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The exterior of the store provides echoes of old English architecture.

A Vision Honored

Although husband, father and co-founder Mike Koerber passed away, his blueprint for success lives on.

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Koerber’s Fine Jewelry, New Albany, IN

URL: koerbersfinejewelry.com .com / OWNERS: Felecia and Jacquelyn Koerber / FOUNDED: 1986 / OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2015 / AREA: 2,600 square feet / EMPLOYEES: 12 / BUILDOUT COST: $450,000 / ONLINE PRESENCE: 4.6 stars and 4,583 likes on Facebook / TOP BRANDS: Tacori, Hearts on Fire, Gabriel, Pandora, Vahan


 

ASK JACQUELYN KOERBER what she learned from her parents about the jewelry business and she’ll say, “Everything.”

Jacquelyn grew up in the family’s jewelry business, but detoured to New York after college, where she worked in fashion for seven years.

When she returned to Indiana to join her parents, Mike and Felecia, at Koerber’s, they were planning their dream destination store and Jacquelyn was eager to settle in and learn everything she could from them about business management, customer service and continuing a family tradition of integrity and hospitality.

“I always joked that Koerber’s was my mom’s third baby,” Jacquelyn says. It seemed to be a living, breathing being, imbued with her parents’ warmth and gratitude.

For Jacquelyn, there was much to emulate.

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Felecia met Mike in 1974 when she worked as what was called a “coffee girl” for an engineering firm where he was employed as a draftsman. In 1980, the price of gold climbed to $800 an ounce and they decided to try moonlighting. With no experience and only the handmade sign, “We buy scrap gold,” they set up at a local flea market for two years. Then they invested their $6,000 life savings into buying 14K gold chains and sold them to friends and family. Eventually, Mike’s sister offered them space in her beauty salon, where Felecia sold jewelry while Mike stuck with his day job. It wasn’t until nine years later that they had enough money for their own space. In 1994, they purchased land and Mike drafted blueprints for a shopping center, setting aside 700 square feet for their own store.

Twenty years later, they’d outgrown the space and decided to turn the entire shopping center into a 6,000 square-foot stand-alone building based on Mike’s drawings, again.

Sadly, in 2013, when the family’s dream was coming together at last, Mike was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and he passed away before they opened. But he did live long enough to see the finishing touches on his retail vision come to fruition. Recalls interior designer Leslie McGwire, “Koerber’s was an amazing project for me. Mike would say, ‘Leslie I love this. Leslie I love that.’ Mike told his wife it was his absolute dream look.”

When Mike fell ill, Jacquelyn, her education cut short, was able to step in. “When I moved home, I was able to have a full year of apprenticeship under my father where I actually was doing the accounting and a lot of behind the scenes work. With me being so like him personality-wise, I was able to pick up a lot. And when he passed away, I was able to fill that role in a way that I think he would have been proud.”

Her mom, Felecia, is the customer service expert. “She was the face of the business and my dad was behind the scenes.”

“My mother has an impeccable memory not only for faces but for names, kids’ names, where they went to school, and people continue to shop here because they get that level of customer service,” Jacquelyn says. “During the renovation, the last thing we wanted to do was make this an intimidating space. We treat everybody who comes through that door with a level of gratitude because without them we have nothing. We don’t do a ton of advertising; it’s all through word of mouth and our reputation.”

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Jacquelyn says what they were looking for in the new space was the experience of being welcomed into their home.

To create a warm atmosphere, the Koerbers built a stone fireplace area with plush chairs where visitors can sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee or freshly baked cookies from the coffee bar. In addition, they christened the full bar Koerber’s Pub, where clients can enjoy a beverage or take a TV break while they shop.

“The pub is such a warm and relaxing place to sit and have a drink,” Jacquelyn says. “Just yesterday, one of our sales staff was sitting there for about 45 minutes sharing a glass of wine with one of our very good customers and they were talking about their grandkids, so it’s not about ‘Hey, let me sell you something and get out.’ It’s important for us to have that kind of experience here.”

Jacquelyn’s uncle, a carpenter, handcrafted the bar.

“The touches are representative of us, but they also still enhance the beauty of the jewelry,” Jacquelyn says. “You don’t want to take away from what you are trying to sell. It’s a pretty neutral environment that enables the jewelry to be the spotlight.” They used monochromatic tones to create a serene feeling. The distressed wood floor complements the lighter laminate/veneer on the simply designed wood cases.

Because Mike was an outdoorsman who enjoyed Colorado, they’ve hung paintings of Aspen trees, along with metal animal heads and antlered mirrors. They have framed several of his blueprints around the store.

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There’s also a meditation garden in Mike’s honor. “Mike was my best friend,” Felecia says. “Not only my partner in business, but in life. When he passed, I wanted to create something special to honor him. Mike was as comfortable outside as he was inside. I wanted to give our customers and staff a place to pay their respects to him.”

Though Felecia is semi-retired now, she is still a regular presence in the store. “It helps to have a Koerber here. Our customers look to that; they value our opinion because we’re honest. And of course she still has her longtime clients who love to see her,” Jacquelyn says.

The business has been welcoming from the beginning. Throughout their growth process, the Koerbers naturally treated customers as friends and family.

Jacquelyn Koerber’s management philosophy is also her life philosophy.

“I try to treat people how I want to be treated,” she says. “I have an open door policy and I always try to do the right thing. I ask myself, ‘What would my father do? Or what is the right thing to do in this scenario?’ When you follow those golden rules, things usually work out.”

PHOTO GALLERY (16 IMAGES)


Five Cool Things About Koerber’s

1. LOCAL LOVE. Koerber’s partners with local businesses to promote a “shop local” mentality. For Valentine’s Day, they gave away gift certificates to a local restaurant and a box of chocolates from a local chocolatier. Throughout the year, they give away wine from Huber’s Winery, which is in southern Indiana. They also like to keep fresh flowers in the store by using their local florist. Even the alcohol and beer served at Koerber’s Pub are made from local distilleries and breweries. “If we ourselves shop local and invest in other small businesses in southern Indiana, the entire community will thrive,” Felecia says.

2. RUBY THE MASCOT. Jacquelyn adds to the homey feel by bringing her dog Ruby, a red heeler, to work with her, bringing smiles to customers and staff alike.

3. FOCUS ON INSTAGRAM. Jacquelyn hired a professional photographer to take pictures of her wearing jewelry for Instagram and for use by a local blogger, adding to millennial appeal. “As a millennial, I shop via Instagram all the time,” she says. “I follow a lot of brands and I noticed how much it impacts my life, and so I wanted to convey what we have to offer here through Instagram. A lot of our younger consumers out there aren’t aware of what we have to offer because we don’t have the money to blast the airways. Through Instagram, it can be done in a genuine and authentic way.”

4. STATEMENT OF TRUST. “Using the pillars of trust and integrity, we built this business from the ground up,” Felecia says. “We’ve always done business by just trying to do the right thing. We have a quote above our coffee bar stating, ‘You should know your jeweler just like your doctor, dentist or lawyer. Someone you can trust. We treat all our customers like family so there is always enough room for one more person at our dinner table. Enjoy, The Koerber Family.”

5. FASHION SENSIBILITY. Bridal sales are about 70 percent of sales. But Jacquelyn and Felecia also have an eye for fashion. “We have that customer who comes in here for new looks,” Jacquelyn says. “We don’t want to carry things that you can see in the mall. And of course we have some staples like Alex and Ani and Pandora that appeal to that everyday customer.”

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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