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White, Gold and Oh-So-Bold

Forecasting the future, jeweler envisioned a destination store down to its smallest details.

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Ylang YlangST. LOUIS, MO

OWNER: Julie Ettinger / LOCATION: St. Louis, MO URL: ylangylang.com / OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2014 FOUNDED: 1985
/ LAST RENOVATED: 2018 / AREA: 1,546 square feet / EMPLOYEES: 3 full and 3 part-time
ARCHITECT: BOH Architect / DESIGNER: Temple & Hentz Design / BUILDOUT COST: $375,000 / TOP BRANDS: Carolina Bucci, Erica Courtney, Faith Jems, Heather Moore, Jane Taylor, Jennifer Dawes, Just Jules, Jade Trau, Kataoka, Lauren K, Moritz Glik, Phillips House, Single Stone, Temple St. Clair / ONLINE PRESENCE: E-commerce enabled website; 5 Stars on Facebook.


 

Julie Ettinger could envision what her freestanding destination store would look like, years before it became a reality.It would be white and gold with a hint of blue and a French flair.

Most important: the showcases would be arranged as if to reach out and embrace her customers.

“I had been dreaming about this for years. I kept a notebook at home and I drew and cut out pictures and saved clippings,” she says. “I made a Pinterest board of it, almost.”

Still, when it all happened, she felt like she was jumping off a cliff.

Ettinger, who worked for decades with her mom, Lois, had anticipated moving out of the luxury Plaza Frontenac mall that had been the original location of YLANG YLANG (pronounced elong, elong), but her parents and business partners, Lois and Ray Morganstern, were reluctant to move. “I said, ‘Dad, you’ve got to trust me on this.’”

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When the lease was up, Ettinger asked the landlord to fund a renovation, and when mall management didn’t sign on for that, everyone realized it was time to go.

She found the perfect, high-profile location in the upscale suburb of LaDue and worked with an architect to bring her vision to life.

Lois passed the company torch to Julie in 2013 and Ray passed away in 2015, but not before he had seen Julie’s vision become reality. “It was so meant to be,” she says. “When I took my dad to see the space, he said he loved it.”

While in search of an innovative jewelry concept, Ray and Lois Morganstern had discovered YLANG YLANG, which was a quaint boutique in the Bal-Harbour shops in Miami. They purchased a franchise from Jacque and Brigette, a French couple, and brought the concept to St. Louis in 1985, although at the time, Lois recalls, “Everyone thought it was too trendy for St. Louis.” Originally the boutique specialized in ‘80s European fashion jewelry, and it has since evolved into a curated selection of fine designer jewelry.

So, in 2014, when Julie opened the new store, it was just as she had envisioned — white and gold with a hint of blue and a dash of France. In fact, Ettinger has been told the clean-lined space feels like being in the South of France. The architect designed the layout of the main 800-square-foot sales floor in the shape of a diamond. It’s outfitted with custom curved showcases, family heirloom chandeliers and curved crystal-embedded walls with touches of sparkling gold.

Adding a rustic touch, the flooring resembles barn wood.

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“The store very much reflects my personality,” Ettinger says. “I like to combine high and low. Maybe that’s the Gemini in me. I can dress up, but my favorite outfit is jeans and a T-shirt.”

Now Ettinger, living her dream, has the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy store.

One of her favorite rooms is the blue room separated from the sales floor with French doors, she says. Guests appreciate the luxurious private experience, and the room has also been the site of a few surprise engagements and celebrations commemorated with  champagne toasts.

 

Ettinger graduated college with the goal of a career in nutrition or pharmaceutical sales. “But I came home to work in the summer, I fell in love and I literally never left,” she says. Working with her mother just clicked. “We were cute together. We were each other’s sidekicks.”

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Lois was thrilled when her daughter joined her in the business. Her daughter quickly proved herself and became the lead salesperson. She’s a natural, approaching sales like she’s shopping with a friend, or a friend in the making. Often, that turns out to be the case. “From the beginning, people would say to me, ‘you could sell anything,’ and I wasn’t really trying,” she says. “A client spent two and a half hours with me yesterday and she said she had the best time spending $10,000. She never felt pressured one minute.”

Ettinger is honest and if she doesn’t like a piece of jewelry on a customer, she’ll let them know.

