Scott Wickam: The Man in Green

For the Goldsmith Gallery Jewelers owner, it’s easy—and profitable—being green

Scott Wickam never put much stock in conventional wisdom. After the recession nearly a decade ago, he increased his advertising and market exposure while others cut back and rode out the economic storm. The resulting increase in profits and customers drove Wickam to make an even bolder move during the 2008 housing market crash: purchasing a plot of land for a new freestanding Goldsmith Gallery Jewelers. Yet though Wickam is a contrarian by nature, when it came time to build his $2.5 million, 7,500-square-foot store last year, he followed the green trend his fellow Billings, Mont., merchants had adopted years earlier: From reducing the project’s carbon footprint to using recycled materials in the interior, Wickam’s approach has raised his eco-consciousness while simultaneously bringing in the green.

What inspired you to build a green jewelry store?

My wife and I came up with the idea for a sustainable building several years ago. Other business owners in Billings were going green. Whenever possible, contractors used local or regional companies to source building and construction materials. This reduced the overall environmental impact of the project.

What percentage of the store was done in environmentally friendly materials?

According to A.E. Architects, roughly 65 percent of the actual structure is green. At the beginning phases, GRID/3 International, the interior design company, told me for another $250,000 we could be 100 percent LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design]–compliant, but that was more money than I wanted to spend. The total cost to build the store was $2.5 million, which was 15 percent over budget. I think for what we invested in this project, we more than accomplished our sustainability objectives.

What are some of the green elements throughout the store?

The sandstone that makes up 80 percent of the store’s façade was sourced from a local quarry, which supports the local economy and reduces transportation pollution. We rely less on city water with a rainwater collection system that uses copper chains to [funnel] downspout rainwater to a central dish collector; that is used to water the landscaping around the store. Much of the landscape is xeriscaped, a type of landscaping or irrigation that relies less on supplemental water. Low VOC [Volatile Organic Compound] paint was used throughout the store. Efficient LED, fluorescent, and low-wattage metal halide lighting was installed. The carpet tiles are climate-neutral certified. Recycled glass tile was used in the customer bathrooms. And 90 percent of the wood veneer in the display cases on the showroom floor is FSC [Forest Stewardship Council]–certified.

Why is it so important to you to be part of Billings’ green movement?

Billings is usually behind on things, but part of our rugged history in settling this land is conserving resources. I think part of the green movement here is simply an extension of that. We also think an environmentally friendly store shows customers we not only care about them but the environment as well. With our new store we’re doing more than other business owners and their green efforts, but that’s part of who we are as a jewelry store. We don’t want to be average.

Do you promote your store’s green nature?

When we opened, The Billings Gazette, a local newspaper that has a multi-state, 200-mile reach, did an eight-page insert on us. That gave us a big boost and got the word out on our business model. But we don’t really promote the green nature of our business.

Has the environmentally friendly approach been good for business?

We’re up 47 percent compared to the same period last year. But I would say it’s a combination of going green and being the only jeweler in town with a cool new store.

What has customer reaction been like?

When we opened last October, we threw a huge party. Everybody loved it: the combined green features and overall slate and rock design elements, the openness, the way foot traffic moves. Many never expected to see a jewelry store like this in Billings…a town of 130,000 people. I like to do things a little differently, and people noticed. 

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