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Desert Luxury

Eye-catching store design celebrates West Texas landscape.

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Occasions Fine Jewelry, Midland, TX

OWNER: Michael Fleck; ONLINE PRESENCE: 1,089 Google reviews (average 4.9); 7,800 Facebook followers; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2008; RENOVATED: 2021; BUILDOUT COST: $950,000; FOUNDED: 1989; Opened featured location: 2021; AREA: 6,026 square feet; Buildout cost: $80,000; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Leslie McGwire, interior design; Artco, case design; MJ Drafting & Design, architect; Joe Prieto, general contractor; TOP BRANDS: Gabriel & Co., Le Vian, Simon G., Roberto Coin, Charles Krypell, Lagos, Oscar Heyman ; EMPLOYEES: 9


Michael Fleck

Michael Fleck

SECOND-GENERATION JEWELER Michael Fleck caught the jewelry bug early in life, although he had to travel internationally to fully succumb.

“When I was about 16 or 17, I went with my dad to Antwerp, Belgium, instead of going to my own prom, and I was hooked from that point forward,” says Fleck. “It was my first time out of the country, and I absolutely fell in love with the industry.”

In Antwerp, he was surrounded by other jewelers on an IJO buying trip, and diamond dealers were delighted to take a kid under their wings. He learned about the personality of the jewelry industry. Ever since, his enthusiasm has been contagious.

Occasions Fine Jewelry was founded by Michael’s dad, Mike Fleck, who began his business with a thrift store rolltop desk, a card table and two secondhand cases in the back of a pharmacy owned by his uncle.

“While it wasn’t much, my father’s hard work and passion for the people he served shone throughout Midland,” Michael says. Occasions quickly outgrew the pharmacy and its next four locations, too.

Michael purchased Occasions from his father in 2014, allowing Mike and his stepmom Cathy to retire. “Since then, I’ve spent my days growing Occasions with the same care and compassion that my father set forth because I believe in raising perceptions of what a jewelry store ought to be,” Fleck says.

Occasions invites customers to view the magic that happens in the full-service shop through a wall of windows.

Occasions invites customers to view the magic that happens in the full-service shop through a wall of windows.

You wouldn’t be able to tell from the looks of it, Fleck says, but his current location used to be a rundown Denny’s. They purchased the building in 2008, and with the help of interior designer

Leslie McGwire, Fleck renovated it in 2021.

Fleck wanted Occasions to be a celebration of everything that’s best about Midland.

“I wanted this luxury feel that encompasses this desert prairie landscape, and Leslie started talking about different colors of taupe and putting in small pockets of greenery. All of these things started adding up and it was an instant of puzzle pieces clicking together. She understood what I was wanting to do.”

During construction, they built a miniature store within the store and moved it around to different exterior doors as they built around it.

While the finished showroom is calm and inviting, there are bursts of purple and orange, Occasions signature colors inspired by West Texas sunsets. The chandeliers capture the essence of the stars that fill the wide-open night sky.

The green living wall suggested by McGwire turned out to be a masterpiece of a vertical garden created and maintained by a local landscaper. “I spent a ton of money doing that, and people came in and said, ‘Wow, that almost looks real.’ I take it as a compliment that we made something so nice it looks fake. It livens the room up. I was surprised at what a statement it ended up making.”

As for the overall showroom, Fleck says he is ecstatic that it turned out exactly as he had envisioned it. “It was like someone got into my brain,” he says.

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The Path to Success

Before joining the family business and after studying international trade and economics in college, Fleck worked for B.C. Clark in Oklahoma City. “They taught me a whole lot about elevated customer service and how to manage people gently,” he says. “I don’t think I ever heard a raised voice.

“They put me on that path to having a real excellent culture. That became one of my main missions. We had a good culture, but I wanted to define it and make it a driver of our company. In a lot of ways, our culture could not be further apart (from B.C. Clark), but the drivers are the same.”

One of those drivers is a cross-training program, beginning with a five-week mini-university for new Occasions employees. “It gives my team perspective on what their teammates have to achieve,” he says. “You are not going to be under-trained at Occasions. You will have a full understanding of excellent customer service, salesmanship and product knowledge.”

The importance of education was also instilled in Fleck by his father. During one of his first IJO shows, he attended a session led by jewelry sales trainer Kate Peterson. “That was kind of my first consultation with a jewelry expert, and my dad would tell me afterward that these people have been through it all and they know how to make these things run. My dad was in a constant state of learning. Learning to listen to our industry experts and be in a learning mode has helped the store along more than anything else.”

Team members at Occasions have diverse interests, speak multiple languages and are among the coolest people in Midland, TX, says owner Michael Fleck.

Team members at Occasions have diverse interests, speak multiple languages and are among the coolest people in Midland, TX, says owner Michael Fleck.

