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Together Since She Was 16, This Wife-And-Husband Team Have Built Their Dream Store

The latest chapter in their 27 year love story was finding a dream location in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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Sherri and Randy Erickson

ONLINE EXTRA: Interview with Sherri Erickson

What have you done to get through the COVID shutdown that kept your business on track?

We closed the middle of March and were able to open our doors by the end of May. I still came in every day regardless and was able to do bookkeeping and deliveries and curbside; I just wasn’t allowed to let people in. Curbside for Mother’s Day was crazy; I was finally able to have an employee come in with me and we were literally running back and forth between the store and the parking lot with trays. It was crazy and kind of a security risk. But my husband is able to watch all of the security cameras from the shop. He has a huge TV screen next to his workbench. He let me know if I ever stepped out of view of the camera. But how do you sell diamond engagement rings in a parking lot?

How has business been since you reopened fully?

All of a sudden we have sold quite a few engagement rings and quite a few larger anniversary rings. Some people have come in and wanted a nicer ring because they aren’t traveling and want to commemorate occasions with a nice piece of jewelry. In May we did awesome, a little better even than last year, and June a little better than last year, too. We were able to get the PPP immediately with our local bank.

What do you most enjoy about working with customers?

Usually I ask people coming in to redesign old pieces to make an appointment, and I could sit with them for an hour. I love giving people ideas. I can almost just look at what they have and say `oh my gosh, this is what you should do.’ I love to learn where the jewelry came from and how they got it. Every day you get to meet somebody new and learn about something in their life. One couple dated in high school, and later got together and got engaged at 70. There are so many ways you can make that piece of jewelry meaningful to them, and help tell their story with their jewelry.

How did joining IJO benefit your business?

When we joined IJO we were able to connect with other jewelers in a way that we had never been able to do before. Everybody is open to sharing ideas because we are all non competing jewelers. We were able to learn how to manage our inventory a little better. We take good advice from other people and we actually apply it. We can take somebody else’s good idea and I usually try it for a year. If after the year I look at it and it’s not really working for us we need to go in a different direction. The biggest thing about IJO was being able to connect and share with other business owners.

Has e-commerce worked for you?

Actually, we updated our website through Punchmark the year before the COVID thing, and we did it in a way that people could shop but nobody had really ever shopped on our website. So I spent a lot of time during the shutdown working on our website, which could be almost like a whole other job for somebody. The pictures we have aren’t always great. But during the COVID shutdown, we had at least five different transactions happen on our website for the first time ever. We set up a dedicated texting phone for our store, even before the shutdown. I was letting customers know `You can call me or text me, 24/7. I was working more hours during the shutdown than I normally do. And Facebook was a huge help. Some people were calling, some were emailing, or Facebook messaging me; it was hard to keep track of how they wanted to stay in touch.”

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What is your advice for businesses that are struggling?

For bridal, I think the key is being present and talking about it a lot. If you talk about engagement and tell people you’re the place to go for engagement rings. And in my case in our area, we don’t have a JC Penney’s and Walmart took out their jewelry counter. So, it’s us and two other jewelry stores. We have to have something for everyone. I don’t want people to come in and feel they can’t afford anything. I have a nice selection of $10,000 rings, but I also have some rings that they can buy for $100. I want them to come back some day, and tell their friends we were nice to them even though we were only spending $100. I make sure everything we sell is good quality and make sure the vendors stand behind their product. I hear form younger people who thank us for being so nice to them. Most people who come in have pictures of things they saw online, like Pinterest pictures to show us what she likes. If they’re not treated well they’ll say screw it if I’m not treated well I’m going to buy it online. We want you to be happy and to have a beautiful piece of jewelry because that makes me happy.

We don’t discount. Our price is our price. I don’t triple key everything. I have it all marked at my best sale price. Helpful when a vendor does triple key on their website because I can show them my price is better.

How do you advertise?

We advertise regionally on our NBC station, and we try to do some TV advertising and keep it fun but professional at the same time. Our main things that we do well are engagement rings and custom design, diamonds and custom design are where we shine. I think everything else falls into place beneath it. If we do a couple things really well and focus on that I’m not going to advertise the $20 bling bracelets we have. We go to Antwerp twice a year and so we do have the IJO ads. Everyone talks about. “Aren’t you the picky one?” in the ad. I make that my mantra because I feel that’s what they come to me for. I’m not going to let them get a gross diamond, or an ugly diamond. I make sure that they get what they want.

I don’t promote (lab grown) but if they hem and haw on the price, then we offer the direction of the lab grown. I still sell earth mined diamonds. I don’t know if it’s the area that we’re in, but our competitors don’t advertise or talk about them and I don’t advertise or talk about them. I’m not afraid to offer them if that’s what they want. A lot of times once I explain the difference, some people like that better and some people don’t. But I don’t sell a ton.

Bridal trends?

I’m still seeing white gold and all of a sudden I have an uptick on pear and oval diamonds, still some halos, but I feel the stackables, they want an engagement ring they can stack other rings next to. That’s popular right now.

What do you and Randy like to do together when you take time off?

We love to travel, anywhere we can, a lot of times it’s the jewelry shows. We are dying to go somewhere. I love experiencing new towns, we love doing that kind of thing together. He’s a drummer and a singer, he’s very artistic and we love to go to concerts.

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Downsizing? Wilkerson Is Here to Help

Orin Mazzoni, Jr., the owner of Orin Jewelers in Garden City and Northville, Michigan, decided it was time to downsize. With two locations and an eye on the future, Mazzoni asked Wilkerson to take the lead on closing the Garden City store. Mazzoni met Wilkerson’s Rick Hayes some years back, he says, and once he made up his mind to consolidate, he and Hayes “set up a timeline” for the sale. Despite the pandemic, Mazzoni says the everything went smoothly. “Many days, we had lines of people waiting to get in,” he says, adding that Wilkerson’s professionalism made it all worthwhile. “Whenever you do an event like this, you think, ‘I’ve been doing this my whole life. Do I really need to pay someone to do it for me?’ But then I realized, these guys are the pros and we need to move forward with them.”

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