Lafayette, La., home to Stuller Inc., isn’t exactly a company town. But mention the Stuller name to anyone who lives there and you’ll get a knowing smile. The story of how Matt Stuller built his small findings company into America’s largest jewelry manufacturer—Stuller ships 3,000–4,000 packages per day—is the stuff of Lafayette legend.
So it was with excitement that I accepted an invitation to attend the company’s Bridge conference in late September with JCK publisher Mark Smelzer and regional sales manager Randi Gewertz. The 4-year-old educational program draws hundreds of jewelers to the heart of Cajun country every year because it’s so much more than an advertisement for Stuller products (though it’s that too); it’s a peek into Stuller’s provocative vision of the future of retailing.
Take the 302 concept, for example. A year ago, the interiors team at Stuller transformed a 1,700-square-foot room with cement floors, fluorescent lights, and prison-style glass, located adjacent to the factory floor, into a model for the jewelry store of the future. And, wow, is it impressive.
Mark, me, and Randi at dinner in NOLA
Described in a brochure as “the intersection of the technical and the tactile,” 302—named for Stuller’s address on Rue Louis XIV, and not for the police code denoting an involuntary commitment to a psychiatric unit—is designed to be a five-senses experience. Besides boasting plenty of open showcases, the space was, during my visit, suffused with a fresh pine scent, gentle yet decidedly un-Muzak–like tunes, and scenes from Casablanca, which played on a flat-screen TV located above the black-and-white diamond jewelry case.
Factor in my long-standing fascination with the bayou, heaping plates of delicious Cajun cuisine, and a preconference swamp tour through the watery dream world of the Atchafalaya Basin, and my time in Lafayette was mighty memorable.
The otherworldly Atchafalaya Basin
It also provided a perfect backdrop to this month’s “Your Store” issue, which leads off with senior editor Emili Vesilind’s engaging cover story, “It’s All in the (Retail) Details.” This compendium of anecdotes and advice from jewelers offers a snapshot of the retail scene on the brink of the 2013 holiday season.
Finally, this issue contains a meaty A-to-Z guide to Tucson, Ariz., home to the new JCK Tucson show, debuting Feb. 3–8 at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa. If you’ve never been to the Sonoran Desert for the annual gem shows, make 2014 the year. Tucson is the dry, Western equivalent of Lafayette’s serene Southern swamp-scape—and I promise, what you find there will be equally rewarding.