She estimates that $2,500 is the most popular price point now. “We’ve always been a store for self-purchasing women, but in the new location, I think we’re seeing more men,” she says. “Men don’t like malls. We’re not known for bridal, but now in the new location we’ve done two bridal lines, Single Stone and Erica Courtney.”

Her approach is distinctly personal.

“When our clients enter YLANG YLANG, we focus on them,” she says. “I think eye contact and listening is key. It’s amazing how much you learn in the silence and how naturally you close more sales in that moment. People can tell when you are not being real. I truly think this is what keeps our faithful clients coming back again and again.”

The mother-daughter partnership has long been at the core of the business. Even in retirement, Lois is no stranger to the store. She has an eye for detail and is ready to offer her input.

“I butt heads a little with Mom, but we aren’t competitive,” Ettinger says. When they went on buying trips together, “Mom would kick me under the table and say ‘I am going to the ladies’ room.’ That was my cue that I was overspending!”

Ettinger’s strengths lie in forecasting and trend prediction, she says. “I can see and intuitively feel what I want to buy and what I see in the future.” That, she says, is why she knew it was time to take the family business to the next level and bring her dream to life.


(PHOTO GALLERY (26 IMAGES) 


Five Cool Things About YLANG YLANG

1. HEALING BRAND: Julie Ettinger launched her own jewelry collection, Faith Jems, born from her passion for natural gems and their healing power. Each handpicked, gem-studded crystal has been handmade and blessed in Bali with holy water. “I either wear my personal crystal every day or it’s always in my handbag. I’m really connected to it.” Customers are drawn to it, as well, when she’s wearing it.

2. THE YY BRAND EXPRESSION:YLANG YLANG is a tropical tree, which originates from the Philippines. Its fragrant yellow flowers take on the shape of an inverted crown. Ettinger and her team designed the YY (beyoutiful) recycled tote bag that they use as their gift bags instead of paper. “We wanted something more environmentally friendly and reusable,” she says. Other in-store branding includes YY branded cocktail napkins and custom aqua and gold packaging from London. Ettinger recently hosted a photo shoot of her clients wearing YY jewelry, to be included in the Scout shopping guide, which is new to St. Louis.

3. PHILANTHROPIC EFFORTS: Ettinger’s sister, Denise Holly, has autism, and YLANG YLANG has traditionally focused charitable giving on quality of life for special kids and their families. In particular, they’ve supported EasterSeals and Autism Speaks. They regularly donate Temple St. Clair angel pendants, and a diamond puzzle necklace that Ettinger designed to live auctions for the organizations. She also supports animal rescue groups, including Stray Rescue St. Louis.

4. YY WILL TRAVEL. :YLANG YLANG introduced a one-of-a-kind shopping experience for a special client. Ettinger and store manager Stephanie Marchetto flew to Los Angeles where they met up with jewelry designer Erica Courtney and visited the client in her home for a private shopping experience.

5. LOCAL PARTNERSHIP EVENTS: For Mother’s Day, they invited a flower truck to park outside of the store. Customers could assemble a bouquet at the “stem bar” while also shopping for jewelry gifts.


JUDGES’ COMMENTS:

Sofia Kaman: Absolutely beautiful store. Every detail from the packaging to the website is cohesive and tastefully designed. Bravo!

Lyn Falk: Interior is elegant and has some unique touches.

Tiffany Stevens: Chic and cosmopolitan. This store manages to be both modern and classic simultaneously. Love!

Mia Katrin: A jewel of a store! The natural refinement and beauty of a rare gem is magnified into an elegant shopping environment, pristine yet inviting. The emphasis on creating an authentic experience is refreshing. And the attention to detail! (Who includes a photo of the washroom in their promotional materials?)

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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Jan Rose of Rose Jewelers, located in Long Island's famous Hamptons beach district, explains how she chose Wilkerson for her closing sale. Jan's suggestions: reach out to jewelers who have been in similar situations to find out what worked for them, and look for a company with experience in going-out-of-business sales. Once you've done that, the final step is to move ahead and trust the process.

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America's Coolest Stores

Cool Store Design for Albany Store Based on Consumer Research

Vice-president Gregg Kelly considered aspects from the scent of flowers used outside to handicapped signage.

