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Ohio Jewelers Masters the Art and Science of the Private Dinner



Ohio Jewelers Masters the Art and Science of the Private Dinner

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.


Designers Meet Fans

Ohio Jewelers Masters the Art and Science of the Private Dinner

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.



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.


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.



Wilkerson Testimonials

If It’s Time to Consolidate, It’s Time to Call Wilkerson

When Tom Moses decided to close one of the two Moses Jewelers stores in western Pennsylvania, it was time to call in the experts. After reviewing two candidates, Moses, a co-owner of the 72 year-old business, decided to go with Wilkerson. The sale went better than expected. Concerned about running it during the pandemic, Moses says it might have helped the sale. “People wanted to get out, so there was pent-up demand,” he says. “Folks were not traveling so there was disposable income, and we don’t recall a single client commenting to us, feeling uncomfortable. It was busy in here!” And perhaps most importantly, Wilkerson was easy to deal with, he says, and Susan, their personal Wilkerson consultant, was knowledgeable, organized and “really good.” Now, the company can focus on their remaining location — without the hassle of carrying over merchandise that either wouldn’t fit or hadn’t sold. “The decision to hire Wilkerson was a good one,” says Moses.

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