The Culture

When Fleck took over Occasions from his father, he wanted to keep the same personality he’d brought to the store. “Here, we like to have fun because we believe that happy employees create happy customers,” he says. “And, above all else, we believe in family over business, good wages and low turnover.”

Fleck encourages an enjoyable, relaxed environment by inviting employees to express themselves and contribute ideas. “My staff are hands-down the coolest people in Midland, Texas. There isn’t an age, nationality or demographic that isn’t represented here. That helps a lot in the store, having different voices and ideas.”

Employees are not asked to cover tattoos or wear matching outfits. “We have a dress code, but it’s an extremely lenient one,” Fleck says. “We ask that you just be clean, be neat and be yourself.”
Fleck ensures families come first by always staffing one extra person in each department to have coverage. “So, if you’ve got a child’s soccer game or doctor’s appointment to make, you have the flexibility to live life. And if you stick around for 10 years, I’ll send you to Hawaii to show you how grateful we are to have you.”

They’ve also crafted Occasions into its own character to allow their fun, unique personalities to shine through. The store is portrayed as funny, irreverent and charming with a heart of gold.

Fleck and his sister, Denise, company COO, convey this character through unique, quirky marketing campaigns.

Second-Generation Jeweler Celebrates West Texas Landscape Through Store Design

Try This: The Living Wall

Green retail space, which incorporates plants, living walls and other greenery into the space, along with natural features including wood and stone, is a burgeoning trend, says interior designer Leslie McGwire. She enjoys bringing nature into the interior if it aligns with the store owner’s vision. When it comes to a living green wall, the only way to keep the greens looking great is to have a professional service come in weekly, McGwire recommends. “They water and replace old plants. They use common plants so they can change them out for a low cost.” McGwire says employees and customers alike are more relaxed and productive when surrounded by nature.

 

The Experience

A savvy staff and a cool new building go a long way to providing the luxury experience Fleck wants for his clients.

They intentionally don’t have much technology in the showroom, not even a TV, to encourage more person-to-person connections. “After all, jewelry is personal and your shopping experience should be, too,” he says.

The showroom is designed to feel like an escape with its signature scent, rock ‘n’ roll playlist, fresh coffee and locally sourced wines. “We want to make sure your taste, sense of smell, touch, temperature, everything is exactly where we want it to be at all times,” he says.

Children are given a teddy bear wearing an Occasions T-shirt. “There’s something slightly magical about that,” Fleck says. “It’s one of those little touchpoints that makes us a little more special.”

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Five Cool Things About Occasions Fine Jewelry

1. REALLY GREAT PARTIES. West Texas, known for a boom-and-bust cycle, can present financial challenges, but Fleck has found that throwing parties can break that cycle. “It lifts the mood when customers are trepidatious about spending money. Anniversaries and birthdays still happen, and we’re good at taking care of our clients,

2. ENGAGING THE SENSES. Occasions experimented with a video spot designed to showcase the way the store appeals to all of the senses. They created an ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) commercial in which they used whispering, intense sound design and methodical shots to create a serene effect. “It was one of our most viewed spots,” Fleck says. “And it captured just how quirky, fun and unique Occasions really is. Some people loved it; some hated it. We give the creative teams a lot of free range to experiment and we believe in new ideas.”

3. STAFF INPUT. The staff was involved throughout the remodeling process in 2021. As a result, they incorporated a one-button intercom system that connects each department, a pass-through drawer between the shop and POS area, music outside, extra niceties in the restrooms, umbrellas by the door and a signature showroom scent.

4. HIRING. Occasions associates look for people in the community who have potential as future staffers and collaborate to “steal” them. “We look for people who make that great first impression, who have a genuine warmth to them, who are not getting paid as well as they should be. And we look for an inner drive and resilence as well. Those things altogether usually make for a really good employee.”

5. THE RALLY. Occasions partnered with Harley Davidson to host a huge motorcycle rally in town. They made custom patches that they gave away to everyone in the rally, hosted a tattoo contest and donated $5,000 to organizations that provide housing and therapy to veterans. “It was one of the coolest ways we’ve reached out to our community and opened our doors to a niche demographic,” Fleck says.

PHOTO GALLERY (7 IMAGES)

JUDGES’ COMMENTS
  • GABRIELLE GRAZI:Michael and Denise exude warmth and humor and lend their personality to everything they do in this store. It is apparent in every detail of their branding. I love how they infused their wit in staff bios on the website and commercials on YouTube. The color palette and the living walls in the store provide a fresh modern spin. Even the tag line, “Raising Your Perceptions of What a Jewelry Store Should Be,” demonstrates their individuality. Very cool, indeed.
  • LARRY JOHNSON:This store looks like a great place to have fun while you shop. The owner’s approach to supporting his staff is commendable and unfortunately too rare in today’s world.
  • REBECCA RAU: : I love some of these out-of-the-box marketing initiatives; it sounds like Occasions has figured out how to authentically connect to their local audience.

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