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Northeastern Fine Jewelry, Albany, NY

OWNER: Raymond Bleser; FOUNDED: 1980; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 1998; ARCHITECT: C2 Design Group; LAST RENOVATED: 2017;BUILDOUT COST: $1.3 million; NO. of LOCATIONS: 3; EMPLOYEES: 14;AREA: 5,000 square feet; TOP BRANDS: Cartier, Tacori, Simon G, IWC, Forevermark


WHEN GREGG KELLY told customers he was planning to redo the Albany, NY, location of Northeastern Fine Jewelry, they inevitably asked him, “Why are you spending money on a store that still looks beautiful?”

But Kelly, vice president and son-in-law of owner Raymond Bleser, understands the importance of updating a store’s look and making it as functionally modern and approachable as possible. He invested untold hours studying store design, traffic flow and consumer behavior before embarking on the major remodel he undertook in 2017, which went far beyond a touch up or a new coat of paint.

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In fact, the store was gutted, all while it remained open, with the support of its two sister stores in Schenectady and Glens Falls, NY.

What’s new? A 1,000-square foot addition, the floor plan, the cases, a glass façade, a patio and landscaping. Even the parking lot is new.

“We try to redo the stores every 10 years, and some stuff was falling apart,” Kelly says. “When a customer visits a few times a year, we want to re-engage them and give them a new environment, a new experience.”

The company realized a 15 percent increase in business the first full year following the renovation.

In preparation, Kelly painstakingly considered every detail and collected sources of inspiration from around the world, making it a priority to visit stores when he travels.

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He also reads the Robb Report and other national luxury magazines to stay on top of retail trends. He took a class with neuroscientist Robert Cooper, a New York Times bestselling author and business strategist specializing in consumer behavior. Kelly was particularly interested in what gives people the ability to make good, conscious decisions based on the retail environment itself. “Once you have their attention, it comes down to the associate who guides the decision to purchase.”

To get their attention, Kelly wanted the store to have an open floor plan and optimal traffic flow while balancing the individual requirements of a variety of international shop-in-shop brands with less of a choppy look.

Michael Roman of the C2 Design Group says the overall challenge was to take Kelly’s concept and bring it to life within an existing building.

The sense of openness was achieved by repositioning the entry and shifting it over, which also affected the exterior of the building. The goal inside was to improve traffic flow, so shoppers could feel comfortable, meandering freely without encountering any obstacles. “It’s the experience that’s going to bring you back,” Roman says. The shop-in-shops are tied together with materials and lighting, while accommodating each vendor’s own design criteria.

The glass facade offers a transparency that puts shoppers at ease as they approach. Especially at night, the window reveals the character of the store within, Roman says. And the casual patio setting in front offers a decompression zone between parking lot and shopping experience, easing threshold resistance.

Finishes are sleekly upscale and timeless, rather than trendy.

Kelly also told Roman he wanted a store that looked like it had leaped off the pages of a luxury magazine. Accordingly, finishes are sleekly upscale, but timeless rather than trendy. Decor includes shades of gray and imported European leathers. LED lighting is new, green and efficient. Roman describes the materials used in the interior as the bow on the design package — timeless, clean and relatively simple, designed to complement the design without overshadowing it or being too understated.

Kelly put himself in the shoppers’ shoes when it came to details.

“We changed a lot of different things as we went and I always kept the consumer in mind. Even things like how they experience walking through the parking lot, the pitch of the sidewalk, and the feel they get when they step out of their car,” says Kelly.

“We researched for hours how to get the right thing — from handicapped signs that weren’t run of the mill, to the garbage can, to the outside rugs, to the extension of the awning over the front door to give them enough space for their umbrella, so they’re not getting wet when they get into the store. I studied the music, the rocks we used outside and the flowers we put into the planters to make sure the scent is appealing.”

While all of this was going on, by far the ultimate challenge was that the full-service jewelry store remained open, to the extent that it could, one section at a time, while chaos was kept at bay.

“The biggest challenge was to make our employees comfortable, as well as our customers,” Kelly says. “We sectioned off parts of the building so we didn’t lose too much consistency. Every part was gutted. We did all right, too, and our customers were great to us. They still shopped and stayed loyal. We were able to move things from store to store and still fulfill their needs.”

Ray Bleser, who founded the company, was happy to leave the renovation project to Kelly.

Originally, Bleser had studied to be a pharmacist, planning to follow in his father’s footsteps, but after just one day in that professional role, he knew it wasn’t for him. Instead, he decided to pursue his hobby of collecting and selling rare coins and gold.

