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for Watch Lovers

Timepiece technology reflected in design of Stephen Silver's flagship watch boutique.

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Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry & Flagship Watch Boutique, Redwood City, CA

URL: stephensilverjewelry.com; OWNER: Stephen Silver; FOUNDED: 1979; OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2009; RENOVATED FEATURED LOCATION: 2014; ARCHITECT: Joel Miroglio; EMPLOYEES: 17; ONLINE PRESENCE: 715 Facebook likes. 5 stars on Yelp. Alexa traffic rank: 5.26 million; TOP BRANDS: Richard Mille, Audemars Piguet, MB & F, Greubel Forsey, F.P. Journe, Laurent Ferrier, Ulysse Nardin, Bell & Ross, HYT, Hermes, Arnold & Son, Olio


WHEN INTERNATIONAL GEM DEALER Stephen Silver first dipped a toe into the retail world, he found himself in a coat closet.

A good friend of his, a benefactor of Stanford University, had told Silver about a plan to develop the Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel, a 5-star resort on university land in Menlo Park, CA, and invited him to open a retail space within.

“Initially, I rejected the idea,” Silver says. “We had a 30-plus year history of supplying retailers all over the world with our product. And I had noticed that the jewelry stores most likely to fail were stores within hotels.”

His friend pushed him to reconsider, and he did, but due to a communication mix-up, his boutique wound up in a spot meant to be the restaurant coat closet, a space that, with luck, can hold three people.

But somehow, the stars were aligned in a manner that made that 90-square foot store an extraordinary retail success.

“It started generating more dollars per square foot than any other retailer in the U.S.,” Silver says. “We have a very wealthy crowd that frequents the hotel and restaurant and bar. The community has really embraced the hotel as part of the culture. It’s become a destination store.”

Still, as the business evolved, research revealed that Stephen Silver was missing out on sales to 80 percent of the hotel visitor foot traffic. Stephen’s son, Jared, impressed upon him that high-end watches were a business opportunity worth looking into. Once Silver learned about watch complications, he found the mechanical technology to be fascinating and appropriate for Silicon Valley’s tech-centric demographic. It was also another avenue to continue sharing the passion for rarity, quality and craftsmanship.

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The concept for the Flagship Watch Boutique was born.

Once watches were identified as the missing link, the retail business expanded into an open-air atrium that had been carved into the middle of the hotel. “We have pictures of a crane lifting a bulldozer to remove all that dirt that we had to pull out before we could begin building,” Silver says.

Architect Joel Miroglio transformed the space into an undulating arc of elegant showcases, custom designed in round or oval shapes to simulate the outline of a watch dial.

Silver had asked Miroglio to come up with a technical approach to the design of the cases that would complement the watch complications as well as the silhouettes of the watches.

“I wanted a case statement made that was in the spirit of the engineering and mechanics of fine timepieces,” he says. “The cases are very, very heavy; they are secured on the ceiling by a steel beam and also into the floor by another steel beam.”

They are also very expensive at $50,000 a pop.

But they are just what he asked for: The double showcases aligning the windows hang like suspension bridges from steel rods, showing the details of the mechanism in the same way a mechanical movement of a watch is seen through the case back.

In the process of creating the 1,300-square-foot watch and jewelry boutique, Silver and his advisers changed their minds about what type of watches to carry.

“As we developed the strategy, our evidence shifted us away from the major brands,” Silver says. “Instead of getting companies like Cartier and Patek Philippe, we focused on small companies that make from 80 watches to a few thousand a year.”

This strategy, he believed, would complement Stephen Silver’s rare jewelry offerings while setting themselves apart from the watch competition.

The boutique is the country’s largest dealer of Gruebel Forsey watches, for example, with an average price point of $675,000. The company makes only 82 watches each year and takes at least a year to make each one.

The retailer also offers watches from independently owned companies that are more affordable, yet still make a quality statement. “You can make a super high-end product without breaking the bank,” he says.

The exclusive timepiece collections are displayed alongside one-of-a kind jewelry treasures. The estate collection comprises handpicked pieces from prestigious jewelry houses, spanning many styles and eras. Custom designs are crafted in platinum and 18K gold, diamonds and colored gems.

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The former coat closet down the hall continues to feature Stephen Silver gem collections, and also serves as a pop-up shop for companies like Chopard and Hermes, who are interested in tapping into Silicon Valley’s high net worth residents.

Silver realizes that all the expertise and competence required to make and sell high-end watches to retailers cannot be ruined in the last 18 inches of the supply chain, the space between salesperson and customer on the retail floor.

Says Silver: “The more expensive the product, the bigger the risk we take in putting a sales associate on the front line who is not smart, informed and educated, because that is what is walking in the front door.”

To manage this risk, every Steven Silver employee speaks at least two languages and is often a GIA-trained gemologist. “Looking for gemologists assures that it’s easy to communicate internally and train because everyone has a common language. I demand that of the company, that the core competency must be there in the back end and the front end.”

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Five Cool Things About Stephen Silver

1.The message. Stephen Silver teamed up with Gluttony, a Manhattan-based branding and marketing agency, to fine-tune its message of elegance and luxury, custom design, hand-made craftsmanship, rare, one-of-a-kind gems and top-of-the-line watch brands. The best way to convey that level of luxury, says Abigail Honor of Gluttony, is by using minimalist design in the marketing materials and the store itself, as well as establishing consistency. “Elegance and luxury speak for themselves,” she says.

