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Perfect Pairings

At this New Hampshire store, it’s home and work, business and pleasure, wine and gems.

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Richter’s Jewelry & Design Studio, Londonderry, NH

OWNER: Paul and Amy Richter ; FOUNDED: 1991; URL: richtersjewelry.com; EMPLOYEES: 3 full-time; 3 part-time; AREA: 3,800 square feet; TOP BRANDS: Lika Behar, Kelim, Raymond Hak, Doves, H. Weiss, Niki J; Founded: 1991


FRIENDS ALWAYS WIND UP in the kitchen. That’s a fact of life at home, and it happens all the time at Richter’s Jewelry & Design Studio, where owners Paul and Amy Richter used their store’s recent relocation and expansion to create a space where old friends and new ones could mingle.

Richter’s anchors a small mall in Londonderry, NH, and its wide corner windows serve as beacons to shoppers. Once customers — the Richters call them guests — come into the store, they find a fireplace and full kitchen with bar seating. Wine and conversation flow as Paul takes pen and paper to turn ideas into possibilities for one-of-a-kind jewelry. And also just like home, one of the Richter’s three bull mastiffs is sure to wander by, looking for some love.

The casual hospitality and freewheeling design sessions are possible because in 2011, the Richters moved from 860 square feet in the same mall to a 3,800-square-foot space with plenty of room to grow their business.

The Richters designed the store themselves with an emphasis on creating a natural traffic flow, drawing customers in while leaving enough space for small gatherings and private conversations. Cases can be approached from all sides, breaking down barriers and leaving the sales staff the freedom to move around and to make guests comfortable.

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“Half the reason we moved the store was for quality of life,” Paul says. “We spend so much time at work, it’s important to have a place you enjoy being.”

Yet the Richters know the kitchen-table vibe needs to work for customers, too. “People are receptive to it,” even if it’s not what they expect from a jewelry store, he adds. “One comment we get most consistently is that this is a really nice experience.” Paul credits Amy and employee Lisa Kingsbury (a former wine sales rep) for the business-savvy and welcoming atmosphere that blend in the front of the store.

That helps free up Paul’s time for the workshop. He is usually in early, pouring metal and working on different custom-designed pieces before the store opens. He admits his favorite days are Sunday and Monday, when the store is closed and he can focus on designing and making jewelry. “I love what I do and I can really get lost in it,” he says.

Although Richter’s sells lines including Lika Behar, Kelim, Raymond Hak, Doves, H. Weiss and Niki J, about 65 percent of sales are created in-house, either as original designs in the cases or as commissioned pieces, many from exquisite loose gemstones. Paul laughs and says his gemstone buying is “like a bad shoe habit.” But it’s a positive addiction, as the colored gemstones often serve as inspiration for customers who fall in love with the possibilities.

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Richter’s spotlights loose stones several times a year at invitation-only roundtables. Linen-covered tables and catered food and wine set the stage for an evening spent in appreciation of a quarter-million dollars’ worth of gems brought in by a supplier. “When you present things people aren’t used to, they’re receptive,” Paul says.

The Richters rely on location, word of mouth and charitable donations to bring new people into the store. “Our ad budget got substantial, and the results were sketchy,” Paul recalls, “so we cut it in half and started doing more charitable donations.” A stunning set of earrings for a benefit auction can drive traffic in a way that traditional advertising can’t. Richter’s Jewelry & Design Studio also gets good mileage from sponsoring events and organizations ranging from high school music concerts to a group that helps disabled children learn to ride horses.

Paul believes in giving back within his business, too. His most important mentor was Howard Cooper, for whom he started work at age 20. “Howard afforded me, with love and patience, the opportunity to make mistakes,” he recalls. Cooper not only gave Paul the chance to learn to design and make his own creations; he gave him his blessing when Paul wanted to start his own store.

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And so Paul paid it forward by giving a job to Jonathan Carpenter. “Jon has been with me since 1993. He was an electrical engineer who wanted to dabble in jewelry,” says Paul. Just as Cooper had for him, “I allowed him to make mistakes, and he’s now a really exceptional craftsman.”

Paul says the most important thing he’s learned as a retailer is, “Dare to be different. We try really hard to present things that you haven’t seen and stones that you haven’t heard of.” This dedication to difference — often delivered with a glass of wine and good conversation — keeps Richter’s Jewelry & Design Studio a welcoming place to work, shop and buy.

PHOTO GALLERY (8 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Richter’s Jewelry & Design Studio

1. LIGHTING. Pendant lights create a warm and welcoming look. Loose gemstones in display cases mounted on acrylic pedestals are lighted from underneath to bring out the beauty of the gems. Richter prefers metal halide lighting to the increasingly popular LED option. Although LEDs make diamonds look great, they make customers look like Martians, he says. There are no LEDs in the store.

2. JACK OF ALL TRADES. Paul, who designed the new store, started his business with just 200 square feet in an old Londonderry farmhouse called the Grey Goose Shops. In that location he made the display cases for himself and his fellow artisans. “I’ve always been a creative person,” he says. “My family background is tool and die, mechanical stuff, working on cars … but I was always taking art classes.” He plays trombone, too.

3. WINE AND GEM PAIRINGS. Richter’s is all about hospitality. Befitting that theme, Paul Richter suggests wine and gem pairings, based on notes from Wine Enthusiast magazine, for clients who want to present a truly special gift package. Would you like a Syrah with that sapphire?

4. THE WRIGHT STUFF. Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece in southwest Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands, is an artistic touchstone for Paul. Just as the architect blended the home into its surroundings, Paul likes to design jewelry that flows organically from the character of the gemstone at hand.

5. “WE CAN DO THAT.” On its website at richtersjewelry.com, an “About Us” page helps people get to know the store, its staff and their dedication to personal service. The website also includes many examples of past custom designs and a step-by-step explanation of how Richter’s creates its one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Julie Fanselow is a writer, editor, coach, and dot-connector. She was the founding editor of SmartWork Media's magazine for eyecare professionals, INVISION.

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