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Tapper’s Jewelers




Tapper’s Jewelers, West Bloomfield, MI

OWNERS: Howard and Steven Tapper; YEAR FOUNDED: 1977; DATE OF LAST REMODEL: October 2005; ARCHITECT/DESIGN FIRM:JGA; ADVERTISING SLOGAN:“Mark The Moment”; STORE AREA: 16,000 sq. ft. (6,000 sq. ft. showroom); ADDRESS: 6337 Orchard Lake Rd., West Bloomfield, MI, 48322; PHONE: (248) 932-7700; URL:

THE DOMINATING PRESENCE of a free-standing store with the drawing power of a mall location. Impossible for some, but for brothers Howard and Steven Tapper, building such a store was just another challenge to overcome. Ten years after constructing their 16,000 square-foot store in Orchard Mall, Tapperʼs is known throughout the Detroit metroplex for its gorgeously-appointed interior, awe-inspiring selection, and over-the-top customer service. And the brothers refuse to rest on their laurels. An October remodeling has customers of this landmark location moving to the storeʼs unique groove.

A Look inside Tapper’s Jewelers

Building a Name

Success wasnʼt given to Howard Tapper. His inauspicious beginnings in the industry included a stint as warehouse sweeper for a large catalog jewelry showroom. One day, Howard was asked to help out on the sales floor. He marked the occasion by selling a gold watch.

He began to climb rapidly, working for a major Midwest chain in Detroit. The company innovated in advertising and marketing, and Howard soon rose through the ranks, learning under the tutelage of the company VP. And yet, as successful as he was, he dreamed of owning his own business.

In 1977, at the ripe old age of 28, Howard and his wife Susan sold their car and borrowed from Susanʼs family to open Tapperʼs. Howard had prior relationships in the industry, and he was given merchandise based on his good name alone. Six months later, he was joined in the business by his brother Steven, an artist by degree and a natural-born salesman. Today, Howard serves as company president and continues to provide the vision of the business, while Steven is the vice president, managing the sales force and the companyʼs marketing efforts.


Tapperʼs first location was in a retail area at the front of a health club, shared with six other stores and a delicatessen. The brothers took over increasing amounts of space as other tenants moved out, remodeling four or five times over the years. Tapperʼs built a reputation as a store that went out of its way for customers, giving cash refunds with no time limits, among other unique benefits.

As the areaʼs demographics changed, the brothers decided a move was in order. In 1995, they took over a space in Oakland Countyʼs Orchard Mall at the northeast entrance. Designer Ken Nisch of JGA, with whom Tapperʼs has now been associated for the past 20 years, was brought in to breathe life into the store.

The mall was located at a traffic hub, and the Tappers knew they could increase business. What they didnʼt know was that other mall tenants would soon begin a mass exodus. Soon, Tapperʼs was left as the only upscale anchor in the mall.

Nevertheless, sales leaped year after year, and Tapperʼs became a destination store. The Tappers advertised aggressively and developed a signature logo and brand. Last spring, an exterior renovation was completed that finally gave Tapperʼs outside signage — possibly the strongest of any mall store in the industry. “Our name is above the entrance to the mall, and it really looks like Tapperʼs owns the mall,” says Tapper.

Impressively Relaxing

When the brothers conceived the store, they wanted to present an impressive image without being stuffy or old-guard. They asked Nisch to help them provide a level of entertainment while remaining functional as a retail environment. Howard and Steven had always admired Fortunoffʼs on Fifth Avenue in New York, a store known for its clean display, large selection, and open traffic flow for customers. Tapperʼs follows a similar model, seeking to attract the high-end customer while also making younger customers feel welcome.

“We wanted to build a store that would impress on the outside, but relax on the inside,” says Nisch, who adds that Tapperʼs “looks more like a street store than a mall store.” To impart that dominating presence to the exterior, Nisch used large, transparent windows at the entrance along with big stone blocks. “Tapperʼs customers are destination-driven, not walk-by,” says Nisch, “So little display windows were not necessary. Instead, we needed to make the impact of an anchor store. It fits right in with the impressive brands that Tapperʼs carries, and the image theyʼve built over the years.”


