Thollot Diamonds & Fine Jewelry
1. When you walk through your door, what do you like most about your store?
It’s silly, but my first thought is I’m so happy it’s ours. We recently bought the building, which used to be a bank. We started in 1993 as a repair bench in a bedroom in Golden, Colo., and opened our first store in 2000. I was working seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day. Every time I walk in, I shake my head in amazement.
2. What advertisement or promotion elicited the biggest response?
We worked with the [reality TV] show Extreme Weight Loss this past June. We made a custom ring for a couple, and the show filmed in the store. We used a Hasenfeld-Stein FireCushion cut diamond, which has weight removed from the pavilion of the diamond; it tied in perfectly with the show’s theme. We were able in two minutes to reach an audience of between 4 million and 5 million people. In June, we saw a 45 to 48 percent increase in revenue over last year.
3. What nightmare scenario did you turn around to save the day?
We started as a trade shop, and we landed one small independent account. The retailer eventually gave us an emerald-cut emerald to set into a piece. Keep in mind that at this time we were eating ramen noodles for dinner—that emerald was probably worth more than my car. It was a complicated job, and we chipped the stone. We were totally devastated. We brought it to the retail store owner and gave him options on how we could personally pay to make our mistake right. It ultimately cost us thousands of dollars, but he was shocked that we didn’t just cover up the chip with a prong—which we could have done. From that point on, he gave us 100 percent of his repairs.
4. What’s the best idea you’ve ever come up with for your store?
Seven years ago, we started our Diamonds for Diabetes fundraiser. It’s near and dear to us because we have two daughters with type 1 diabetes. Around the holidays, we decorate a tree with gemstones in small boxes, along with six pieces of fine jewelry all boxed up: usually half-carat stud earrings or a smaller diamond bracelet. Then we have a Christmas party where we allow people to purchase the boxes for $25 each. They never know what they’re going to get. All the money goes to the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes [at the University of Colorado]. We typically raise $5,000 to $10,000 every year.
5. What’s been your biggest challenge, and what have you done to resolve it?
I call it the David vs. Goliath factor. We’re a small store in a big, big market [Denver]. Each player gobbles up a great deal of market share. Being a new first-generation store, I am David. In the beginning, brands wouldn’t even talk to me; sales reps wouldn’t return my calls. What we’ve done to combat that is very simple: I’m a very fiscally conservative guy, and we pay our bills. We always pay them, and we often pay early. That put us on the right track right away.
(Photograph by Rebecca Stumpf)