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IN THIS INSTORE podcast from 2018, hear one of the most unique success stories in recent jewelry retail history — that of Jim Tuttle and his Seattle super-store, Green Lake Jewelry Works.

After dropping out of college and spending several years as a supermarket produce buyer, Tuttle eventually found his way into the jewelry business in Atlanta in his mid-20s — through a cousin of his who was doing trade work, mostly for jewelry chain stores. 

Podcast Episode S1E2: Jim Tuttle (44:03 minutes)


As Tuttle slaved away at trade work in the late 80s and early 90s, he dreamed of opening his own store with a focus on custom design, one where the “theater” of jewelry artists at work would attract passersby and customers. 

Finally, in 1996, with only $30,000 in his pocket, he moved to Seattle and opened up a business called Green Lake Jewelry Works. 

From that small investment, Tuttle has created one of the country’s most innovative and successful jewelry businesses — with two Green Lake branches in the Seattle area (both of which have won high honors in INSTORE’s “America’s Coolest Stores” contest) and more than $10 million in sales annually.

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Tuttle’s stores have created their own noteworthy niche as a business that puts custom design first in every single aspect of the customer experience. Since the store’s launch, Green Lake has grown at near-double figure percentage rates every year — even during the Great Recession. Tuttle attributes a lot of the store’s success to his talented team — “this was very much a team effort,” he emphasizes.

But another key to the Green Lake success story is Tuttle’s propensity for “geeking out” — intense bursts of enthusiasm and extra work new technologies like (over the years) CAD modeling, laser welding, and online jewelry design portfolios. In addition, Tuttle’s expertise in crunching numbers has also helped him make correct business decisions on when to expand (and when to not expand) along the way.

Listen to Tuttle tell his story — with all the ups and downs — in this 45-minute interview with INSTORE’s David Squires.

Plus, we’ve added an additional seven minutes of bonus material in which Jim shares the specific area where he thinks his business differs from most other jewelry retailers, where he sees the jewelry business going over the next decade, and one product category he’d pay a little more attention to if he had the chance to do the whole thing over again.

JIM TUTTLE BONUS MATERIAL (7:00 minutes)


David Squires is the Group Editorial Director of SmartWork Media. He believes that the first role of business media is to inspire readers.

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Wilkerson Testimonials | C. Aaron Peñaloza Jewelers

Wilkerson Paves the Way for the Future

After serving the San Antonio, Texas community for decades, C. Aaron Peñaloza Jewelers closed its doors earlier this year. Aaron and Mary Peñaloza, the store’s owners, chose Wilkerson to handle their retirement sale. “In the first six days, we did six months’ worth of business,” says Aaron. “In the first three weeks, we did a year’s worth of business.” Mary Peñaloza says Wilkerson’s ability to tailor the sale to their store’s requirements really made it all so much easier. “They are professionals,” she says. “They know what they’re doing. They have a plan, but they will listen to you and adjust that plan to your needs.”

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