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Feature Friday – Michael Marentes

Meet Michael Marentes

I got my first taste of jewelry my freshman year of high school. My Instructor, Chuck Crawford, was an awesome and inspiring individual. In classes, we learned lost wax casting and basic fabrication in sterling silver. By my senior year, I had two hours independent study and one hour as a student aide—all dedicated to jewelry making.

Michael Marentes Family Portrait

Michael Marentes and his beautiful family

 

After high school, I enrolled in the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology graduating in 2004. Stuller had a big influence on the program I attended, and that’s where I learned to use the business as a resource. I’ve been enthralled with jewelry ever since! My favorite parts of the job are fabrication, stone setting and sharing unique experiences with my customers. I love everything about the business, but I’m definitely in my zone looking through a microscope.

I located my store in a district of South Kansas City, MO called Waldo. So naturally, I named the place Waldo Jewelers. As a boutique jewelry store, we specialize in bridal, custom designs, and jewelry repair. These days, I’m a Goldsmith, diamond setter, and retail store owner, with one or two employees working with me. I spend the first half of my day ordering stock, meeting with clients, and Facebook trolling on Jewelers Helping Jewelers. Then, after lunch, I put on my leather apron, turn the music up, and work diligently until closing time.

 

Early on in my career, I was working at a new-age bookstore that had a silversmith shop within called Aquarius Vulcans Forge. I was young and green but really enjoyed working with customers. One day, a pagan priest came to us looking for a star to wear while performing a ceremony. All we had were six-pointed Stars of David, but he needed a five-pointed star in a circle. Initially, he was going to settle for the six-pointed star, but I insisted we make exactly what he needed. I pulled my boss in for pricing. He looked at me and asked, “You’re really going to make this?”

In the end, I stayed late and worked to complete it. The next day, I got a raise for my hard work! This was an early example of the importance of top-notch customer service and how every customer is valuable. Flashing forward to now, most of my sales come from word of mouth referrals. While these recommendations grow slowly, they prove worthy when customers start to flow in because of your trustworthiness and consistent service.

See how Michael Marentes transformed his store after attending Bridge

Michael Marentes Waldo Jewelers Store Interior Michael Marentes Waldo Jewelers Store Interior

I’m always working to make my business better, too. I’ve visited Stuller Bridge three times. Before I went to the Bridge Event, my showroom was just like everyone else’s. It featured a simple counter separating me from my customers. After visiting Stuller’s 302 mock showroom, I was inspired to transform my store! I removed my glass showcases in exchange for functional shadow boxes to house my creations. This spinoff of Stuller’s showroom has enhanced my store’s interior and boosted my business!

In short, here’s my advice to those reading: Keep learning; you’ll never know everything!


Follow Michael Marentes on Facebook to keep up with everything going on in his store.

Have you been to Bridge? Share your experience with us in the comments below and let us know how it has changed your business!




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Feature Friday – Jett Pesson

“I stay inspired by looking toward the future, envisioning where this company is heading, and realizing my role in getting it there!” – Jett Pesson

 

After working in the oil industry, I began looking for a career with more stability, and I felt the jewelry industry had just what I wanted! When I was younger, the sheer size and aesthetic appeal of Stuller’s headquarters always sparked my curiosity. As I got older and realized that I needed to start looking for a career and not just another job, I began talking to people who worked at Stuller. This led me to view Stuller as a company with room to grow and the opportunity to establish a lifelong career. Looking toward my future, I applied for an entry-level position in the Fulfillment Department. I figured this would help to get my foot in the door and get a feel for the company from the ground up.

Jett Pesson: User Support Analyst
Jett Pesson IT User Systems Analyst

To broaden my knowledge and build my skill set, I helped in every department in the building as needed. I would start my day in Fulfillment, and then lend a hand in Shipping and Tools when work started to pile up. Later in the evening when things began to slow, I’d end up on the manufacturing side, helping PPM pull wax molds until the building closed.

Once I really started to get a feel for the Stuller process, I began helping the IT department in any way I could. Anytime we experienced system or equipment issues, I tried to troubleshoot as best I could. In doing so, I learned a lot! I’ll never forget the moment I received the call from the IT department for an interview; I couldn’t have been more excited! Suddenly, I realized that my hard work at Stuller hadn’t gone unnoticed. I secured the position in IT, making it my first and only full-time department move since starting at Stuller.

Jett Pesson catches a keeper!
Jett Pesson Fishing Outdoors

Currently, I’m still hard at work in IT as the User Support Analyst. My role consists of troubleshooting, Oracle testing and development, giving tech support to anyone who needs it, and everything in between. Nothing feels better than being presented with an issue and solving it or hatching an idea that will better the company, then follow through to make it happen. I love technology and its role in the jewelry industry, which grows exponentially by the day. The incorporation of tools like 3D printing and robotic automation into our company is fascinating. I love the technological growth I’ve seen in this industry, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

In my daily job, I strive to make our employees’ jobs easier, which in turn, creates a better experience for our customers. I stay inspired by looking toward the future, envisioning where this company is heading, and realizing my role in getting it there. Looking at Stuller, I’ve seen daily routines change for the better. While these individual changes can seem small, collectively, they make a huge impact. I’ve also seen a positive change in customer care with dedicated employees working hard for our customers.

