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BIG COOL 3RD PLACE: Classic Creations | Toronto, Ontario

Labor of Love

Family enlists client — a world-renowned interior designer — to translate their brand into a physical space.

OWNERS: Ami, Shari, Jordan and Daniel Freiberg | URL: | FOUNDED: 1984 | OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2018 | EMPLOYEES: 15 full-time, 2 part-time | AREA: 5,000 square feet (3,000 square-foot showroom) | SHOWCASES: Unique Store Fixtures | DESIGN FIRM: Cecconi Simone | TOP BRANDS: Classic Creations (in-house brand), Chanel, Montblanc, Baume & Mercier, Nomos | ONLINE PRESENCE: 8,978 Facebook likes; 15,700 Instagram followers, 4.9 stars on Google with 278 reviews

THE STORE doesn’t match the jewelry.” If owners Ami, Shari, Sam, Jordan and Daniel Freiberg heard these words once, they heard them a thousand times over Classic Creations’ first 34 years in business.

Since Ami, his wife, Shari, and his brother Sam opened Classic Creations in 1984, it had always resided in the same plaza, moving once in 2001 but staying essentially the same. (Ami and Shari’s sons, Jordan and Daniel, grew up in the business and are now part of the ownership team.)

“We had too much merchandise and everything shoved together,” admits Jordan. “I’m sure a lot of people who knew our reputation thought we would have a Bloor Street location [which is similar to Fifth Avenue in New York].” Instead, he says, customers were dismayed at the overcrowded, old-looking store.

Founders Ami and Sam Freiberg

But that all changed last October, when Classic Creations moved into a 5,000 square-foot space just off one of the main highways in Toronto. It’s been a successful move, although it took two-and-a-half years to construct the store of the Freibergs’ dreams.

For years, the family kept a collective eye out for the perfect location, when suddenly, good fortune struck. The City of Toronto decided to convert a subway parking lot into retail shops — something it had never tried before. The Freibergs saw the listing and jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s central, it’s off the highway, has plenty of parking, and is very accessible, whether you’re driving or taking public transit. And it’s across the highway from one of the largest malls in Canada,” Jordan says.

The location was a slam dunk, and the family’s good fortune continued when one of the store’s best clients — a world-renowned interior designer named Anna Simone — heard that the store was moving locations and asked why she was not being considered as its designer. “We thought it was a small project for her and we could never afford her,” says Jordan. “She does things all over the world — she does retail, she does condos. She knows our family, knows our merchandise and understands who we are.”


The first thing that Simone told the Freibergs was that she was going to design a store that truly communicated its brand through the physical space. “She said that walking into our store without knowing us, you would never get who we are. She had only become a client based on a recommendation, but she said that honestly, if she hadn’t had that recommendation, she probably wouldn’t have come back,” says Jordan.

Simone’s vision was to incorporate a European flair while translating the store’s colors of black, gold and white into a modern space. Since the store sells materials found in nature, Simone wanted the store itself to be taken from nature as well.

Black wooden fixtures with gold trim pop against a luxurious backdrop of swirling marble walls and floors.

Clients are awestruck by the end result, says Jordan. “They’re in shock; they’re talking about how beautiful it is, how modern it is compared to our old location.”


But it didn’t happen overnight. Perhaps Simone’s biggest job was navigating the family dynamic of ownership. “Unfortunately, because you have my mom, my brother, my dad, myself, we all had ideas, and sometimes it took longer than anticipated because we changed a lot of things,” says Jordan. “But in the end, she led the ship and showed us what she thought we should be, and we agreed. It may not be exactly what I pictured initially, but she put all of our craziness together and made it work.”

The primary debate between the Freibergs involved whether to include branded shop-in-shops in the store design or not; half the family wanted them, and half didn’t. Finally, they decided not to include shop-in-shops, but rather to feature all brands within the Classic Creations décor.

“We’re not a department store,” explains Jordan. “If a brand pulls out, you have a hole in your space. The Classic Creations brand has always been about us: it’s our jewelry, it’s our family, it’s our staff.”

The Freibergs also mulled over the cost of the project, and considered nixing the marble walls to save money. But then they saw the renderings without the marble, and it didn’t look as good. “We decided we would be here for a long time, and we put it back. We wanted people to have their jaws drop when they walk in,” Jordan says.

