Bernie Robbins Fine Jewelry is in the process of rebranding and expanding its presence in southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Nowhere is this more evident than at its flagship store in Somers Point, N.J.
The store serves as corporate headquarters of the nine-store luxury jewelry operation (expected to grow to 10 stores by the end of the year), which stretches from the southern New Jersey shore to Philadelphia’s northern and western suburbs some 80 miles away.
‘BUSTING AT THE SEAMS’
Rapid growth in business along with major changes in the luxury jewelry market have made it necessary for the husband-and-wife team of Harvey Rovinsky and Maddy Rosenberg to create a new blueprint for the design and branding of all their stores while substantially expanding their office and showroom space at their flagship.
“We are absolutely busting at the seams,” Rovinsky says. “We built this building [in Somers Point] six years ago, and at that time the office was cavernous. Now we can’t put one more desk in it. Plus our business is growing so much that we need more showroom space.”
He adds, “We need to represent our brands better, so our luxury experience is being upgraded dramatically. When I built this store in 1999, I thought this was the most luxurious store I ever imagined. Since then our standards have increased, and this no longer meets our needs.”
It also means Rovinsky and Rosenberg will be adding new jewelry and watch brands and new “shops in shops”—designer boutiques located inside stores—to display them. They’ll also provide more space for their best-selling brands. “It’s an ongoing process,” Rovinsky says. “We’ve designed a layout with area dedicated to whatever brand we decide will have its own identity.”
As of late February, he wasn’t ready to reveal the names of those new brands, but current brands include Baume & Mercier, Cartier, David Yurman, John Hardy, Leslie Greene, Mikimoto, Rolex, and Tag Heuer. “The whole process is being civilized and gentrified,” Rovinsky says. “We’re making it a much more pleasant place to shop.”
The company is building an addition to the stand-alone store that, when finished, will double its size to approximately 7,000 square feet, says William McLees of William McLees Architecture, Somers Point, N.J., who designed the exterior and is overseeing the work. Showroom space will increase from 2,000 to 3,200 square feet, and office space will increase from 1,500 to 3,700 square feet and will include conference rooms so staff can interview vendors “in a more professional-like manner,” Rovinsky says.
Construction began in January and is planned to be finished in time for a grand reopening on Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer season at the southern New Jersey shore. McLees says it’s an aggressive schedule, but by late February it was on track thanks to a mild winter and few delays. Because the store stands by itself and the company owns the land around it, it’s easier to design and build a project of this magnitude, he notes.
“The structure for the addition is up, and as we speak we are enclosing it,” McLees says. “We’re closing the envelope right now. ”
The store will remain open throughout construction, even though the original showroom will be renovated and updated to match the new showroom space.
A CURVACEOUS INTERIOR
Designing the interior and overseeing the work is the job of interior architect Aleksey Belinskiy of Formatum Inc., Cherry Hill, N.J. “The challenge is for us to do the project in a way that the floor is still operational,” he says. “It’s a very complex project.”
Belinskiy has created the interior look that will serve as the template for all Bernie Robbins stores. The new design has already been applied to the company’s store in the Radnor Hotel in St. Davids, Pa. Belinskiy says he’s been working for Bernie Robbins for many years and has a good idea of what the owners want, which in this case will combine a modern look with traditional warmth.
“It’s going to be a spectacular store,” he says. “It will reflect his business, which is always on the cutting edge with new and unique jewelry. … It’s a very modern, very sophisticated interior with warm finishes of wood paneling, marble tile floors, and custom carpet.”
Interior details include a handblown Murano glass chandelier from Italy and a diamond department backed by a “spectacular” curved wall with a glass mosaic. “When you walk in you will look straight down that wall,” Belinskiy says.
The curvaceous look may be the most prevalent architectural detail in the new design. Curved showcases will separate departments within the store and create sinuous walkways. The central sitting area will be circular. Ceiling treatments, soffits, and track lighting will be arrayed in teardrop patterns throughout the store.
Other details will include a children’s room and an updated cappuccino area. The current showcases, only six years old, will be removed and replaced with custom wood-and-veneer versions. “What the customer touches is real wood; behind and under the glass showcase will be veneer,” Belinskiy says.
YIN AND YANG
Belinskiy says he enjoys working with the two owners, who he describes as yin and yang. “Maddy is more detail-oriented,” he says. “Harvey is more of a big-picture guy. They both look for what’s the best for the customer. … They achieve a balance. I try to be there and give my best suggestions.”
He adds, “I’m creating a store with large aisles with an easy flow that allows people to explore every part of the floor and all the showcases. Maddy is in charge of that and is very good.”
The owners plan to upgrade software and communications systems, and in late February Rovinsky was interviewing vendors to upgrade business management and inventory software systems. He also says he wants to install a T1 system—a high-speed digital transmission service—to integrate the telephone and Internet systems at all the stores. In addition, two more computers and more data ports will be added to the showroom floor at the Somers Point store.
One major hurdle that awaits all parties is moving the vault. “That’s one of the earlier things that has to happen,” Rovinsky says. “They have equipment to do it. The equipment kind of crawls the safe across the floor.” Moving the safe was planned for early March.
As noted earlier, the new design and merchandise are part of a rebranding effort that will be applied to all Bernie Robbins stores, even though the company has stores in casinos, lifestyle centers, thrift centers, and freestanding malls. “What we don’t do is go into enclosed malls,” Rovinsky says. “That is not our business model.”
Rovinsky’s goal is not only to create a satisfying luxury experience for the customer but also to make sure that experience is duplicated in all of his stores. “When you visit any Bernie Robbins, you should feel very much at home,” Rovinsky says. “It’s all about the experience. There are thousands of jewelry stores that sell jewelry. There are very few that sell an experience. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”
JCK will visit the Somers Point store when it is completed to see how well the store measures up to the owners’ vision.