1. What was your most successful ad?
It was a magazine ad with a three-stone platinum ring set with cushion-cut diamonds on top of a cupcake. The idea came from our marketing consultant who sold us on the idea with the opening of a Sprinkles Cupcake store in Beverly Hills. We thought a great juxtaposition of cupcakes and jewelry would be an effective ad for women and approached the Four Seasons, one of our cross-promotional partners, to create a cupcake that was open, airy, and lacy, much like a fine piece of jewelry. When the ad ran in D.C. Modern Luxury magazine, the wife of a Fortune 500 company CEO came in to the store with the ad in her hand and asked to buy the exact same ring in the ad. After three store visits, her husband purchased the ring. That one ad not only led to a big sale but was also spun off into three to four other successful print campaigns.
2. What was your most memorable sale?
In 1992 I had a goal of selling a $10,000 piece of jewelry. That big sale happened when I was about 22 years old—a new GIA graduate. I still remember the piece: It was an antique 18k white gold brooch set with pearls and diamonds. The $10,000 sale launched my confidence mainly because I sold the piece to a very prominent businessperson. The sale gave me a lot of self-confidence, which set the stage for future sales.
3. What advice have you received from a fellow retail jeweler that changed the way you run your store?
Years ago my father took me to the JCK Vegas Show. We were invited to attend a private party, held at the mayor’s home, for Omar Torres, at that time the former head of design at Bulgari who was launching his own collections. I sat at a table with Harold Tivol. I was young, but old enough to know he was a retail icon in the industry. I worked up the courage and asked him what advice he’d give to a young person entering retail jewelry. He thought about it for a moment and told me: “Every time you feel the pressure or inclination to give on quality, don’t do it … don’t ever let quality slip.” Years later, when I took on a buying role, I began shaving off the bottom price points while building the top end of our inventory. Today the quality of our jewelry is part of what sets us apart.
4. How do you differentiate your store from the competition?
We provide customers with a good mix of product categories and within each product category a diverse range of goods. For our first 40 years in business we were an antique-jewelry retailer. Antique jewelry has always been a part of our business model and is one of six product categories today along with bridal and diamonds, designer jewelry, Swiss watches, the corporate gifts division, and bridge jewelry. Historically, we’ve never placed all of our eggs in one basket, allowing each category to contribute to the bottom line as each category is done to the most developed level possible. Our corporate gifts division even has its own proprietary products.
5. When you walk through your front door, what do you like most about your store?
With seven floors, there isn’t another store like ours. There is some inefficiency, like the inability to cross-sell. But what I love about this building is it’s such a special and unique place to buy jewelry. It was built in 1926 and is in the national registry as a historic building. We purchased it in 1992 and gutted the whole thing, right down to the bare brick. We came from a small, dark, Victorian-styled store. With this store we wanted to open it up and brighten it.
We’re committed to creating a unique shopping environment and have received three awards from the Washington Builders Congress for our building’s exterior metal work, our interior millwork, and the decorative painting in the store. Since the work was completed in 1995, we rebuilt freestanding display cases and put in new in-case lighting by combining LED and fluorescence lighting. Vendors love the way the jewelry pops with the lighting. We often hear [from customers] the store has an Old World feel to it.