If the marble is spellbinding, so, too, are the showcases, which present product at various eye levels, including some that “float.” The idea, according to Simone, is to encourage customers to take their time, walk around and see all the different areas and product that the store has to offer. “At first, we were a little worried: are people really going to want to look down at jewelry? But the designer said, ‘Yes, your jewelry is so interesting, and you have to make people curious.’ And sure enough, people love the way it’s laid out,” Jordan says.


At the end of the day, as Simone said, the jewelry has to be the focal point, and the Freibergs have always been proud to make most of the jewelry they sell on premises. Jordan explains, “I used to ask my dad why didn’t we carry this brand or that brand, and he would say, ‘Take a look at this piece compared to our piece. Here’s how much gold they use, here’s the diamonds, here’s what the piece should cost.’ His philosophy was always, ‘It’s not how you sell, it’s how you buy.’ If you buy right, you can sell it more affordably to your customers.”

As such, the Freibergs are able to control the quality of their jewelry — and Classic Creations distinguishes itself from the competition by having different jewelry that can’t be price-shopped.

The primary lesson learned throughout the process of building their dream store? “The store’s your store,” says Jordan. “Don’t let other people dictate who or what you are.”

Judges’ Comments

Benjamin Guttery: The social-media-worthy wall is an ingenious way to get content from their clients at the point of contact, now instead of later. Having a “lounge” from day one is also a smart way to have the customers spend time in the space doing other things than shopping. Lastly, the interior of this store feels like a museum gallery: sleek, modern, perfect for framing their custom work and fine brands in a luxurious way.

Elle Hill: The sleek interior is stunning. The atmosphere they create, the “family vibe” adds a homey touch to this very high-design interior!

Michael Roman: Sophisticated, sleek design. Having an Instagram wall in-store is a great idea.

Bob Phibbs: Loved the Champagne diamond giveaway idea and that customers had to come up to get it checked. Very smart.

Mark Tapper: This shop just looks rich! I love the use of the marble for not only the flooring, but on the walls as well. The gray veining is really dramatic and again just looks rich. I think it’s super-cool and fun that the team wear suits with sneakers, adding to the relaxed high-end vibe.



1 Lovely lights. Jordan Freiberg had always wanted a chandelier in the store. But when he told store designer Anna Simone his idea, she said, “A chandelier is going to take attention away from the jewelry.” So instead, she designed two custom pieces that represent Classic Creations with conjoined Cs — and they also look like rings, which is what the store sells.

2 Suits and sneakers. Daniel Freiberg is a confessed “sneakerhead,” and he started wearing suits with sneakers at work. The look caught on, says his brother Jordan. “Clients recognize it and remember it. It’s defined who he is. And you know what? At the end of the day, it’s a fun occasion; people are getting engaged or coming in for happy things. You can’t be so serious. You don’t want to intimidate customers, especially given how our store looks.” That said, he does admit that “Dad hasn’t really caught on with it yet.”

3Instagram wall. The Freibergs decided that the store needed one feature wall where bridal clients could take pictures of their jewelry and send them to their friends or post to social media. It’s been popular so far, but Jordan says they plan to change the wall up eventually, adding different elements to represent each season of the year or in-store events.

4 Lounge for leisure. Classic Creations featured a store lounge before store lounges were cool. “Now it’s really trendy to have a lounge,” says Jordan, “But we do it because we’ve always been known for offering cappuccinos, espressos, desserts. People joke that we’re the most expensive café in town.” The Freibergs want clients to feel like family, he adds. But he jokes that at least one competitor may not appreciate the lounge: “We’re across from a Starbucks now; we joke that they might be upset because people always come for our coffee. If they start giving out jewelry for free, we might be in trouble!”

5 Designer handbags. In addition to jewelry, Classic Creations now offers designer handbags. It’s a strategic decision to compete with all types of luxury providers, says Jordan. “We want to be thought of for gifts. So if we can capture this category, why not?” He adds that it’s a category requested by customers in the past, and it makes sense for Classic Creations to carry handbags so clients don’t have to visit department stores. “We already have the relationships, we have profiles on our clients and we know what they like.”

Trace Shelton is the editor-in-chief of INSTORE magazine. He can be reached at



Gene the Jeweler

Gene the Jeweler Gets Kicked Out of the Studio

In the latest episode (#42) of Gene the Jeweler, Gene is going about his business, recording a new episode. But that doesn’t last long. Four-time NFL Pro Bowl leading rusher Ahman Green walks in, and Gene finds that his time in the studio is over — whether he likes it or not. (See more Gene the Jeweler episodes at

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America's Coolest Stores

America’s Coolest Stores 2019 – Winners Revealed!




Check out America’s Coolest Jewelry Stores of 2019!

