECUTION

Up to 30 Guests

Anywhere from two to 30 guests attend each private dinner. Each associate invites a maximum of two couples.

Preparation can take as long as six months.

“We know which customer likes that designer specifically and we prepare what they might like,” in the areas of jewelry as well as food, wine and cocktails, Karaman says.

“Attention to detail is immaculate,” he says. “It’s down to almost a science. You have to know your customer. They are not customers; they are friends. We tell everybody that you treat somebody as you would if they were coming to your own home. It’s business, but also you have to be genuine. People can see through you and know whether or not you are genuine.”

If customers live out of town — say Cincinnati or even in neighboring Kentucky, James Free Jewelers dispatches a limo to pick them up and take them home later.

That customized sales approach extends to everything Karaman does, including entertaining customers in the store’s VIP room, decorated in the style of the Palace of Versailles. Customers who call ahead get first-class treatment: Upon arrival, their favorite music is playing in the room, and their beverage of choice is waiting for them along with edible delicacies.

THE RESULTS

Small, But Phenomenal

The events are very expensive to host, but the results have been phenomenal.

Small events allow special customers to discuss the designer’s work and even request tweaks or modifications to a design.

Do It Yourself: Give Your Business a Rebirth

  • Teach your associates to learn your customers’ needs and tastes. Start by offering clients coffee, soft drinks or wine when they come in and pay attention to what they like.
  • Generally, James Free has dealt with a designer for several years before extending an invitation to a private dinner. “We partner with designers who are going to treat our customers decently and who are not going to go behind our back to our customers.” Karaman says. “The most important thing is that when there is a problem, the designer has to back us up and help the customers.”
  • Maintain a very detailed database and invite only those customers who regularly buy the jewelry of the invited designer.
  • Choose a designer who inspires passionate collectors. Westwood’s slogan is “classic fashion and collectible fine art.” Her collections are known for both symbolism and big, bright and bold designs, a combination sure to win the hearts of women who enjoy expressing themselves in dramatic ways.

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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