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Northeastern Coin Gallery opened in 1980 and quickly expanded in scope, becoming Northeastern Fine Jewelry by 1985. In a twist of fate, the company’s flagship location in Schenectady, NY, occupies the building that once housed the drugstore where Bleser’s father worked.

Bleser has given his son-in-law his seal of approval. “He’s stationed in Schenectady, and every time he comes in, he says this is the nicest store from here to New York City,” Kelly says. “It’s a real modern look that’s attractive to all age groups. You get a New York City feel combined with a hometown experience, and I think that’s hard to accomplish.”

PHOTO GALLERY (12 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Northeastern Fine Jewelry

1. The Diamond District edge. Northeastern Fine Jewelry has an office in the Diamond District of New York. “We’ve never been one to just order stuff and ship it in. We like to look at things ourselves and have the first pick of diamonds. We’re picky when it comes to buying. And it gives us a nice edge to pick out what we want and pass those savings on to the consumer based on our buying ability,” says Kelly.

2. Training is top of mind. The company sends staff for training provided by its top brands and invests thousands of dollars a year into additional education. The expectation of expertise extends beyond sales to custom design and the repair shop. There’s also a watchmaker on staff.

3. A respect for jewelry history. They plan for an estate sale every year. “We try to keep our roots and the things that made us who we are today. They’re fun, too, because you get to look at things that are older and helped develop the jewelry industry for what it is today,” says Kelly. “And it’s fun to sell one-of-a-kind, rare things and tell the story of how it became what it is.”

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4. Making marketing a priority. “Traditionally, the jewelry industry markets for six weeks leading up to the holidays; we work hard to have a consistent approach to educating the consumer,” Kelly says. “We’re marketing 12 months out of the year.” Marketing is about 30 to 35 percent digital, and the website recently became set up for e-commerce.

5. Promotional savvy. In 2017, Northeastern sponsored a contest to win the opportunity to propose in a live commercial aired during halftime of the Super Bowl on FOX. The winner was featured in People Magazine, the Daily Mail in the UK and the New York Times. They also sponsored a half court shot during a Siena College basketball game; the contestant made the shot and walked away with $25,000, leading to intensive coverage from ESPN.

TRY THIS

When updating your store’s appearance, consider function as well as form and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Imagine you are the consumer approaching the building. What is the experience like? Is there shelter from rain? Are curbs accessible? Is there space for seating? Can they tell what kind of a store they will be entering? Have you provided a decompression zone between street and store?

 

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

  • Geoffrey Brown: “Very strong positive word-of-mouth going on here. The more personable and authentic you are, the more you stay top-of-mind.”
    Laura Davis: “The exterior is beautiful and the interior is very nice.”
  • David Lampert: “Nice looking store. Clever promotion with the Super Bowl.”
  • Katherine Bodoh: “I like the modern exterior with the large windows and natural light. The interior layout looks beautiful and very upscale.”
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America's Coolest Stores

Chicago Retailer Harks Back to History While Pushing Boundaries in Design, Art and Events

Designer pushes boundaries of fine jewelry, art and events to create an exceptional shopping experience.

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Adornment + Theory, Chicago, IL

OWNER: Viviana Langhoff; FOUNDED: 2017; URL: www.adornmentandtheory.com; EMPLOYEES: 4; AREA: 750 square feet


WHEN VIVIANA LANGHOFF PLANNED a pop-up tattoo event to celebrate her first year as an entrepreneur, it seemed like the kind of thing her artistic, creative core customer would enjoy.

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It usually takes a year to get an appointment with Kelsey Moore, the tattoo artist Langhoff recruited. The two even collaborated on designing gem and art deco-inspired tattoos to personalize the experience. So while Moore was virtually guaranteed to draw a crowd to the Logan Square gallery, Langhoff was still amazed when the line stretched for two blocks and some people camped out the night before, as if Apple had launched a new iPhone or Black Friday deals were about to be unveiled.

Langhoff is adept at putting jewelry in context, so she also seized the opportunity to explore the history of body adornment, which can be traced back to the invention of tattoos. A fun event combined with storytelling was destined for success.

See video below.

Langhoff’s interest in the historical roots of adornment also inspired the name of her business.