Congratulations to the winners of the 18th annual America’s Coolest Stores Contest! In the following pages — and in the months ahead — discover why these stores earned the stamp of approval from our judges. As in past years, we divided the entries into two categories — Big Cool (six or more full-time employees) and Small Cool (five or fewer). We asked two six-member teams of judges to evaluate stores based on their back story, interior, exterior, marketing, online presence and what we here at INSTORE believe is the most important intangible: individuality.

Our six America’s Coolest and additional 10 Cool Stores — each of which will be featured in INSTORE issues through June 2019 — represent creative approaches to doing business as well as aesthetically pleasing retail environments. Each of the six winning stores also offers an omni-channel shopping experience, with merchandise available for purchase online.

If you haven’t taken the time to enter yet, why not give it a shot in January 2020? Retailers have told us that the entry process alone can be inspiring and motivating because it requires them to assess all aspects of their businesses. And if you entered and weren’t chosen this time, fine-tune your entry and try again. That’s proven to be a winning strategy.

Check out America’s Coolest
Jewelry Stores of 2019!

Congratulations to the winners of the 18th annual America’s Coolest Stores Contest! In the following pages — and in the months ahead — discover why these stores earned the stamp of approval from our judges. As in past years, we divided the entries into two categories — Big Cool (six or more full-time employees) and Small Cool (five or fewer). We asked two six-member teams of judges to evaluate stores based on their back story, interior, exterior, marketing, online presence and what we here at INSTORE believe is the most important intangible: individuality.

Our six America’s Coolest and additional 10 Cool Stores — each of which will be featured in INSTORE issues through June 2019 — represent creative approaches to doing business as well as aesthetically pleasing retail environments. Each of the six winning stores also offers an omni-channel shopping experience, with merchandise available for purchase online.

If you haven’t taken the time to enter yet, why not give it a shot in January 2020? Retailers have told us that the entry process alone can be inspiring and motivating because it requires them to assess all aspects of their businesses. And if you entered and weren’t chosen this time, fine-tune your entry and try again. That’s proven to be a winning strategy.

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America's Coolest Stores

Here Are This Year’s America’s Coolest Store Honorable Mentions

These 10 stores will be featured over the next year in INSTORE.




Big Cool Honorable Mentions

Day’s Jewelers

Nashua, NH

The Coreys

Jeff and Kathy Corey opened a 5,000-square-foot destination store, their eighth location, in 2018. With updated branding and imagery, the store design grabs millennials’ attention while maintaining a reputation for representing fine jewelry. A two-story vestibule creates a transparent glass wall along its curved exterior, establishing a theme that carries throughout the casework and ceiling. The curves create a free-flowing traffic pattern that leads patrons throughout the interior while also maximizing linear-display space.

John Atencio

Lone Tree, CO

John Atencio

Jewelry designer John Atencio’s sixth store was designed to create a visually compelling and luxurious experience while maximizing display space within a 600-square-foot footprint. The most striking aspect of the location is the large, transparent facade crafted from oversize panes of tempered glass. From the outside, the store looks sleek and inviting, and inside, the space is flooded with natural light.

Provident Jewelry

Jupiter, FL

Geoff Fear, Rob Samuels, Nick Linca, Seth Berman, Scott Diament

Owners Seth Berman, Scott Diament, Nick Linca and Robert Samuels teamed up to create a Dream Factory luxury lounge inside their flagship location. Clients can mingle, relax and enjoy a cocktail for a memorable in-store experience. Custom experiences for clients extend far beyond the store’s walls and have included test driving one-of-a-kind cars, meeting the CEOs behind watch brands, racing a car at YAS Marina Circuit, golfing with pro golfers, sailing on the America’s Cup committee boat in Bermuda and flying to Switzerland to tour a watch factory.


Princeton, NJ

Hamilton owners

Under the leadership of owner Martin Siegel and store manager Lea D’Onofrio, H1912 is part of the Hamilton Jewelers family of brands. It’s on the same street in the same small town as one of its parent locations of Hamilton Jewelers, but since its 2015 inception, it’s carved out a niche for itself that it backs up with a cutting-edge website, charity partnerships and a digital-first marketing plan. The 1912 in its name references the year Hamilton was founded and plays up the vintage angle of its inventory. H1912 buyers travel to estate shows, antique shows and auctions to handpick one-of-a-kind vintage pieces. Every vintage item at H1912 is refinished, refurbished, polished, or overhauled in-house before hitting the showcase.

