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Podcast: Alexis Padis Shares Her Story, and a Few Drinks, on “The Barb Wire”

It’s more than a podcast … it’s a drinking game, too.

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THE BARB WIRE (EPISODE 3): ALEXIS PADIS (65:24 MINUTES)


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IN THIS EPISODE of The Barb Wire, host Barbara Palumbo talks — and shares a few drinks — with Alexis Padis, director of operations at the successful San Francisco-area jewelry store, Padis Jewelry, plus the company’s side business, Padis Vineyards. Padis is also the youngest member of the board of the American Gem Society and was a 2017 Award of Excellence winner from the Women’s Jewelry Association.

Discussion topics include the role of millennials in the jewelry industry, as well as unfounded prejudices against millennials in the jewelry business. The two discuss the rise of Padis Jewelry, which started with Alexis’s father, Steve, selling puka shells out of his car trunk, and is now an area fixture serving San Francisco’s rising “Cloud Corridor” of major tech businesses. Padis also talks about how her father’s “side hustle” turned into a successful Napa Valley vineyard and wine label producing 3,000 bottles of highly-rated wine per year.

The episode includes impressive levels of morning alcohol intake (including a challenge in which the participants have to finish a glass of wine or champagne any time the word “Conclave” is uttered), and includes shoutouts to John Carter, Dave Bindra, Anna Samsonova, Michael Richards, Denise (Chislett) Richards, Marc Nanasi, Joshua Israileff, Cindy Chandler, Lisa Berenstein, Judy Padis, Brian Hood and more.

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Listeners are invited to play along. Enjoy Episode 3 of The Barb Wire.


SHOW CHRONOLOGY
  • 1:50 A quick story about how this podcast almost happened as a live, in-person event, at Alexis’s home in San Francisco, but didn’t.
  • 3:30 Dealing with California’s many frightening wildfires.
  • 5:00 Barbara and Alexis have vowed to do this podcast while drinking, and reveal their chosen tipples for the conversation.
  • 8:00 On living and working in San Francisco’s revitalized “Cloud Corridor” — where Airbnb, Pinterest, Adobe are located. It has caused been a huge influx of young people — who Alexis is working to convince to get off their computers and visit an actual jewelry store.
  • 9:15 Barbara and Alexis create a drinking game. Every time either of them mention “Conclave”, they both have to take a drink.
  • 11:00 How Alexis’s father first entered the jewelry business as a wholesaler. It’s a long story, and puka shells and Mr. T’s gold chains are involved.
  • 13:00 Alexis tells how her father moved from the wholesale business into retail.
  • 15:00 Alexis on selling her first engagement ring, and how the rush she experienced from making that sale got her hooked on the jewelry business.
  • 16:40 On how spending at least some time doing jewelry repair helps someone truly understand the jewelry business.
  • 19:30 Alexis discusses being a millennial in the industry, and trying to effect change in the industry, part of which is serving on the board for AGS Conclave … DRINK!
  • 22:50 More talk of AGS, and several more mentions of Conclave. More DRINKS! Things get messy, and the rules of the drinking game are changed.
  • 26:00 Alexis goes further into the responsibilities of being a millennial in the industry. “It’s not an easy path to take. Millennials, in terms of reputation, it’s not super-positive.” But she doesn’t understand the bad reputation of millennials. “What do millennials want that we don’t all want? We all want excellent customer service. We all want product available. We want to try on things, we want to see them in person. We want to see, touch, feel. And we want a good deal. Everything the millennials get a bad rap for … it’s something we all ultimately want.”
  • 30:40 “I would much rather be under-estimated and far exceed that expectation than the opposite.”
  • 32:50 How Forevermark, and its story, has been “an absolute game-changer” for Padis Jewelry. The store is currently partnering with Forevermark to open Forevermark’s first U.S. retail store in the East Bay area of San Francisco.
  • 35:55 Discussing Padis Vineyards, a 15-acre vineyard which produces about 3,000 bottles of wine per year. Barbara asks, “How do you own a vineyard and not be annihilated 24 hours a day?”
  • 38:50 “The wine business is just a blast,” says Alexis. “The funny thing is that it’s not that different from the jewelry industry.” How? In that most of the value of the product is found in the nuances. Very subtle differences can mean an enormous difference in price.
  • 40:40 Padis Vineyards has kept its ties to the jewelry industry, including launching a label called Scintillation and a kosher label called Brilliance.
  • 44:30 Alexis reveals her dream dinner date — and it’s the powerhouse wife of a key industry figure.
  • 48:40 Print or online? Alexis, somewhat apologetically, chooses online.
  • 50:20 Alexis’s biggest influences are a couple of people very close to her.
  • 52:00 Alexis’s biggest fans are her gem besties, including her fiancé, Brian, and her best friend since high school, Stephanie, who is also in the jewelry business.
  • 53:30 Alexis reveals her favorite four-letter “industry” word. It’s a word that most store-owners are extremely happy to hear.
  • 55:30 Alexis’s morning routine does NOT include coffee. “Nobody needs to see me on caffeine,” she says. Instead, she starts the day with a walk of her dog, Zoe, and some very loud jams.
  • 59:50 The one piece of jewelry that Alexis wears every day? Prepare to be surprised.
  • 61:30 The last industry article Alexis read? Just general coverage of retailers’ holiday performance, which has generally been positive for the 2018 holiday season to date. “It was all good news for me this morning,” said Alexis. Barbara’s also pleased, saying: “It’s good news for me too, man. Even journalists. We need to hear that too, or else we’re going, ‘I’ll be writing about those shower-curtain rings next month.’ And that’s a miserable thing to write about.”

