San Diego Jeweler Bill Collins Talks ‘Top Gun,’ Baseball, and Feng Shui



1. What has been your most memorable sale?

We’re located just to the north of what used to be the Miramar air station, where they filmed Top Gun. Once we had a Marine who came in to buy an engagement ring, and, for one reason or another, he didn’t qualify for credit. The ring was $1,800 and he had some money to put down, but not a lot. A longtime client who was a Navy man himself saw what was ­happening and told us that he wanted to buy the ring. We were able to say to the young guy, “Our customer would like to thank you for your service and buy this engagement ring for you.” I think everyone in the store was crying or misting up.

2. What one advertisement or promotion elicited the biggest response and why do you think it worked?

We’ve been longtime advertisers—radio and TV—with the San Diego Padres. You have to find your niche when you’re advertising. I’m a sports nut, so that’s worked for us. Jake Peavy, who pitched in the World Series, came in for autograph sessions in the store for a number of years. People would be lined up by the hundreds by 7 a.m. to meet him, and we would tie the [signing] to a charity like the cranial-facial unit at Children’s Hospital. Creating ties to the community—that’s where it’s at. We also do in-store parties, usually on our anniversary, at Christmas, and on Valentine’s Day. We’ll have great hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. The original intent for parties was, “Put your [display case] keys away. This is a time to visit with customers.” But then we realized that everyone wants to buy something. We do really great ­business on those nights.

3. When you walk through your door, what do you like most about your store?

My wife came on full time only about a year and a half ago and she’s very into feng shui. It used to be, when you walked in the front door, you could see straight through to the back door. So we put up a nice display case and it did create this new energy. I still can’t believe I’m saying that, but it’s true. You felt it instantly.

4. What is your single-best money-saving initiative?

Our store is really big—we have around 135 spotlights and we were burning metal halogen bulbs that created a lot of heat and used a ton of energy. We switched to LED lights and our energy bill dropped from $1,600 a month to $600 a month. LED is just much cleaner and it emits close to no heat. What we paid for the conversion we made up in three months of [lower] energy bills. 

5. What has been your biggest challenge in business?

Compliance with government regulations is always [challenging]. And our three jewelers have been with me over 53 years combined and we provide great benefits for them. Just being able to continue all that has been the biggest challenge. But I feel very blessed that a lot of things have come easily. My dad used to always say, “Nice guys don’t always finish last.” And that’s just been very true for us. We do business by the Golden Rule and there’s great satisfaction in that—knowing you’ve done right by someone.