Need help picking a ring? A proxy to pop the question for you? Joseph Chapman’s your guy.
1. What was your finest hour in the realm of customer service?
One of my good customers had a heart stent put in and was in the hospital. He called me and said it was his wife’s birthday, so I took two or three gift ideas and some wrapping paper and went over to the hospital. He chose one of them and I wrapped it all up in the hospital. And at one time, my friend Bob—who had been dating a girl for three or four years—called me to get ideas for engagement rings. He then told me she was coming to the store in the afternoon to pick up his watch repair. Then he asked me to ask her to marry him on his behalf! So it was like, “Bob would like to marry you and buy you one of these rings.” We were all cracking up about that one. You’d have to know Bob.
2. How do you differentiate your store from the competition?
When you come in, we’ve got a big 40-year-old Waterford chandelier that we brought with us from an old location. Our building also has the original tin ceiling and 100-year-old hardwood floors. My cases are also 100 years old. It all works together. We’ve been here forever and most of my employees have been here 30 years or more. So we know everything about our [products]—from china to watches. We’ve built a loyal following. People call and say, “Suzy just had a baby and I’d like to get her something for $50. Can you pick something out?” We have long-standing relationships.
3. What is your single best money-saving initiative?
Three or four years ago we put in a bunch of the CZs and sterling silver samples in the bridal department. We have the largest selection of bridal in our tri-state area, and by doing that with 150 to 200 pieces, we’ve saved a lot of money. We order from the samples and get the rings in five to 10 days. We’re more of a high-end store, so we don’t get the kind of customer who runs in and has to have something right away. I have an email right now from someone who wants matching Rolex watches for a birthday six months away.
4. What’s the best idea you’ve ever come up with for your store?
We moved to Fourth Avenue [in downtown Huntington, W.?Va.] in the early 1970s, which was thriving at the time. Years later, it started going downhill, so I decided to take a risk and move back to Third Avenue, where the store used to be. I was the first store on the block, but the whole block is filled now. It made me look like I knew what I was doing.
5. What ambitious goal do you have for your store, and how will you achieve it?
About one in eight small businesses fail in the third generation, and I count myself as the fifth-generation owner. But I’m 61 and when it’s my time to retire, I have the sixth-generation owner all picked out: my manager, John. He’s ready to take over right now, if need be. We want a smooth transition and to keep it all going for many more years.