Innovative Retailer: Lauray’s Diamond Center’s Mark Fleischner

It takes more than a four-ton pickup to dampen this store owner’s spirits.

There’s nothing like an emergency to fast-track business changes. Mark Fleischner and his wife, Patti, had been planning a series of physical and operational upgrades to ­Lauray’s Diamond Center, starting with a restoration of the store’s historic building site. But in late fall 2009, a heavy-duty pickup truck with a four-ton payload slammed into the support beam for their store’s marquee signage, sending it crashing to the ground. The couple took the opportunity to do a little creative marketing—and to renovate not only their business exterior, but also their business style. At 60, Mark, a third-­generation retailer who’s never at a loss for energy or ideas, effectively combines the latest technological tools with old-­fashioned customer service and community outreach.

How did you begin to recover after that pickup truck crashed into your store?

My wife had the idea of putting a Band-Aid on the store. I worked with my marketing agency to produce a large banner that stretched across the store with a Band-Aid on it with a tagline reading: “Obviously, people are drawn to our diamonds.” The sign got a lot of attention. Customers still talk about it.    

What sort of information is available from your podcasts?

A close friend of mine who’s an electronics whiz got me started on podcasting. We’ve done everything from a store history, a ­profile on designer John Hardy, the technology behind Philip Stein’s Teslar watches, and some diamond and jewelry buying fundamentals. We have someone on staff with a good radio voice, so we can produce them cost-effectively in-house.

Tell us about your “Name Our Diamond” contest.  

Lauray’s Diamond Center has developed a proprietary diamond cut. To introduce it to our market this fall, we’re asking people to submit ideas for names. My daughter, who manages our Facebook profile, and our sales director came up with the idea. About two weeks into the month-long contest, we had about 30 names submitted. It’s generating more friends and fans on Facebook. The online contest form has also helped capture a lot of e-mail addresses for our database, giving us opt-in permission to send e-newsletters and customer follow-ups. It has also sparked the community’s creativity and interest in our company.  

How do you work with community groups?

Our local economy is very diverse. We’ve held two Diamond Dashes in part with the local bureau of tourism. These events have brought in a lot of visitors. We offer the 25,000 residents of the Hot Springs Village, the retirement com­munity, su­perlative customer service. They voted us their No. 1 ­jeweler. For local industries like Xerox, we have a good corporate gifts program. And with the racetrack, we’ve had a longtime agreement to produce their trophies.

How do you tap into Hot Springs’ lively arts scene?

A few years back, we got involved in the Hot Springs Gallery Walk. On the first Friday of every month, we host a new artist in the store. The artist’s work is exhibited and we host it like any other showing, serving wine and hors d’oeuvres. Invitations are sent out and we post news of it on Facebook, Twitter, and on our website. It’s a wonderful evening of interacting with people in our community. We have had sales come from these events, but it’s not about selling jewelry. People send in thank-you notes for what we do for the community and adding to the vibrancy of the downtown area.

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