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Do-It-Yourself Darlings

Ohio store owner draws on personal resources to grow her business on a budget.

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Lane & Kate, Cincinnati, OH

FOUNDED: 2011; AREA: 635 square feet; TOP ARTISTS: La Kaiser, Jennie Kwon, Megan Thorne, Misa, Vale; ONLINE PRESENCE: 12 Google reviews with a 4.7 rating; 1,560 Facebook followers; 4,066 Instagram followers; BUILDOUT COST: $3,000


Rachel Pfeiffer

Rachel Pfeiffer

RACHEL LANE PFEIFFER learned much of what she knows about jewelry on the job.

Her education began when, as a student at Miami University in Oxford, OH, she got a job at a store called Collected Works, which was primarily a gift shop. “But occasionally,” Pfeiffer says, “we’d get this incredible jewelry in.”

When the gift shop owners decided to sell the business, she bought it on a whim, at age 25, with her older sister, Jessica Kate, with the idea they would figure it out together.

They noticed that the jewelry was the thing that was selling, and the jewelry is what the sisters were most interested in. Pfeiffer, an English literature major, says she was drawn to jewelry for the stories it told: “The stories of who made it and the woman who wears it and breathes life into it,” she explains.

So they brought in more and more jewelry. “There wasn’t anywhere in Oxford to get nice jewelry,” Pfeiffer says. “Once we started to look at what was selling, it was all jewelry.” They did a major rebrand and renovation, adding wood floors, chandeliers, new display cases and a new name: Lane & Kate.

At that point, they also shifted focus from fashion to fine jewelry, after being captivated by designer Megan Thorne’s Picture Frame diamond ring. “I saw it on Pinterest and I was like, ‘I need that in my life!’” Pfeiffer recalls. The sisters sought out Thorne at a New York jewelry show and found her to be so supportive and helpful that they began selling her jewelry at Lane & Kate. “We sold some pieces pretty quickly,” Pfeiffer says. “Megan helped guide us into this fine jewelry world. She would say, ‘If you like this line, check out this other line.’ We pulled in the artists we wanted to see and started to define what our brand was.”

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In 2016, Pfeiffer relocated the business from Oxford to Cincinnati, which brought about a demand not only for higher-end jewelry, which she had expected, but also, increasingly, for custom bridal, which she had not. Pfeiffer began her foray into custom by collaborating on new designs with artists she was already working with, but when clients were looking for rings that didn’t quite fit their style, she thought, “I can do this.” Referred by her Jeweler’s Mutual agent to a local goldsmith, Pfeiffer began collaborating with him on custom rings, greatly expanding the scope of what she could offer. It was another learning experience. “He has been a wealth of knowledge, and we’ve done great pieces together,” she says.

“We start with a conversation about our clients’ lifestyle and what they are looking for in a ring,” she says. “We then offer free sketches and create 3D renderings. After approval of the renderings, we offer a wax mold of the setting so they can see it in person to visualize their custom piece.”

Pfeiffer worked with her sister for seven years and has owned the business on her own for three. “Every member of our staff is involved in big decisions,” Pfeiffer says. “We spend so much time together here at the shop that we collaborate on everything from jewelry displays to future events.”

Store manager Ellana Hagedorn, left, and owner Rachel Pfeiffer

Store manager Ellana Hagedorn, left, and owner Rachel Pfeiffer know what women want.

Pfeiffer, who started the business with just $20,000, has also been resourceful with outfitting, decorating and designing her small store. “I grew up in the country where you worked with the resources you had,” she says. “So we asked, ‘What can we get that is affordable?’” She and her family reclaimed or created all of the furniture and displays.

She splurged on buying quality cases from the ‘80s, which had a black mirror-and-gold finish with a neon vibe, but then wrapped them in a natural wood finish and painted them white to give them new life.

“There is a wealth of things out there that are secondhand or used items,” she says. “We scoured Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, and we found new uses for things. We got a beautiful old glass bakery display that became a beautiful jewelry case.”

Reclaimed wood shelves were cheaper and more interesting than buying new. “We saw an ad for spare wood on Craigslist, $100 for 10 planks of old tobacco barn flooring from Lexington, Kentucky,” she says. “We hand-planed it down, got cheap brackets for it, and did it ourselves.”

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She likes to buy affordable bases and then add highlights to them, like a polished inlay on top of a rustic display table. “I wanted a marble top for our tables, and they misquoted me by $4,000, which we realized just days before we were supposed to open,” she says. “My husband said, ‘We can make a tabletop with concrete mix,’ so we poured the countertop and made round tabletops. We watched YouTube videos to learn how to do it. We get so many compliments!”

There’s also a floral theme in the store with a locally grown flower bar and floral art drawn on the white walls. Full length mirrors complete the look, while also being a practical amenity for shoppers.

