Will your jeweler drive through a Christmas Eve ice storm for you?
What one advertisement or promotion elicited the biggest response, and why do you think it worked?
Through most of our 36 years of being in business, advertising perplexed me immensely. Then, a few years ago, I happened to be playing golf with a gentleman who has a marketing company. I expressed to him my displeasure with TV and especially radio advertising, and he said, “Let’s try something.” He comes into my office and sets up his recording equipment, and we have a conversation for about a half-hour on a given topic—just talking, no script. Then he [edits] the conversation. Those conversations have become some of the finest advertising we’ve ever done. The 60-second spots…aren’t about selling—sometimes they’re very personal. So many producers of advertising are so busy trying to make something they like, they forget they’re selling a business.
What has been your most memorable sale?
A gentleman wanted something as a keepsake for his children after his passing, which wasn’t at all imminent. We designed a special piece with three very substantial stones. It was designed to be a pendant that his wife would wear, and after his passing, the three elements that connect together were designed to be separated and given to his three children. Yes, he’s still alive. He’s my age!
What is your single best money-saving initiative?
Many years ago we decided that we were not good employee managers, and it wasn’t the kind of business that we liked having. We changed our operation to be low-employee; the basic ingredients on the floor are [my wife and co-owner] Mary and me. It hurt our growth and volume potential, but our lifestyle is good. Also, back in the early ’80s, we decided to be an extremely low-inventory store. I would much rather do special-order, custom-type business.
What nightmare scenario did you turn around to save the day?
You show me a bench jeweler who says he’s never chipped a gem, and I’ll show you a bench jeweler who’s not doing anything. There have been very sad, very regrettable, very expensive situations over the years. I’m not as upset when it’s something new. But when you have someone’s multigenerational gem and something tragic happens, that’s when you have to suck it up and do whatever you can to appease the client. You can’t have them go out feeling you’ve cheated or harmed them.
What was your finest hour in the realm of customer service?
A good client asked us to custom-make a piece. Some of the parts we needed didn’t arrive until 4 p.m. Christmas Eve. So of course I went straight to the bench. By 7 p.m. I had it finished and set off to deliver it myself to his home. The problem was that his house was 70 miles away and we were having an ice storm. He was very surprised to see me! And, you know, I made it back home for midnight mass.
Photograph by Brad Iwen
Top: Wright’s Jewelers’ Tom Wright with wife/co-owner Mary Wright