“I wanted to select a name that sheds light on the history of jewelry, which is ‘adornment,’ as well as the ‘theory’ portion that is the practice that artists have in studios. From the beginning of civilization, we find that cultures made currency and jewelry and adornment. I want to highlight the history and continuation of that into contemporary studios all around the world. We draw on aesthetics from many different artists: feminine, edgy, approachable and most important, wearable.”

Langhoff’s retail experience appeals to the independent, confident woman who loves beautiful design, knows what she likes and delights in artist-made pieces. Langhoff encourages her customers to let creativity dress them. “People are limited sometimes by what they think they can and can’t wear and what magazines tell you you should wear. Really, ultimately, If you love it, wear it.”

A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, she studied fine art and design and then worked for a variety of jewelers, some specializing in fine jewelry and others specializing in art jewelry, before creating a niche for herself that pulls inspiration from both. Her studio showcases one-of-a-kind work that pushes accessory design into wearable art. “We are passionate about representing emerging artists and brands who are crafting the future of functional art and design,” she says. She also custom designs and makes by hand wedding and engagement rings in precious materials.

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Her gallery is in the Logan Square neighborhood in northwest Chicago, about six miles from downtown. The neighborhood’s diverse, artistic population of young professionals and families is attracted to bike-friendly park-like boulevards and an ethos that includes green construction and preservation of historic buildings. Other draws are Michelin-starred restaurants, music venues, breweries, craft cocktail bars, a farmer’s market and art galleries.

The business is very experiential. She’s hosted “make your own silver ring” workshops and invited gemstone miners into her store. She mixes it up with lectures.

“I select and curate events that highlight the theory portion of jewelry,” she says. “And I love history. Once a week on Instagram I use points of jewelry history from ancient Egypt to the crown jewels.”

For Valentine’s Day, she recruited neighboring businesses to join her in a collaborative approach with the theme of “bazaar love.” She organized the bazaar and featured a pop-up shop of luxury lingerie and chocolates. She suggested to neighboring card-shop owners that they host an event for kids to make their own cards. She connected the eye-care professionals next door with a photographer and encouraged them to host a kissing booth.

“Each store offered a fun and enticing event,” she says. “It wasn’t just jewelry focused; all of the businesses pulled together and people came out. I was shocked because the weather was terrible.”

For the holidays, she hosted a Great Gatsby-themed Christmas party.

During the sustainable fair-trade conference in Chicago, she invited a group of international miners to bring rough-cut gemstones to the gallery so her clients could make their own selections. Then she sent the gems out to lapidary artists to cut them.

A summer workshop called Diamonds 101 introduced customers to diamond basics — color, cut, how to use a loupe and what to look for when shopping. Other workshops included metal etching (creating a pair of etched earrings in copper) and jewelry illustration.

Langhoff has no formal training in event planning or marketing, but it seems to come naturally to her; both she and her staff of four find events fun and energizing.

She even created her own interior design. “I drew inspiration from contemporary art galleries, Hollywood Regency as well as Moorish design with our floors,” she says. “I wanted to create a jewel box that was contemporary and glamorous while simultaneously being warm and inviting. I think we achieved that.”

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About half of Langhoff’s business is bridal-related, and much of that is custom, but most of her clients prefer alternative stones to traditional diamond jewelry. Most of the bridal work is custom, but she also showcases rings made by several other fine jewelry artists. “So if someone wants gray diamonds and an earthy look, I have several artists who have styles that have that, who are distinctly different from other artists and from myself. I’m not very big on mimicking another artist’s aesthetic.”

E-commerce to this point has been limited, but Langhoff credits her website and social media for driving business into the store. “I still count those visits and sales as website sales. I think our website is really important even as a landing pad for people to get a taste and flavor of what our brand is about.”

Everything she sells is handmade and everything has a story. “People are looking for a personal touch,” she says. “They want to know if it’s handmade, they want to know about the designer, the story, the fair-trade component, where the stones are coming from. They like knowing the details.”

