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Military Surplus Purchase Led to Indiana Store’s 70-Year (and Ongoing) Story

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The team of Vierk’s Fine Jewelry

The staff at Vierk’s Fine Jewelry, led by Jeff Vierk, second from left. 

Vierk’s Fine Jewelry

Lafayette, IN

Happy 70th Anniversary!

Interview with Jeff Vierk, owner

Please tell us how your store got its start.

We had a very unusual start. My grandfather Mac McHaley started the business as a used clothing store in 1946. Soon after, he had the opportunity to buy a train-boxcar full of military surplus. As a WWII vet this appealed to him and he bought the load and did very well with it. From this he ventured into the military surplus business. This soon evolved into backpacking and camping supplies and even a full-service bicycle shop. In the late 70s, my father, Dan Vierk, expanded into also buying gold and silver as those markets took off. In the gold/silver boom at that time a vast majority of items were being melted down, but some pieces we just didn’t have the heart to scrap. The next thing you know we had enough very nice jewelry to fill a showcase. And then three showcases. And then six showcases. At this point we decided that if we are going to sell jewelry we need to be able to service it, so we hired our first goldsmith, and we have never looked back. We are currently a full-service jewelry store with over 5,000 square feet of retail space. We have a GIA GG on staff, ISA appraiser, and a goldsmithing staff capable of everything from simple repairs to complete custom design and manufacture.

Was there ever a time when it looked as if the business may not survive?

Actually no. One of the keys to our success has been the ability to change and adapt to market trends and seek out new opportunities.

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What has been the key to the store’s growth and longevity?

We are very pro-education and constantly investing in classes and training for our staff. This empowers the staff to use their knowledge and skills to serve our clients in the best way possible. We also enjoy the challenge of finding new ways to grow and expand.

Have there been any vendors who have been particularly important to the store’s success?

We have cultivated some wonderful vendor relationships over time. We were one of the first jewelers to join Polygon back in 1986,which allowed us to meet some truly wonderful people. And Stuller has always been a constant and reliable source for many of our basic needs.

What have all those years in the business taught your family about jewelry retail?

There is only one guarantee in the jewelry business, and that is that it’s going to change! If you don’t keep up with current markets, trends, technology, etc. you are never going to survive.

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What’s your favorite True Tale (fun story) from your years in the business?

Having an L.A. dealer fly in a 9-carat VS1 G diamond we were selling to a client. The dealer hadn’t been in snow before and he flew into a blizzard and then had an hour drive to get to us. Quite a Hoosier welcoming!

What has the latest generation of owners brought to the business?

Keeping up with technology. Laser welders, matrix, counter sketch, social media, inventory management, trading and networking on industry platforms, etc.

What’s next for the store?

Expanding our custom design and manufacturing. We see this as a very strong growth area as people want more and more individual designs and experiences.

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How do you plan to celebrate this milestone?

We will have some special sales, give-aways, promotions, etc. Trying to tie things around “70” or “46” (1946).

HAVE YOUR OWN STORE ANNIVERSARY COMING UP?

Email [email protected] and we’ll do our best to feature you!
 

This article is an online extra for INSTORE Online.

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