Mitchum Jewelers

Ozark, MO

Mitchum jewelers

Mitchum Jewelers, owned by Randy Mitchum, doubled its size in 2018 in an upscale renovation orchestrated by store designer Jesse Balaity of Balaity Property Enhancement. One eye-catching element of the new building is the illuminated diamond prominently displayed on the building’s exterior. Mitchum has also set itself apart marketing-wise with a hugely successful TV commercial campaign that features customer testimonials. Use of the slogan “Your Jeweler For Life” in all of Mitchum’s ads has added to the branding surge, as has a related jingle that customers love to sing whenever they happen to run into Randy.

Small Cool Honorable Mentions

Yaf Sparkle

New York, NY

Yaf Boye-Flaegel

This is the second Lower East Side location and second America’s Coolest Stores Award for Yaf Sparkle, owned by Yaf Boye-Flaegel and Torsten Flaegel. When the couple moved into the new spot and peeled off layers of cement, they were excited to find old bricks in good condition crowned by an arched brick ceiling. They added a wooden floor and brought in furniture made of reclaimed wood for a vintage rustic look. The neighborhood is full of life and excitement, to which Yaf Sparkle contributes by spreading glitter across the sidewalk outside the store. Marketing benefits from an in-house photo studio. Customers have voted Yaf Sparkle as among the top three shopping experiences in New York City on Trip Advisor.

JC Jewelers

Jackson Hole, WY

Jan and Jeter Case

Jan and Jeter Case greet visitors from all over the world in their 240-square-foot log-cabin showroom in a gateway town to the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Three to 4 million people visit the area every year, and of those, about 1 million are from China. They’ve gone to great lengths to be hospitable, learning Mandarin phrases and labeling gemstones with translations. They also use Google Translate to communicate with non-English speakers. These efforts have gone a long way, they say, toward making international guests feel comfortable.

Malka Diamonds & Jewelry

Portland, OR

David and Ronnie Malka

Malka Diamonds & Jewelry, owned by David and Ronnie Malka, is a 1,000-square-foot boutique shop in downtown Portland that specializes in engagement and wedding jewelry. David is a graduate gemologist, who enjoys educating clients in a no-pressure atmosphere. The shop also highlights the work of two master jewelers on site. The store houses a collection of modern designs, antique and vintage jewelry and unconventional options, such as salt-and-pepper, rose-cut and unique-shaped diamonds. The store is bolstered by a cheerful staff and robust digital presence.

Talisman Collection

El Dorado Hills, CA

Andrea Riso

With a 3,300-square-foot showroom, this Small Cool store lives large! Owner Andrea Riso designed the floor plan to accommodate wide-open spaces, plenty of seating and a meandering river-style path that creates a sense of discovery. Décor is surrealistic and includes massive blown-glass fixtures, a library-lounge man cave, a tech oasis for kids, a bar and interactive areas that engage and enchant people of all ages. They’re known for designing and rendering original custom pieces for clients within 48 hours, as well as offering the custom-design services of 78 independent designer brands represented in the store.

Welling & Co. Jewelers

West Chester, OH

Bill and Daniel Welling

Father and son owners Bill and Daniel Welling built a modern, industrial-style jewelry store on a well-traveled road between Cincinnati and Dayton, in Ohio’s booming Butler County. The family-owned store, founded in 1920, makes its most recent home in a hangar built in the 1940s by a pilot to house a folding-wing airplane. Interior designer Leslie McGwire retained original interior brick from the building to set the tone for the renovation, which is complemented by an open slate-gray painted ceiling and a textured wood plank floor. A wide range of merchandise and price points adds to the welcoming ambience.

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America's Coolest Stores

Nautical-Themed Vancouver Store Finds Room for Imagination

A more relaxed Erik Runyan Jewelers is rejuvenated in its new location.



BIG COOL 1ST PLACE: Erik Runyan Jewelers, Vancouver, WA

Finding Their Sea Legs

Erik and Leslie Runyan feel at home in a new store with nautical notes and a casual ambience.

OWNERS: Erik & Leslie Runyan | URL: | FOUNDED: 1917 | OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2017 | EMPLOYEES: 11 | AREA: 2,350 square feet | BUILDOUT COST: $300,000 | ARCHITECT: Wilson Associates Architects | DESIGN FIRM: Strong Associates | TOP BRANDS: Gabriel & Co., Mark Schneider, Bergio | ONLINE PRESENCE: 873 Facebook likes, 735 Instagram followers, 4.9 stars with 22 Google reviews

TO HAVE YOUR SEA LEGS is to be able to walk calmly and steadily on a tossing ship, or to become accustomed to a new or strange situation. For Erik Runyan, a licensed ship captain and fourth-generation jeweler, being at sea is natural. And being able to express himself in his new store has made him ready to navigate the vicissitudes of a changing jewelry market that unsettles many a mid-career jeweler.

