The Hart of New Orleans

Looking for an eleventh-hour engagement ring in New Orleans? Tommy Aucoin’s your man.

1. What was your finest hour in the realm of customer service?
A few years ago, a man calls me on Feb. 13, asking if I can make a ring [for his then-girlfriend] in time for Valentine’s Day. My bench ­jewelers said they could hand-fabricate a ring in 24 hours, so I committed to the plan. Although we worked on it the night before, on Valentine’s Day we were slammed, and we ran into unforeseen complications and delays. He did his best to draw out the surprise over dinner, but still no ring. When the ring was ready, I raced across town. It passed from my hand to the restaurant owner’s hands, to the customer’s hand, and onto her finger in minutes—just in time for dessert. To this day, I’ve received about 20 to 25 referrals from this man.

2. What nightmare scenario did you turn around to save the day?
Two years ago we made a beautiful engagement ring for a smart, affluent businessman. He had an elaborate plan to surprise his girlfriend, who was living in New York, with a visit and proposal. Everything was going according to plan until he left the ring—which he spent a significant amount of money on—in the cab he took from the airport. Determined to go ahead with his plan, he knocked on the door and got down on bended knee. When we learned about the loss, we were shocked, but I hopped on a plane with my father to New York. The girlfriend had no input on the original, but we got her involved with the new ring. We gave him an incredible price, made re-creating the ring an event, and she got the ring of her dreams.

3. What ambitious goal do you have for your store?
Ten years ago, we noticed the craftsmanship and the quality from our vendors was slipping. We knew CAD/CAM was the future of our business, so we started investing heavily in new equipment and producing our own diamond fashion and diamond bridal jewelry. We’re finally at a point where both sides of our business are operating the way we want them—with our bench jewelers creating a majority of our diamond jewelry. The next step is bringing up the retail end of the business. In April, we started the renovation and expansion of our retail store. We have completed the build-out of new back offices and a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. Next, we’ll double our showroom. When that’s complete, we’ll be set.

4. What’s the best idea you’ve come up with for your store?
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has been a great customer of ours since 2007. Months after winning Super Bowl XLIV, he released his book, Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life. We partnered with him to sell raffle tickets to win a fleur-de-lis pendant at a book-signing to raise money for our charitable foundations last September. We thought we could raise $25,000. In three hours, 1,400 people passed through our doors to get their book signed and buy a $25 raffle ticket. We raised $70,000.

5. When you walk through your door, what do you like most about your store?
Nothing gives me greater joy than seeing our staff engaging and interacting with a store full of customers. I want every customer, no matter the ticket amount, to never forget the feeling of doing business with us. n

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