Barbara Palumbo is a watch and jewelry industry writer, journalist and speaker. She manages the blogging websites Adornmentality.com and Whatsonherwrist.com.

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The Barb Wire

Podcast: Craig Husar Discusses His Career, and His Spectacular New Store, on ‘The Barb Wire’

Retailer says of his new location: “This was my destiny, to be here and nothing was going to stop me.”

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The BARB WIRE (EPISODE 8): CRAIG HUSAR (50:04 MINUTES)


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WATCH COLLECTORS, vintage jewelry, adventures in treasure hunting, and a showplace new store are on the agenda when jeweler Craig Husar steps into the Barb Wire this month. Husar is the owner and self-titled “Chief Romance Officer” at Craig Husar Fine Diamonds & Jewelry Designs in Brookfield, WI.

Barbara notes that Husar is her first podcast guest she hadn’t previously met in person, then tells the photogenic owner she thinks he should be in a Crest toothpaste commercial (2:30).

The conversation quickly turns to Husar’s spectacular new store (9:30), which opened in January during the week of the polar vortex in Milwaukee. (Spoiler alert: it was extremely cold.)

Husar had decided to move from his long-standing store site when he saw an available location opposite a major new free-standing outdoor lifestyle center in his community. Says the owner about the difficult store-creation process: “I was relentless. I’ve never been so focused and passionate about making something happen in my life. And it was that passion, that drive, that led me here. It was almost like, knowing somehow, that this was my destiny, to be here and nothing was going to stop me.”

The two discuss key features of the new store, including its monumental chandelier, called “the Star of Husar”, which features almost 3,000 Swarovski crystals (13:35). Since the store’s opening, the chandelier has become a focus of selfie-taking in and around the store.

The two discuss last month’s Las Vegas jewelry shows, with special praise given to the Antique Jewelry and Watch Show at the Collective (20:20). Says Husar: “I walked out, and wanted to sell everything I currently have, make it all go away, and start over with all vintage and antique jewelry.” He adds that he is currently developing the vintage and pre-owned part of his business as a new profit center (20:50).

Husar also discusses his previous jobs — including work with legendary treasure hunter Mel Fisher (23:40), with whom he worked on a dive site (a sunken Spanish galleon with valuables worth an estimated $500 million) off the Florida Keys. Around that time, he did a tour of jewelry stores to show off a 90-carat emerald found at the wreck. Barbara doesn’t remember, but then she does remember … mostly because of a specific hairstyle Husar wore at the time.

Husar shares his thoughts on lab-grown diamonds (29:10), and provides a useful analogy retailers can try on customers choosing between naturally-mined and lab-grown diamonds (31:10).

In the closing segment of the show, Husar shares his preferred industry dinner partner (35:50), role model (38:50), favorite jewelry industry word (40:00), and the one accessory that he simply can’t do without (43:25).

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The Barb Wire

Podcast: Doug Hucker Discusses His Colorful Life on ‘The Barb Wire’

One of the biggest names in colored gemstones talks with Barbara Palumbo.

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The BARB WIRE (EPISODE 7): DOUG HUCKER (57:02 MINUTES)


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COLORED GEMSTONES and their increasing popularity with younger buyers are the key topics when Doug Hucker, long-time CEO of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) is interviewed by host Barbara Palumbo on this month’s The Barb Wire.

Doug starts off by talking about how entered the jewelry business (4:10). His background: after he graduated university, he worked at a newspaper as a writer and photographer. Wanting to leave his hometown, Doug moved to California and started taking pictures of gemstones for the Gemological Institute of America. He ended up spending 10 years at GIA, mostly teaching classes. It was during this period that he really fell in love with gemstones, he shares. “As you know, the more you know about something, the more education you get, the easier it is to fall in love with it,” he says. “Sweaty palms and shortness of breath, I realized that I love gemstones.”

Did he ever work in retail, Barbara asks (9:30). “No comment,” jokes Doug. He clarifies by saying that, in order to provide some context to the work he was doing for GIA, he took an upaid job with a California jewelry retailer on weekends for a period. “You have to have familiarity with retail, or you can’t understand the full picture of this industry,” he explains.

Doug talks about his eventual move to the leadership of AGTA (13:05) in 1997. Before accepting the role, he was worried about having no previous experience leading an association. But, in the end, he feels AGTA turned out to be a perfect fit for him. “It’s been a fantastic career for me,” Doug says, “because I feel I was able to work with fantastic people, in a great industry, and in some ways, I was able to contribute to making the industry better.”