For the interior, Nisch took elements of Tapperʼs marketing campaign as inspiration. He drew from the storeʼs artistic, self-expressive character, weaving upbeat colors and comfortable surroundings into the showroom. The ceiling mural that serves as a focal point in the store was inspired by turn-of-the-century art nouveau paintings, especially those of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt. “We wanted something that would draw peopleʼs eyes when they walked in, but wouldnʼt distract once they were in the store,” says Tapper.

Tapper says that many events are held in the store, as itʼs a great venue for 100-150 people to eat, drink, and be merry. “The store is friendly and buzzy,” says Nisch. “Itʼs the social center of West Bloomfield.”

‘A Special Place’

Customers entering the store walk under a colossal archway of interlocking wood beams supported by four metal columns. “We wanted customers to know they were walking into a special place,” says Tapper.

The 6,000 square-foot showroom is flanked on the right by a newly-built bridal boutique and on the left by an area for fine watches. A marble floor includes contrasting colors in the center oval area, a complementary mirror image for the ceiling mural. But throughout most of the store, neutral, soft tones reign supreme. The carpeting combines green, beige, and gray tones, and the walls feature a matching beige.

The recent remodeling is responsible for the new rosy-cream color in the showcases that “really makes the jewelry pop,” according to Tapper. The cases also contain new glass, and the walls have new paper and paint. A 100 square-foot childrenʼs area has also been added, including toys, books, a TV/VCR combo, and chairs for adults. Improved lighting shines more directly on merchandise, making it look vibrant. Finally, a refreshment area was built, offering fresh danishes, coffee, and soda to customers.

“Thereʼs not a big resistance factor walking through the door,” says Tapper. “Weʼre not selling one-of-a-kind pieces here, we sell a wide range of product to a wide range of people —from $100 to $100,000.”

Super Security

A business on the forefront of innovation generally leads the field in its use of technology, and Tapperʼs is no exception. The storeʼs most recent cutting-edge addition is the large plasma-screen TV behind the showcase in the bridal boutique. DVDs display images of Scott Kay designs, the Star 129 diamond, and other diamond merchandise in a sharp, vibrant format. “People are very visual. They love the movement of video, especially when it features something so attractive,” says Tapper. Another plasma screen is on order, and store management has plans to increase video displays in the store.


Tapperʼs utilizes at ASC system for inventory and point-of-sale; every piece of jewelry is imaged and logged into the computer, as well as all customer histories. “There was a meeting just this morning to discuss the integration of a Windows-based display into this system to make it easier for us to use,” says Tapper.

As a full-service shop, Tapperʼs owns a laser welder, which “allows us to work on merchandise you wouldnʼt normally put heat to,” Tapper says. Additionally, the storeʼs security system, installed last year, is all digital. It allows managers to zoom in on areas of concern and even listen in on conversations. You never know when this capability can come in handy, says Tapper. “A woman said she left a bag in our store, and I knew she hadnʼt. I was able to go back into the system and show her that she wasnʼt carrying the bag when she came in.” He adds that the digital system shows a sharper image than analog, which helps police. Says Tapper: “To the degree that we can be prepared, we are.”

Part of the Family

When Steven Tapper talks about his staff and his customers, new excitement and energy enter his voice. “Howard built this business on trusted relationships,” he says. “He asks employees to give him their all, and he will do his best to give back.”

Itʼs a family-oriented philosophy that fits this family business. In the beginning, it was Howard, Susan, and Steven Tapper, along with their mother, their sister (Barbara Tapper Goldman), and one other employee. Barbara works in store operations and has been “an integral part of our success” says Steven. He adds that the family is extremely close, and that Howardʼs daughter is now also working in the company.

That feeling extends to include all staff members. Just before the holiday season, the entire staff was bussed to one of Detroitʼs most upscale restaurants for a holiday celebration and business meeting. The restaurant owner, Frank Taylor, a well-known motivational speaker in Detroit, gave the staff a tour of the facilities to show them what it means to provide a luxury experience in a different way. The store honored each employee with a special gift. “We wanted them to feel special now, rather than giving them a sales goal that they may or may not hit,” says Tapper.

Employees are encouraged to improve themselves through GIA training, which Tapperʼs funds. The store also pushes employees to spare no expense on customers, including treating them to lunch or sending flowers. “The hardest thing for people to do is to remember to treat people as youʼd want to be treated,” says Tapper. “But when you think that way, you realize that maybe you can go the extra mile, when most stores wouldnʼt.”




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Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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