Jett Pesson, his girlfriend Stephenie, and their pup Penny explore Lake Fausse Pointe
Jett Pesson Lake Fausse Point Fishing

On my time off, I love going to Lake Fausse Pointe, a local state park, fishing, and playing video games. I also really like woodworking and tinkering with anything that has a circuit board.

If I had the opportunity to change anything about my life, I wouldn’t; I don’t think I’d give my younger self any advice, even if I could. I’m happy with the way things are going, and I wouldn’t change anything for the world. After all, Doc Brown wouldn’t approve of altering the timeline!


Did you enjoy this Louisiana native’s tale? If so, read all about the product designing princess with Cajun Country roots here.




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Feature Friday – Chelsea Swank

In honor of Halloween, we’re featuring Chelsea Swank this week – a jeweler with an eclectic style and eerie designs.

 

Meet Chelsea Swank

I am a second-generation jeweler from Portland, Oregon. I’d describe my design aesthetic as Gothic Bohemian with celestial tendencies. Our inventory, available on our Etsy shop, is perfect for those who like celebrating Halloween year-round.

My father, Gary Swank, has owned a jewelry store my entire life. SO in some ways, it was natural for me to join the family business. However, that was not my original plan. I went off to college and majored in Criminal Justice hoping to become a police officer after graduation. Then, one year for my birthday, my gift was to design a piece of jewelry for myself. So I joined my father at the shop to work on a CAD design. I ended up creating a beautiful pair of opal earrings with sunrays. That project turned my interest to designing and making jewelry. It progressed from there, and we opened an Etsy shop that has been quite successful.

Here’s the Process

I draw inspiration from nature, pop culture, and varying colors, shapes, and patterns. I notice that ideas seem to marinate and I’ll start thinking about a design idea in growing detail until I am compelled to do the CAD so I can finally stop thinking about it.

In fact, these days I spend quite a bit of time contemplating a design before I sit down to take on the CAD drawing. An idea can take weeks to fully materialize, but the design time ranges from one hour to many. From there, we mill the design in wax on our CNC mill, then we cast it using the lost wax method. So once I complete the design, the milling and casting process takes two days. Finishing and setting can take another day or two, assuming we are just working on that piece (which is almost never the case).

My favorite materials to work with are sterling silver, fourteen-karat rose, yellow, and Palladium white gold. I also lean toward darker-colored stones like onyx, black diamonds, and black spinel – pretty much anything black. And I love rose cut gems of any variety. Garnets and amethyst are two more of my favorite stones!

Second-generation Swank jeweler

I learned about Stuller from my dad, who has used them since the very beginning. I know I can call on Stuller as a reliable resource for tools, gems, moissanite, or anything else we need. Our partnership helps us to achieve my ultimate goal: to leave behind a legacy of high quality, original jewelry true to the Swank name.

To reach my target audience, I use Instagram, which is a great resource for many reasons. It enables people to get a sense of me as an artist and connects viewers to my work. The videos and extra photos showcase my jewelry in ways that may not be available in an online store. And of course, clients can show off their jewelry purchases and feel a part of a community with other clients. The platform also serves as a sort of a review system where you can gain credibility because people considering a purchase can see all your happy clients.

As someone who has been working in this industry for a while and as someone who comes from a family where jewelry plays such a big role, I encourage anyone aspiring to enter the industry to keep pushing ahead, try new things, and dare to be different. Embrace the stalls and slow times; those are the best opportunities to learn new skills and experiment with new ideas.

See all Chelsea Swank has to offer on her Etsy shop here, or on her Instagram @chelsea_swankmetalsmithing.


How do you celebrate Halloween with your customers? Leave us a comment below to tell us how you incorporate Halloween into your business!




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Feature Friday – Annette Kinzie

“We love this business because it combines the opportunity to work with beautiful jewelry in a great industry while serving our community!” – Annette Kinzie

 

I began working in the jewelry business for Mr. Leonard in high school and throughout my college years at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. After graduation, I worked for Everts Jewelers in Dallas, Texas before returning to OSU for my Master’s Degree. Once again I worked for Mr. Leonard’s store while pursuing my degree, and then moved to Baton Rouge to teach at LSU. During my time at LSU, I got engaged to a man who is now my husband, Kent. He was a business entrepreneur in Stillwater. After we announced our impending marriage and established our home in Stillwater, Mr. Leonard began talking to us about his retirement and his wishes for us to purchase Leonard Jewelry.

Sure enough, his wishes came true. In 1984, we bought the store, and we didn’t change the name. Mr. and Mrs. Leonard continued to work alongside us for ten years. This allowed Kent and I to further our jewelry education and travel overseas to purchase diamonds and gemstones. Those first years are some of our favorite memories. The nurturing time with the Leonards and their vast experience, allowing us amazing opportunities!

