Custom is king at this high-tech, hands-on shop
A booming custom department is the bedrock of Phoenix-based Schmitt Jewelers’ business. So when brothers and co-owners Tim and Tom Schmitt (whose respective wives, Ginnie and Erin, are also co-owners) decided to renovate the store from top to bottom in 2013, it seemed only natural to put the jewelry fabrication process front and center. The once-traditional shop now boasts a bevy of next-generation elements that highlight Schmitt’s high-tech capabilities. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls inside the shop showcase designers and bench jewelers making new pieces and doing repairs. It’s a space where Old World techniques coexist with cutting-edge technology, including a 3-D printer and lasers. “The store is really a reinforcement of who we are and where we’re going,” Tom says.
What did you want the new design to bring to your business?
Tom: Everything is open; it’s like a test kitchen. Part of the reason was to help break down barriers between consumers and fine jewelry. There’s only something like 15 linear feet of case space that is traditional jewelry store–style selling. All the other cases are front-loading, and they [facilitate] side-by-side selling scenarios. That’s a psychological thing.… You’re there to help, not to face off with the customer.
Tell us about the store’s Bridal Bar.
It’s a bar-type setup with ring prototypes that people can touch and feel. There are bar stools; the idea is that people are more willing to lean on a stool than they are to have a serious sit-down with a salesperson. It’s less of a commitment than “Why don’t you come into my office and talk?” We have customers at the Bar who will say, “Is it okay that all these diamonds are out?” And we’re like, “Go ahead, play with them!” Sometimes there will be a bride, her mother, her aunt, and a friend and things get to be a mess. [He laughs.] But that’s okay—that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
You’ve said the store keeps a pretty lean inventory. Why is that?
We’re comfortable with a reduced inventory model. We have great partnerships with a few vendors, and we try to keep things fresh and make our own things. That way we can keep price points attainable and aspirational. We don’t collect little brand plaques like a lot of people. I know that’s a successful model, but it hasn’t really been our thing.
How do you highlight your custom design capabilities in the store?
We have flat-screen monitors that show our product and images from events we’ve thrown, along with shots of friends and staff. We also have CounterSketch Studio right on the floor, which we use with clients, and you can see where our CAD designer is working on Matrix. Guys, in particular, love being able to see the tools and the process. We always walk people through the shop and show them everything. People get a kick out of the fact that there are guys right there doing things. The jewelry’s not coming off a ship. And if it needs to be adjusted or changed, it will happen here.
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