2.The magazine. The Stephen Silver Magazine chronicles philanthropic events as well as Silver’s globetrotting adventures and rare acquisitions. Published twice a year and now digital as well, it revels in the elegance of travel, automobiles, technology, fine jewelry and timepieces.

3. Sports strategy. During Super Bowl week, Stephen Silver held an in-store drawing for 12 winners that included an official NFL Super Bowl football, a strand of signature freshwater pearls and a bottle of champagne — the perfect his-and-hers gift. This took place just prior to the “Big Game Big Give” event that raised over a million dollars for charity.

4. Bringing in an expert watch industry veteran was an important step. Silver appointed Andrew Block, with 30 years of luxury brand management experience, as president of the company. Both Silver and Block attend store events to foster relationships with clients.

5. Style savvy. For the first anniversary of the Flagship Watch Boutique, the company rented a private villa and chef at the hotel for a Styling Event and Watch Round Table. A celebrity fashion stylist curated a collection of jewelry to wear with the fashions she had flown in from New York. Watch brand reps led discussion of blending modern technology with old world craftsmanship.

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ONLINE EXTRA: Interview with Stephen Silver

As the CEO of a custom wholesale jewelry house, did you know what you were getting into with retail?
I had a fairly good idea what it would be like because although the company has been on the supply side for so many years, inside the wholesale business is really an estate jewelry business.

How is retail different?
It’s tough in a different way from wholesale. The client is demanding, not any more or less than my clients inside the trade, just a different type of demanding. If you aren’t paying attention to delivering service with the right attitude, you will not be competitive. There’s a value in the way we present ourselves and the look of the store and our merchandise, but if it’s not reinforced by a great atmosphere by our employees, then it’s a road to disaster. And disaster can hit very quickly in retail.

What sets your retail business apart from the competition?
Our business is driven by a very, very strong knowledge of the product. Because we make it, we cut it, we have a very different attitude about how we approach our merchandising and our business development. It makes the process of taking risks a little less daunting. Clientele receive it better when they are truly in front of the makers of what they are buying.

Do you have plans to expand your retail footprint?
I hate to say this, but yes. We have a few locations we’re looking at, but we have such a unique footprint that it’s going to be hard to recreate what we’ve established here. To line up the stars the way we’ve lined them up here is nearly impossible.

Who is your watch customer?
Our buyers tend to be younger than the average watch consumer because of the nature of the technology business. There are many companies here that were developed by young entrepreneurs, some of which become successful. After they’ve bought their homes, planes and boats and other toys, they start looking at life a little more seriously and looking for an alternative investment strategy.

What was your reaction when your friend invited you to open a retail space in the new Rosewood Sand Hotel on the campus of Stanford University?
Initially, I rejected the idea. We had a 30-plus year history of supplying retailers all over the world with our product. And I had noticed that the jewelry stores most likely to fail were stores within hotels.

And when you did agree to open a small boutique in the space, what were the results?
It started generating more dollars per square foot than any other retailer in the U.S. We have a very wealthy crowd that frequents the hotel and restaurant and bar. The community has really embraced the hotel as part of the culture. It’s become a destination store.

How important is training?
“The more expensive the product, the bigger the risk we take in putting a sales associate on the front line who is not smart, informed and educated, because that is what is walking in the front door.”

How do you minimize the risk?
Looking for GIA-trained gemologists assures that it’s easy to communicate internally and train, because everyone has a common language. I demand that of the company, that the core competency must be there in the back end and the front end.

As the CEO of a custom wholesale jewelry house, did you know what you were getting into with retail?
I had a fairly good idea what it would be like because although the company has been on the supply side for so many years, inside the wholesale business is really an estate jewelry business.

How is retail different?
It’s tough in a different way from wholesale. The client is demanding, not any more or less than my clients inside the trade, just a different type of demanding. If you aren’t paying attention to delivering service with the right attitude, you will not be competitive. There’s a value in the way we present ourselves and the look of the store and our merchandise, but if it’s not reinforced by a great atmosphere by our employees, then it’s a road to disaster. And disaster can hit very quickly in retail.

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What sets your retail business apart from the competition?
Our business is driven by a very, very strong knowledge of the product. Because we make it, we cut it, we have a very different attitude about how we approach our merchandising and our business development. It makes the process of taking risks a little less daunting. Clientele receive it better when they are truly in front of the makers of what they are buying.

When you decided to add a watch store to your offerings, how did architect Joel Miroglio reflect the merchandise in the design of the space?
I wanted a case statement made that was in the spirit of the engineering and mechanics of fine timepieces. The cases are very, very heavy; they are secured on the ceiling by a steel beam and also into the floor by another steel beam.

Who is your watch customer?
Our buyers tend to be younger than the average watch consumer because of the nature of the technology business. There are many companies here that were developed by young entrepreneurs, some of which become successful. After they’ve bought their homes, planes and boats and other toys, they start looking at life a little more seriously and looking for an alternative investment strategy. As we developed the strategy, our evidence shifted us away from the major brands. We focused on small companies that make from 80 watches to a few thousand a year.

Do you have plans to expand your retail footprint?
I hate to say this, but yes. We have a few locations we’re looking at, but we have such a unique footprint that it’s going to be hard to recreate what we’ve established here. To line up the stars the way we’ve lined them up here is nearly impossible.

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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America's Coolest Stores

America’s Coolest Stores 2019 – Winners Revealed!

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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.

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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.

H1912

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.

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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: runyansjewelers.com | 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.

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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.”

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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.

PHOTO GALLERY (28 IMAGES)
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5 COOL THINGS ABOUT ERIK RUNYAN JEWELERS

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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