PHOTO GALLERY (16 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Adornment + Theory

1. DESIGN OVER DRINKS. “Our Jewelry Bar is a space where individuals or couples can pull up a bar stool as I serve them drinks and discuss creating the piece of their dreams,” Langhoff says. “Once drinks are served, we review A+T’s full service menu and walk them through the highly personalized design process. The goal is for them to walk away with an heirloom piece that they will wear for a lifetime. I take the client/designer relationship very seriously and want each one to feel welcomed and delighted in.”
2. ART EVENTS. Beyond jewelry events, Langhoff hosts bi-monthly fine art openings in the store. “We’ve showcased everything from conceptually driven contemporary art jewelry (in conjunction with SOFA Expo), as well as fine art photography and paintings,” she says.
3. SOFT SCENT. Customers always comment about how lovely “our little jewel box smells,” she says. The in-store scent is created from candles and the notes are typically flowery, clean and beachy. It’s all intended, she says, to evoke a romantic, relaxed, beautiful and approachable space.
4. A SWEET IDEA. “We teamed up with a chocolatier to create a custom-branded ‘chocolate jewel box’ for our Valentine’s season,” Langhoff says.
5. MONTHLY WORKSHOPS. “Our monthly workshops are fun-filled afternoons where attendees learn hands-on techniques that help them create and appreciate the art of metalsmithing and other accessory-based techniques. We’ve hosted workshops on ‘How to Make a Silver Ring’, ‘Shibori Dying: Make Your Own Scarf’, as well as ‘How to Read Diamonds’. These workshops have helped cultivate community and further the customer experience. Not to mention, everyone has a great time. I love hearing the store filled with laughter,” Langhoff says.

JUDGES’ COMMENTS

  • Jimmy Degroot: If we’re looking at location as the primary form of marketing, then Viviana is spot on. It’s so refreshing to see a space as well-appointed and thought-out as this. Beautiful.
  • Sofia Kaman: Love the interior design and concept. Very polished!
  • Tiffany Stevens: I’m obsessed! Smart and beautiful choices on every level.

 

Try This: Offer a Workshop

Offer your customers an unexpected hands-on experience. Why not try a “make your own silver ring” workshop, if you have the facilities for it?

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America's Coolest Stores

Innovative Man-Cave, Swarovski Crystal Wallpaper and More Give Our December Cool Store “Colorado Glam”

Second- and third-generation family members combine rustic and elegant elements for eye-catching results.

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Williams Jewelers, Englewood, CO

OWNERS: Steve and Diane Williams ;OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2017; DESIGN FIRM: Leslie McGwire and Associates; EMPLOYEES: 19; AREA: 12,000 square feet;SHOWCASES: Artco Group;TOP BRANDS: Rolex, Tacori, Verragio, Hearts on Fire, John Hardy


WILLIAMS JEWELERS OF ENGLEWOOD boasts glamorous eye-catching design elements, including a 6-foot chandelier dripping with gold aspen leaves, clouds of light that float from the ceiling and Swarovski-crystal studded wallpaper.
On the other side of the design equation are rustic sliding barn doors, textured cork walls, beetle-kill wood planking on the ceiling and an informal man cave with fireplace and comfortably classic leather chairs.

The Williams family, working closely with interior designer Leslie McGwire, have married the two halves of the store’s personality into one beautiful, functional showplace designed to evoke a wide-open mountain retreat, with the ceiling reaching a height of 30 feet in some places. The exterior’s stone, wood and stucco coordinates with the interior design.

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They call the results Colorado glam.

“We have put our hearts into the design and atmosphere of our new store,” says third-generation family member Shaina Williams, vice president of operations. “We wanted our customers to feel like they were walking into our home. We hand selected the finish and casework to resemble a Colorado mountain retreat. “

Original showcases made the move to the new location, while additional cases were made by Artco Group with cherry wood accents to tie them all together.

The circular bridal and diamond experience area flows into the diamond rooms.

Directly off the sales floor, a customer lounge, also known as a man-cave, boasts a separate, complementary environment with a bar, local beers on tap, a fireplace and a TV. The man-cave is decorated with signed Denver Bronco jerseys. A jewelry case was converted into a combination bar and watch museum for a vintage Rolex collection. “That’s a place I like to hang out,” says Steve Williams, Shaina’s father, who owns the business with his wife, Diane.

They give McGwire credit for polishing their ideas into perfection and making the floor plan as functional as it is beautiful. “We wanted someone who could take all our deas, my ideas, my dad’s ideas and my stepmom’s ideas, and help us with our decision making,” Shaina says. “I call her a design counselor. She would take all of this in and present us with options for the design, the flow and the price point.”

