Cathy Calhoun Schools Retailers on Throwing Events With Pizzazz

It takes a lot of chutzpah to attach your name to an annual event called Blob Fest—especially if you’re a fine jeweler.

But Cathy Calhoun, owner of Calhoun Jewelers in Royersford, Pa., is famous for hosting quirky, theatrical events that boost her store’s bottom line. Blob Fest, by the way, celebrates the classic film The Blob and includes a reenactment of the screaming mob running out of the movie theater, along with an actual blob sitting in the street.

Calhoun brought her event-planning prowess—which boils down to planning truly fun, even goofy, experiences—to the JCK seminar “20 Store Events Worth Stealing” Thursday morning.

The retailer’s lessons were embedded in funny anecdotes, illustrated by photos from dozens of different events she’s thrown.

“Don’t always make your event about jewelry,” Calhoun urged the crowd, “because remember that we want people to be personally connected. Yes, you want to sell your jewelry, but you don’t want to look like you’re always out to get them.”

Calhoun’s events usually include a charitable angle but always transcend the ho-hum trunk-show model (which she feels has lost its luster).

For example, she sponsors an event called “Bringing Home the Bacons,” where Kevin Bacon and his brother put on a concert for locals for free, to raise funds for a local theater. “And, of course, he has to buy jewelry,” she notes.

The retailer also plans an extravagant event for her top female customers every year, which always ends with a spa visit. Last year’s treat was an all-night dance lesson with Dancing With the Stars pro (and just-crowned season 18 champ) Maksim Chmerkovskiy, whom Calhoun reports was utterly graceful in the face of a woman crying and clawing at him in excitement.

Calhoun’s most profitable event ever, she recalled, was a gemstone roundtable organized by Erica Courtney CEO Adam Graham. “I never thought it would work, but we made so, so much money that day.”

She’s also a fan of contests and hosts a gingerbread-house competition every December that’s so hugely popular, schools bus in kids to vote on the entries.

“You have to make your event a happening,” Calhoun explained, recounting a hippie-themed event where her counters were draped in tie-dye fabric and she was clad in Janis Joplin’s old bell-bottoms. A hippie-dippie rock band played, and plates of brownies were strewn around the shop. “I tried to think of what I ate as a hippie, and all I could think of was brownies,” she said, eliciting a huge laugh from the crowd. “For the special brownies, you had to come to my office.”

Calhoun added that she always sends out paper invitations with return envelopes and takes the time to make them look attractive and exciting. Her go-to lead time for mailing out an invitation: three weeks before an event.

“Remember,” she told the audience in closing, “jewelry takes us places we’d never go on our own. Who would ever want to talk to us without the jewelry? You say you’re a jeweler and everyone’s interested.”