5 Questions for Occasions Fine Jewelry Owner Cathy Fleck

The store shed its mom-and-pop trappings but retained its friendly West Texas ways

1. What has been your most memorable sale?

I had a lady who needed a 4 mm square stone; she thought she’d like it to be rose colored. I was talking to her about sapphires and tourmalines in the $100 to $400 range. And my husband says, “Why don’t you do a pink diamond?” She said she could spend up to $2,000. I found the perfect pink diamond. I didn’t think there was any way she would go for it; I keystoned it at around $6,800. I told her the price and instead of laughing, she said, “Sounds like a deal to me,” and wrote me a check. That made a huge impression on me.

2. What was your finest hour in the realm of customer service?

We had a client who…was in Lagos, Nigeria; her husband was in the oil business. We received a fax from her asking us to design her a ring so fantastic “that if I go walking down the street naked, people will say, ‘Oh my God, look at that ring.’” We built this $30,000 diamond ring and were scared to death she wasn’t going to like it. She was flying through Dallas…and we delivered it to her at the airport in between two flights. We had no idea what would happen. But she loved it and it was awesome.

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

We bought software to start working on our inventory control—looking at price points and seeing where we’re doing well and where we’re not. If you do [software programs] correctly, they keep your inventory levels at the right place. Then when you go to trade shows, you’re not buying stuff you don’t need. It keeps you from having a ton of dead merchandise.

4. What one advertisement or promotion elicited the greatest response, and why do you think it worked?

My stepson, Michael, who’s now CEO of the company, decided he wanted to do an open house one year. We sent 3,000 to 5,000 invites to our top customers and we called it Falalapalooza. We included a $100 gift certificate in each invite—no strings attached except they had to use it at the party. We had so many people we had two cash registers with lines out the door all night long. With a deal like that, you can walk out the door with a free something, but the way most people used it, it ended up being the equivalent of a 15 percent discount. It taught us to be brave enough to give away stuff sometimes. 

5. What has been your biggest challenge, and how did you resolve it?

The biggest challenge for us has been going from a small mom-and-pop store to an actual multimillion-dollar business. You think it’s a good problem to have, but you don’t understand how hard that is until you’re in the situation. You have to change your systems; you have cash flow problems; you lose some clients because they liked it when you were small. Learning to overcome that hurdle was the biggest challenge. Once you overcome it, it all starts moving and becoming easier.