Loving the Location

While the family achieved the look and flow each member had envisioned, they also snagged what is clearly the perfect corner location diagonally across from the strip mall spot they had occupied for 50 years. The corner itself is much more visible, and has a high traffic count, which has made a significant difference in the foot traffic and growth of the business. “Customers would drive by for years and have no idea we were there,” Shaina says. “Now we have a much larger and more visible store.”

Many customers are new, finding the business only after it opened its showplace of a store. “It blows them away, how beautiful it is,” Steve says.

New customers mean new business, much to Steve’s relief. “It’s always scary to borrow money to build a building,” Steve says. “It’s daunting if you look at it that way, but if you look at it as a monthly payment, it may be close to what your rent is. In our case, we were able to double the size of our building to over 12,500 square feet.” Now they can accommodate up to 300 people for an event, of which there are many, from diamond expos and estate buying to trunk shows and a VIP holiday party.

Adjusting to all that new space took some time, Shaina says. “We can’t find anyone. We need pagers! We built a little bigger than what we need on purpose because everyone told us to build it for 10 years from now, which it seems was excellent advice since

Williams has already achieved significant increase in business in less than a year at the new location.”

The best thing about having so much space is the intimate areas they were able to create within the overall floor plan, Shaina says. Bridal represents at least a quarter of the business and is afforded generous, designated space in the store. “I like the separate bridal experience in the back. When sales consultants are working with people, you can get more private; before, you could hear other conversations.” The bridal enclave can accommodate eight or 10 couples, without the space feeling crowded.

Before the store opened, the most visible form of marketing was signage at the construction site.

“Everyone was curious about what the building was going to be,” Steve says. “We did do radio ads, social media, email, but the biggest thing was people driving by and seeing the huge building with our signs.”

Family Traditions

The family business was founded by Steve’s parents Gene and Beth Williams. Gene, an apprentice watchmaker, rented an 800 square foot store in Stockton, KS, after World War II. Beth became one of the first women watchmakers in Kansas. After their boys were born, they moved west to Englewood, a Denver suburb, where the family business has been an enduring part of the community for more than 50 years. When they moved into the new building, the family found an envelope that had been lodged behind Beth’s desk drawer. She had written a note “Save for good luck, first sale” along with two quarters and three pennies. At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new building, the family toasted Gene and Beth’s memory. The watchmaking tradition continues: there’s still a watchmaker on site.

Steve credits his business success to his willingness to listen to the third-generation — his children Shaina, Evan and Dylan — and his open-minded attitude toward change.

“A lot of folks don’t like change, and we’ve been through changes that are unbelievable,” he says. “Be open to change and to the next generation,” he suggests. “Accept the challenge of growth.”

Dylan Williams is a jewelry and watch specialist on the sales team as well as the estate buyer. Evan Williams leads IT, graphic design and photography.

Says Shaina: “The business has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. My heart’s always been here. I’ve worked in every department. Now I’m on the operations side and I really love it.”

Says Steve: “When she was little, I had her cleaning glass and helping jewelers pull diamonds out of bench sweeps.”

Working with family can be a challenge, but Steve says a weekly meeting keeps everyone on track.

“It takes the right type of personality to work with your family, and we’ve been blessed with patient family members,” he says.

PHOTO GALLERY (18 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Williams Jewelers of Englewood

1. Digital signage. The store has a 125-square-foot digital screen on an exterior corner tower that displays rotating marketing messages. They also post jewelry jokes and questions for drivers to answer.

2. Stellar reviews. “When people give us compliments, we’ll ask for reviews, but we don’t offer an incentive,” says Shaina, who is in charge of social media and may need to add staff to keep up with the demands. She’s grown a community of 51,000 followers on Facebook and 1,500 on Instagram.

3. Who’s up? “We make sure we greet everybody,” Shaina says. “That’s the most important thing. We don’t let people walk around without greeting them.”

4. Glam RETREAT. Tile in the elegant, upscale ladies’ room is embedded with Swarovski crystals. A chandelier adds even more pizzazz.

5. Cute mascots. “We love our greeter/store mascots BooBoo and Moose, both Australian shepherds,” Shaina says.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAY

  • Katherine Bodoh: The bright interior and the outdoor signage create a modern feel.
  • Laura Davis: I adore their focus on customer experience and their warmth. The genuine consideration toward care and little touches are wonderful. The store design is thoughtful. They have amazing potential and a lovely store.
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