He and his wife, Leslie, have found their sea legs at work.

Runyan is not a suit-and-tie kind of a guy at heart. So after spending decades buttoned-up, figuratively and literally, the couple let their personalities shine through when they moved to their new Main Street location in Vancouver, WA. They hunted for and then hung a canoe upside down from the ceiling, and it became a chandelier. They flooded the space with natural light. They played music they like, including Lyle Lovett, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Cash and Van Morrison. They celebrated customers’ special occasions with their own wine label. And one day, Erik announced that he was finished with a business-attire dress code and began wearing jeans and polo shirts to work. Leslie was happy to follow suit.

If you want to be current today, you have to be old to be new. Our interpretation of the space as nautical took off like a ball of fire.

Although the previous location, where they’d been since 1991, was just blocks away, it was considered a more established commercial area, so moving to a new place seemed risky to some observers. “I had worked there all my life,” Runyan says. The store was beautiful, in a 1980s kind of way with oak cases, a false ceiling and brass track lights. “In my mind it was a proper 1980s mall jewelry store,” Runyan says. It was beginning to show wear, however, and although they had attempted to remodel, it just wasn’t working.

And then, with a new store in the works, Erik lost his father, Steve, just months before the move, making the transition seem even more of a significant milestone. “He was steadfast in his work, and came in every day until his passing. His jubilant spirit still surrounds the place,” Erik says.


The new location is at the forefront of an unprecedented $2 billion Vancouver waterfront revitalization that has brought restaurants, wine-tasting rooms and nightlife to downtown.

The big brick building with 18-foot ceilings and lots of natural light beckoned to Runyan when it was being built out by family friends. “I walked in and I was blown away by all the wood on the ceiling and the height of it,” he says. “If you want to be current today, you have to be old to be new. Urban lofty is what people are looking for. We took the space, and because of my quirky background, it just organically happened. Our interpretation of the space as nautical took off like a ball of fire.”

That ball of fire was set in motion once they had found a canoe to purchase and Steve Strong of Strong Construction crafted it into a chandelier. After that, it was natural to install a galley coffee center under the stairs, to hang a ship wheel on the wall and make sure it actually spins, and to greet customers with an exotic-wood compass rose inlaid in the floor near the entrance. Other nautical notes include plank wood flooring, a “welcome aboard” sign, and visibly marked latitude and longitude coordinates.

The store is adjacent to the Columbia River, and the canoe is a powerful symbol for Runyan, for several reasons. The river and access to the ocean created the city of Vancouver and still define both the city and the store. When not running the store, Runyan can be found crewing aboard motor yachts from Mexico to Canada, as a licensed Merchant Marine 100-ton captain.

Erik and Leslie also tracked down the magnificent early 20th century Queen Anne ball-and-leg jewelry cases that Erik’s dad had discovered in Butte, MT, on vacation and used in the family store in the 1980s. When the 1991 store was built, those cases didn’t fit the space or the motif, and so were donated to a museum, and when the museum closed, the cases were mothballed. “We got them back and found craftsmen to refurbish them,” Erik says. He had complementary cases hand-built for the middle of the store by a carpentry shop, creating a cohesive look.

The company’s original cash register and safe look comfortable, too, in a store loaded with digital accoutrements and laser welders.

Staff members Kelsey Price, left, and Conor McHale enjoy the natural light on a June afternoon.

The combination of well-made furnishings and the lofty atmosphere set clients at ease, including young engagement ring shoppers who bring new energy. “Bridal drives it. That’s the first purchase. Between bridal and estate, that’s how I’m making a living,” Runyan says. “We purposely built it to be a more casual environment and to interest the next generation. Having food and drink and a comfortable environment, social media and digital platforms are all important.”

Along with eschewing business attire, Erik and Leslie have improved the quality of life for themselves and their staff by closing on Sundays and Mondays. “We had been open six days a week for 101 years. So the routine I was used to was Monday to Friday, 10 to 5:30 and 10 to 3 on Saturday, but I couldn’t get happy with that here,” he says. So they began closing Sunday and Monday, and now are open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. “I’ve made a lot of decisions in 30 years or so, and that was the best choice at a personal level, a quality of life level. We really enjoy that. Being happy at the end of the day creates a better result, and Saturday has become an important day for us in the business.”

