Talking to Lisa Barrow of Barrow’s Jewelers in Toledo, Ohio

A no-markdown, no-commission policy has kept Barrow’s Jewelers going strong for 37 years

1. What has been your most memorable sale?

It was in October 2014 when we shipped a $10,000 diamond ring without meeting the recipient in person. The guy’s parents requested that he purchase the ring through us, and he was in the military and didn’t live nearby. So we corresponded by video on my phone, with me showing him the different mountings we had. We shipped it and I really felt like I nailed it. Turns out, he loved it. It was a 1.5 carat princess-cut diamond, and we could have put another $4,000 on the sale—he had around $15,000 to spend. But we don’t gouge our customers. He was happy, so we were too.

2. What was your finest hour in the realm of customer service?

We had a customer who went to a silent auction and bought a ring, and ended up being disappointed by the ­quality of the stone; it was chipped. She came in crying and told us the jeweler [affiliated with the auction] wanted to charge her to replace the stone. She wanted to pick something out from our store, and leave that ring behind. She picked out a stone and a mounting and we flipped the ring in 24 hours. I called her husband, who I had done business with before, and said, “Mike, your ring’s ready.” He said, “You’re kidding.” I said, “No, we don’t kid around here; we deliver.” That night he told her he was driving her to dinner and pulled up in front of the store. We were closing, but kept one light on in a case with a revolving ring display in it; the ring was on it. She came in, looked down at the ring, and just started bawling. She was so happy she was shaking.

3. What’s the best idea you’ve ever come up with for your store?

The wish lists we do. We put birthdays and anniversaries on a customer card and they add things they want to it. Then I usually call the men and remind them that their wife or girlfriend has [listed] some items she wants for her anniversary or birthday and they should come on in. And the guys will sometimes call me and ask what their wives or girlfriends put on their wish lists. They’ve been huge for us.

4. What’s been your biggest challenge, and what have you done to resolve it?

Overcoming the misconception that chain stores are cheaper because they have sales. We don’t mark things up as high, so we don’t have to have sales. In 37 years, we’ve never had a sale. I work with my two brothers [Gabe and Greg]. We let people know we’re a family business and we don’t work on commission. We offer great prices because we can.

5. When you walk in your door, what do you like most about your store?

Our store is really approachable. You’re not judged by your appearance—it’s a really comfortable atmosphere. My brothers and I are working and sometimes my mom will come down and help with the books or bring us lunch bags with our names written on them. We’ll greet you by your first name if we know you. And we don’t turn down much. If something’s not possible to do, no one else will—or should—do it. Because our master jeweler can literally do anything.

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