Barbara says she can’t remember, or imagine, the AGTA without Doug. “If the AGTA had money,” she jokes, “your face would be on the currency.”

Doug talks about the importance of volunteers and their contribution to AGTA’s success (17:05), and applauds their passion for colored gemstones.

Next, Barbara and Doug talk about the increasing popularity of colored gemstones with younger buyers (20:10). Barbara notes that, when her group of female friends was in their 20s and starting to get married, competition for the biggest engagement diamond was intense. “You wanted to be the last one to get engaged, because you knew then you could get the biggest diamond,” she says. These days, both Barbara and Doug agree, going for the biggest possible diamond is no longer an automatic choice for younger women who are getting engaged.

One overlooked factor in the rise of colored gemstones amongst younger buyers, according to Doug, is social media (22:50). “Since you have such a visual, colorful world, and you have the technology you have today, it’s perfect for colored gemstones,” he says. “Look at Instagram and Pinterest and all these different platforms where you can see all these pictures of magnificent gemstones and learn the stories, that experience and that story is very important to young people. And it’s very important that we have young people involved.”

Doug and Barbara then talk about the importance of inspiring younger industry members to join industry groups like the AGTA and AGS, as a key factor in helping them to build passion for colored gemstones (25:40).

Another topic of discussion is the AGTA’s move into this year’s big new Las Vegas event, The Collective, at the Las Vegas Convention Center (32:05). AGTA is co-hosting the event along with the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show and Premier. Doug notes that he is proud of the opportunity that the new event provides for younger, upcoming designers, especially at the jewelry-focused Premier show.

Also mentioned are a few special initiatives Collective partners have launched for the show, including vouchers for free Uber rides to and from the event.

Doug shares his favorite gemstone (41:40) as well as his close second place. He then picks a jewelry business figure, alive or dead, he’d most like to have dinner with (43:00). (“Dead is better because you don’t offend anyone who is living,” Doug astutely notes, before sharing his choice.) He then talks about his biggest influence and his biggest fan.

Doug then shares his favorite four-letter industry-related word (50:10). “I think Vegas was betting on that one,” Barbara says, after he reveals his choice.

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The Barb Wire

Podcast: Luxury Retailer Nick Linca Drops Into ‘The Barb Wire’

Florida retailer has perfected the concept of the jewelry store as “third place” for his customers.

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THE BARB WIRE EPISODE 6: NICK LINCA (53:27 MINUTES)


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THIS MONTH, the Barb Wire welcomes innovative jeweler Nick Linca, a managing partner with Provident Jewelry, a seven-store jewelry retailer.

The business launched 25 years ago as a jeweler specializing in estate goods. However, in 2008, it moved in a new direction by opening a luxurious, state-of-the-art store in Jupiter, FL selling higher-end branded goods.

Linca, who had been a manager at Zale in the late 1990s and a sales manager at Hamilton Jewelers from 2000 to 2008, was brought on to lead the launch of Provdent Jewelry’s new Jupiter business.

Over the past 11 years, the group’s Jupiter location has achieved status of one of the country’s most impressive jewelry stores, selling brands like Baume-et-Mercier, Bell & Ross, Breitling, Carl F. Bucherer, Cartier, Chopard and more, while featuring luxurious amenities like a fully stocked bar and cigar bar for customers.

Chatting with Barbara, Nick talks about the background of the business (2:00), and the importance of opening a store around the right people rather than the other way around (4:00). He discusses the mindset in opening the Jupiter store of creating a “third place” for customers, a la Starbucks — a place that is not work and is not home (6:45). Barbara raves about the opulence of the drink bar and cigar bar at the Jupiter store (8:50).

Nick loves that his customers can finish a round of golf, then invite a friend over for a post-round drink and cigar at the jewelry store (10:30). He shares how the team at Provident likes to “blow it out” and have fun with store events, including an upcoming “Bubbles and Bling” party (14:20).

Barbara and Nick discuss Provident Jewelry’s wide-ranging charity activities (14:30), including dog adoptions. And Nick shares the reasons why, over time, he has connected so much with independent watch brands (18:50) over time.

One reason is loyalty. After a 2011 robbery in which Provident Jewelry lost more than $15 million in inventory, and were uncertain to survive. During that stressful period, Nick saw how some brands acted like partners, and others didn’t (20:30).

Watch discussion continues with Nick sharing how he used FaceTime to make direct sales to customers of newly released watches while in Basel (24:00). He also tells a story of an extremely unusual trade-in he received on a high-end watch recently (31:30).

In the later portion of the podcast, Barbara asks her regular series of standard regular questions. In this section, Nick shares his dream industry dinner partner (33:50), refers to his 65-year-old clients as “millennials” (35:20); tells of the useful people skill inherited from his father that helps him (38:00); identifies his biggest fan (38:40); and shares his favorite four-letter industry word, which we think could become yours as well (40:10).

He shares his favorite trade event (41:00), and talks of a few shockingly extravagant parties he has attended at this event over the years, as well as revealing the details of a fiendishly brilliant prank played with a chili pepper on a member of his travel party (44:10).

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