Erik’s great-grandfather, W.L., started the business from a watch bench in the bus depot in the early 1900s, where the Pacific Coast Highway stopped at the Columbia River for the ferry crossing. In 1917, Runyan’s Jewelers was born.

The store is fun for Leslie and me. It’s an absolute rejuvenation. With a new environment, it feels like I almost have a new job.

“My first memories of the family business are looking out the windows of our house to see my impeccably dressed grandparents, who were our neighbors, headed off to work,” Erik says. “The jewelry store seemed to be a magical place. The first generation used watch repair to sustain the store; the second, William, used business skills to create a viable modern jewelry company; the third, Steve, was a trained bench jeweler who focused on the shop. Now it’s my turn. As the fourth, I’ve focused on diamonds, custom work, and Internet marketing. Certainly W.L. Runyan could not have imagined his great-grandson introducing the family business to the world over the Internet.

“This new store, built using century-old techniques, is the culmination of four generations and 100 years, and has been relocated back to its original neighborhood, in conjunction with its 100-year anniversary.”


Erik describes the business as a living piece of history ready to move into its second century of business.

“Embrace change,” he says. “People — and my customers are no exception — resist change. It has taken time getting them accustomed to finding us at 501 Main. My payoff comes when they walk in the front door ready to complain about their ‘cheese being moved,’ but then stand there at the front door and start to smile and then audibly sigh, saying, ‘OK, now I get it!’”

“The store is fun for Leslie and me,” he says. “It’s an absolute rejuvenation. With a new environment, it feels like I almost have a new job. It’s made a difference. Life’s gotten a little better.”

Judges’ Comments

Benjamin Guttery: They really embrace their history and surroundings. From the nautical compass inlaid in the floor when you walk in, to the custom canoe chandelier (that has a hashtag and campaign around it: #underthecanoe), you know you’re in the Pacific Northwest. Again, the theme of today’s “coolest big stores in North America” is think, act, and be local minded.

Elle Hill: Love it! This is a COOL store. The rustic warm wood, the canoe light fixture, the feel of this man and how he loves the water can all be felt from the website to the store interior to the marketing materials. This is the type of authenticity all retailers should strive for!

Michael Roman: I like the history behind the Queen Anne display cases and the ornamental compass rose. Creating a wine label to promote business is a nice tie-in to the wine events held within the store.

Bob Phibbs: I love the sense of place in this location with the canoe chandelier as well as the refurbishing of the fixtures. The out-of-the-box idea of the wine and opening it with shoppers as well as sending it home is very creative. The online is a great mix of education and product.

Mark Tapper: The canoe chandelier is just so cool and so connected with the nautical theme of the store and the community.



1 Under the canoe. It’s the store’s tagline. and event theme. The canoe symbol is also used in ERJ’s advertising and social media. Erik has designed a canoe-motif necklace, as well, which will be made in sterling silver as well as in gold.

2 Proprietary wine. A wine label is part of the ERJ branding plan. “It gives me great pleasure to open and share a bottle with a customer or send them home with some to enjoy later,” Runyan says. They also introduced Wine Wednesdays, when light appetizers and local seasonal wines are used to create a fun and casual environment, under the canoe.

3 Reinvented inventory. The inventory is a mix of bridal, diamonds, custom and estate. Beyond that, the Runyans look for jewelry that isn’t found anywhere else. “There’s something unique about it that drives me to want to buy it,” Runyan says. “Prior to 2008, we had zero estate jewelry. It was 2010 or 2011 that I started acknowledging that it existed and that helped tremendously. Fifty percent of sales were lost during the recession and we had to find a way to reinvent ourselves, other than just nurturing the bridal.”

4 A spirit of adventure. The Runyans’ roots in the community and spirit of adventure offer an authentic brand experience. Erik and Leslie’s three daughters, now adults, grew up boating and riding dirt bikes on weekends. Erik continues to regularly pursue both of those hobbies, providing him with material for storytelling in the store. His staff, too, has a gift for gab, he says, in the tradition of life aboard a ship.

5 The shadow. Rae is a German shepherd who follows Leslie around the store like a shadow — all day. While she likes about 80 percent of the people she meets, she will simply ignore the others. She takes her job seriously, though, and will lie in front of the entry door while the staff is setting up for the day. When it’s time for her compensation, she will sit and stare at the treat jar, conveniently placed at her eye level.

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