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A Dream Turned Into Gold

A Dream Turned Into Gold

Impromptu decision to open a business builds a community of artists.

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Alchemy 925, Belmont, MA

URL: alchemy925.com; OWNERS: Munya Avigail Upin and Kirsten Ball; FOUNDED: 2012; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2012; AREA: 400 square feet; EMPLOYEES: 3; BUILDOUT COST: $40,000; TOP DESIGNERS: James Binnion, Ryan Gardner, Thea Izzi, Karen Jacobson, Karen Karon, Jera Lodge, Tom McGurrin, Judith Neugebauer, Bree Richey, Beverly Tadeu; ONLINE PRESENCE: 5 stars on Google and Yelp; e-commerce enabled website


 

ALTHOUGH OPENING a jewelry store involved a steep learning curve for Munya Avigail Upin and Kirsten Ball, they didn’t leave themselves much time to dwell on the coming challenges.

After moving to the Boston area from London, Ball studied metalsmithing with Upin, who has teaching experience that includes the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design at Boston University. Before relocating, Ball’s career had been in historical gilding and interior restoration for Britain’s National Trust.

A few years after they met, in a conversation over coffee, Ball, who had been selling her jewelry at local craft shows, asked Upin, who had become a mentor, for advice about where else she could sell her jewelry. Upin joked that they should open a gallery together. But that joke led to the impromptu decision to do just that. They signed a lease within two weeks and opened Alchemy 925 just four months later.

“It happened pretty quickly from a spark of an idea to rolling our sleeves up and opening the store,” Ball says. Adds Upin, “We jumped into the deep end, and it’s been a great six years. We’re having a marvelous time.”

Alchemy 925 is a contemporary jewelry and fine craft gallery that represents 50 artists and showcases the owners’ own work. Upin specializes in woven metal and Judaica crafted from metal. Ball creates contemporary silver jewelry with geometric lines. The Boston-area gallery offers handmade works including gold and silver studio jewelry, ceramics, wearables, sculpture and glass. Repurposing old gemstones, remodeling heirlooms, designing and creating custom jewelry all make up a large part of the business.

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They also had the good fortune to find their ideal location — a 19th century Victorian house — that stands out from other buildings on the street and appealed to their design aesthetic. Both partners are big fans of mid-century design. Their interior space was blessed with natural oak floors, the perfect starting point for their vision. “We wanted something elegant, stylish and sophisticated,” Ball says. They designed all of the jewelry cases based on that aesthetic, with slender legs and simplicity, and to complement some display pieces they loved, including a mid-century modern credenza.

“We wanted to show off the jewelry and not have too much of an ornate interior,” Ball says.

While the operations side of retail presented a challenge, what came naturally to the pair was an inclination to help shoppers develop their own style. “We want to make people feel confident and gorgeous when finding the right jewelry for them,” Ball says.

“We don’t want to sell just to sell,” Upin says. “We want the pieces they select to really work for them and their style.”

Their guidance (and patience) extends to male shoppers who desperately need some direction.

“One male customer bought the same pair of earrings almost three times (for the same woman),” Ball says. “The first time, she loved them. The second time, she returned them and we did an exchange. When he came in the third time, and he went straight for them again, we had to diplomatically suggest that he look at a different designer’s earrings!”

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Upin and her former student have definite goals when it comes to their business, many of them focused on education and experimentation. The partners encourage shoppers to step out of their comfort zone to see how different they can look and feel if they try something a little more edgy — they have pieces made out of rubber, painted steel, beetle wings and titanium.

“One of our goals is to educate people about the wonderful world of handmade objects,” Ball says. “To open their eyes to the fact that not everything has to be manufactured by the tens of thousands in a faraway land. Many of our artists are local or regional, and customers love to support that artists’ community.”

They also encourage creativity among artists by organizing design competitions. In February, they held the opening reception of their first design challenge, called “LOVE.” Seventy-five artists started with the same kit of materials with the goal to design and create a piece that focuses on love. Of those, 29 pieces were accepted into the exhibition. Customers were invited to purchase the one-of-a-kind pieces for themselves or for a Valentine’s Day gift. Award winners were announced at the opening reception.

Ball and Upin are members of Ethical Metalsmiths and are dedicated to raising awareness of responsible mining and sustainable economic development. They represent artists who are also members, and they try to educate their customers about consciously making decisions when buying jewelry, thinking about the stones’ origins and whether they are traceable and ethically sourced.

If coolness is judged by the number of hugs received from strangers turned new customers, the store is successful beyond measure, they believe.

PHOTO GALLERY (11 IMAGES)

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5 Cool Things About Alchemy 925

1.FLEXIBLE SERVICE. The partners split the time the store is open and overlap their schedules in the middle of the day. Of course they’re never really off the clock. “We often stay late and meet with customers when we’re closed to accommodate their schedules,” Ball says. “We also make personal deliveries, even during blizzards.”

2.INSTANT IMPACT. The first year in business, the Boston Globe named the gallery “Best of the New.” Alchemy 925 has also been named one of the best jewelry stores in the Boston area and best gift store in Belmont by Boston-area publications.

3.WELCOMING TO ALL. A bowl of water is set up outside for dogs, who are welcome inside, too. The partners will happily entertain children so the parents are free to relax and shop. Because they’re in a small town and on the same block as many good restaurants, friends can meet in their gallery for an opening or trunk show and then go out to dinner.

4.ADD-ON PRODUCTS. They complement their jewelry with other handmade items, including scarves, candles, ceramics and hand-blown glass, although jewelry is always the main focus.

5.INDUSTRY CATALYSTS. In 2016, they sponsored a screening of SHARING THE ROUGH at the Harvard Natural History Museum. The film, by Orin Mazzoni, follows a rough gem from a mine in Africa to a stonecutter in Detroit and then onto a jeweler in California who creates a finished, wearable work of art. The free showing brought together members of Harvard’s Mineralogical and Geological Museum, makers of all kinds and the public. During the holiday season, they gave a copy of the film on Blu-Ray to special customers. In 2015, Alchemy 925 sponsored an international juried exhibition held in conjunction with the SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) conference in Boston.

 

Try This: Give Your Business a Rebirth

Because they’re across the street from a craft beer store, Ball and Upin provide beer at their trunk shows and gallery openings.

 

Online Extra: Our Judges Say…

  • Alchemy 925 stands out from the competition in many ways. Here are some highlighted cool factors that I noted: amazing story of the opening collaboration, jewelry collections of individuality, the high importance of customer service, the ethical standard maintained and giving back to a good cause. It’s a cool store in my book! — Megan Whitmire, marketing manager, American Gem Trade Association
  • Alchemy 925 has a beautiful personality and refined style. It seems to fit well in its community and would draw shoppers in with its orderly yet comforting design. — Bernadette Mack, executive director, Women’s Jewelry Association
  • What I like the most about Alchemy 925 is their eclectic mix of jewelry, glass and ceramics and the way they display them together. I think they have succeeded in showing to their clients that they care about beautiful handmade objects. — Josette Patterson, creative director, Mark Patterson Jewelry
  • Knowledgeable owners with an international reputation, invested in promoting the artisan and bridging the divide between fine jewelry and contemporary metalsmithing. People who shop here can feel assured that the work is unique and thoughtfully crafted. Love the educational efforts of showing the film about the cycle of the gem and also practicing responsible sourcing of materials. — Thomas Mann, Thomas Mann I/O Gallery

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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