Talking to Bob Goodman of Robert Goodman Jewelers in Zionsville, Ind.

For a Goodman Time…visit this community-focused, employee-free store in central Indiana

1. What has been your most memorable sale?

Last year, we started with a new designer, Sarah Graham, who came in and did a trunk show. A customer set it up to work with her to create an engagement ring for his girlfriend that would be ready at the show. So the couple came in, and Sarah and the guy acted like they were going to start working on a ring. When the woman picked up the ring they had designed for her, Sarah said something like, “This ring already belongs to you.” For us, it’s always about getting that special thing in their hands. 

2. What has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

Volume is always a challenge. We’re a small store, and there are some big independent operations in the region. It can be hard to break through their noise; we don’t have six figures to market with. So we’ve concentrated on our local market, Zionsville. We live in a wonderful community with amazing human beings. The other challenge is how to communicate to that age group we all want: 25- to 37-year-olds. If you don’t pay attention to the kind of ­jewelry they care about, you won’t make it. We’ve found they want that Sundance vibe—things that have a very handmade look. Which is why we recently added a few lines, including Chan Luu and Mariana.

3. What one advertisement or promotion elicited the biggest response, and why do you think it worked?

When we opened the store 15 years ago, my dad [jeweler Raymond Goodman] was 84. He had retired but loved coming down to the store. I called him one day and said, “We’ve decided that men buy jewelry for women for one reason. It’s the same reason guys buy women lingerie!” I told him we were going to use [some risqué themes] in our advertising. My dad said, “You’re just figuring this out?” That style of advertising has been our ammo for years. When we market, we market with a little edge.

4. How do you differentiate your store from the competition?

We’re very involved in the community and local school system. And we support things solely because of the cause. We were the first business in Zionsville to put up an “Open for Service” sticker in May [in response to legislation that would allow Indiana businesses to openly discriminate against gays]. We support the things we believe in.

5. What is your single best money-saving initiative?

We don’t have any employees…so we’re able to keep prices lower. And we’re very transparent with the customer. We make less, but we’re competitive with the Internet. We’re very focused on our fixed costs, because they’re controllable. If nothing else, you have to keep a handle on your fixed costs. Early on, I didn’t focus on this. And failure has had a dramatic impact on my maturity and on the way we do things now. Failure is the best teacher. Success will just make you fat and happy.