Some tables in the center of the store still display pieces of fashion jewelry, which serve as a gateway to fine jewelry habits, as well as providing ideas for bridal day jewelry or bridesmaids’ gifts. “People come in and see the fashion pieces on an open table in the middle of the store and they say, ‘Oh, this is really affordable!’, and as they walk through the store, they see more pieces and fall in love with them. A lot of people started out as fashion buyers, then we built up a relationship with them. As they have grown up in their tastes, so have we. We have grown together.”

Lane & Kate interior

Rachel Pfeiffer scoured Craigslist looking for display furniture and made shelves from plank flooring reclaimed from a tobacco barn in Kentucky.

“For many of our clients, this is their first time buying jewelry,” Pfeiffer says. “We have a clientele of young professionals who want to know what they’re buying is good quality, and then they start sending their guys here for holiday gifts or for engagement rings.”

Her knack for storytelling informs her approach to sales. “We tell the stories of our artists and make sure our clients know not only what their piece is made of, but by whom and how it was made as well,” she says.

During the spring’s state-mandated closing of non-essential retailers, Pfeiffer and her team began emailing and reaching out to clients, who were very receptive to email exchanges or setting up calls over Zoom. “We started doing more custom projects than ever before,” she says.

They are working fewer hours in the store and decided to close on Mondays and Tuesdays, but online sales have increased dramatically.

Appointments have also been convenient. “I see it as being a more permanent thing,” Pfeiffer says. “That’s definitely a change we’re going to keep. We’re trying to find the bright side of things.”

PHOTO GALLERY (18 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Lane & Kate

1. DIY WEBSITE. Lane & Kate’s website perfectly reflects the store’s aesthetic. Pfeiffer took a DIY approach to her website, starting with a Shopify template and relying on Shopify tutorial videos to guide her the rest of the way. “I did hire a photographer to come take some pictures of the store, and we set up some collections of jewelry for her to photograph. The rest was all online tutorials and DIY.”

2. LOCAL LOVE. Lane & Kate has collaborated with other local women-owned businesses for giveaways and local promotions. “We host a piercing event with a local tattoo/piercing parlor twice a year for a stress free, supportive setting,” Pfeiffer says. “It was a great was to introduce people to our store in a new and fun way. We now have a partnership with our piercing parlor; customers can purchase jewelry from our store and take it to the parlor for piercing or to assist in changing out their original piercing.” She also partners with a local flower farm for a DIY flower bar. “Every weekend, we have fresh locally grown blooms for customers to create arrangements.”

3. FEMALE FOCUS. “We have an all-female staff, which was not intentional, but women know what women want,” Pfeiffer says. “Usually girls come in to try on the pieces together; they shop with friends. We have a strong sisterhood vibe. The majority of our designers are independent women designers, and I think our customer base takes notice.”

4. STELLAR SERVICE. The team at Lane & Kate go out of their way to accommodate their clients. “We have great relationships with our artists, so we can bring in styles from their collections we don’t carry in store for our customers to view in person before committing,” Pfeiffer says. The store also offers free re-sizings, so that clients can feel confident in their purchase.

5. COMMUNICATION STYLE. No matter who greets you at Lane & Kate, you’ll find an eager conversationalist, says Pfeiffer. That open communication is present on social media, as well. “Our Instagram followers comment and tag us in posts and memes, and it’s a great organic way for us to connect,” she says. “Our most successful campaign was our promotion for our piercing party, which sold out in a matter of hours via Instagram.”

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • Jacqueline Cassaway: Lane & Kate utilizing free sketches and then creating 3D renderings for their customers is a creative additional service. Also, incorporating other unique retail sectors as draws — flowers and tattoos.
  • Katherine Cotterill: Lane & Kate have done a great job of collaborating with other businesses and using this to build clients for each other! The space is small but bright, airy and inviting.
  • Megan Crabtree: I loved the feminine and organic vibe you felt in the showroom and business as a whole. The marketing concept of having a piercing party was perfect for their business model to draw in the women self-purchasers.
  • Larry Johnson: Obviously, the flower bar is a perfect creative match to the vibe of the store. The light colors and feminine feel make this store feel like an old friend, even on your first visit.
  • Pam Levine: The light, open, intimate space infused with natural materials, soft tones and colorations seamlessly translates to the sophisticated e-commerce site. Unlike traditional jewelry retailers, Lane & Kate’s distinctive lifestyle ambience and distinctive jewelry presentations spaced in mini-vignettes encourage exploration, discovery and tranquility.
  • Alp Sagnak: Very good execution of a very clear message.

 

Try This: Adopt a can-do, DIY spirit. Do assume you can learn something new, whether it’s website design, custom design or interior design.

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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