Annette Kinzie Leonard Jewelry Store

We love this business because it combines the opportunity to work every day with beautiful jewelry, to participate in a great industry, and to serve our friends, family, and community! With the rich heritage of our 53-year-old store and our continued zeal for the future of the jewelry industry, we feel blessed and honored to continue learning and growing!

My husband Kent and I use our personalities and strengths in different aspects within our store. His strengths are working the numbers, accounting, and inventory, while I am responsible for the buying, personnel, store layout and merchandising. My passion is for colored gemstones and custom design. While working side by side for over 30 years, having differing job descriptions keeps our marriage happier. Kent takes a very active role in our community, serving on many committees that promote growth and development. We both love and support our local agencies and organizations that are the backbone of our city and state.

A sample of exquisite designs by Annette Kinzie and the Leonard Jewelry Team

Five associates help to make our store unique in everything from our jewelry and watch repairs, custom design creations, specialized inventory of many one-of-a-kind color gemstones designs, and our Oklahoma State University collegiate jewelry collections. Each of our children also contributes their talents to our organization. Our son, a recent OSU graduate, is learning sales and design, while our daughter manages our social media and website.

Mr. Leonard founded Leonard Jewelry on jewelry and watch repair. We continue to strengthen this aspect of our business with new technology and customized offerings. Our repair and custom design shop utilizes both Matrix and CounterSketch as two options for creating jewelry. The support team from Stuller is awesome, offering tech information and hands-on learning. Although we have partnered with Stuller for many years, our associate that attended the CounterSketch training was thrilled with her learning experience. It’s been a great and valuable sales opportunity for our entire staff!The retail climate is always changing and new challenges affect our industry, yet we feel the future is bright! Being able to work with gorgeous gemstones, radiant diamonds, and fun personalities both from our staff and friends makes us excited to continue to embrace each day with grateful hearts!

Annette Kinzie, on left, with her husband Kent

Annette Kinzie Leonard Jewelry

The retail climate is always changing and new challenges affect our industry, yet we feel the future is bright! Being able to work with gorgeous gemstones, radiant diamonds, and fun personalities both from our staff and friends makes us excited to continue to embrace each day with grateful hearts!




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Feature Friday – Micah Harp

“Before every couples’ first home, first child, first anniversary, comes the ring he presents to her in a box with your logo on it.” – Micah Harp

 

I grew up in the jewelry industry. My grandfather started out doing watch repair in 1954, later opening his own jewelry store. My father also had a jewelry store in a small town for several years, so the industry is familiar to me. In 2001, my father unfortunately lost his job. I was a freshman in college and realized I needed to come home, get a job, and help with my family’s bills. I did just that and went to work part-time for a large jewelry company. One year later, I worked my way up to a management position. I worked for that company for six years in four different states.

In 2007, I took a leap of faith and went into business for myself. On November 23, 2007, I opened our first store in Texarkana, Texas! Since we wanted to use a family name and my last name was used for my grandfather’s business, we decided to title the business Micah’s Jewelers.

Since its inception, I’ve turned my entire business over to God! As I sat in my office in prayer one day, I realized that my store was not just a business, but a platform to show off God’s love. Since that day, our number one goal is to make sure every person who walks through our doors leaves knowing they just left a Christian-based business.

In fact, our faith-filled environment is something that sets us apart. The scripture Joshua 24:15, As for me and my house we will serve the Lord, is displayed on the front doors of both locations. We have other bible verses throughout the stores and in our cases, with Christian music playing at all times. Our stores have a casual feel; we want people to walk in and feel right at home. Our red walls have become one of our signatures and are something our customers remember.

Micah Harp Jewelers Custom Store Logo EngagementIt still amazes me that every couple’s love story starts right here on my sales floor, beginning with us as jewelers. Think about it — before every couples’ first home, first child, first anniversary, comes the ring he presents to her in a box with your logo on it. That’s pretty cool!

Along with bridal, many of our sales come from custom designs. I love creating new and custom pieces for our customers using their old, sentimental jewelry. There is no other jewelry more valuable than heirlooms, something precious handed down from a loved one.

As the Owner and Operator of Micah’s Jewelers, I take care of all the finances and help throughout the store where needed. I have an amazing staff of 11 associates between two stores who make my job easy! Still today, I love making sales. Building a relationship with my customers and continuing that partnership remains my favorite part of the job.

Twelve years ago, I married my best friend, Amanda. She is an amazing mother of our three daughters: Annabelle (11), Sadie (7), and Caroline (4). Amanda and they are my world. We are very involved in a local serving group called Christian Warriors. And I’m also the biggest Dallas Cowboys fan you will ever meet!

Micah Harp with his beautiful wife and daughters
Micah Harp Jewelers Family

My father’s side of my family has been in the jewelry business since 1954, and my grandfather did business with Matt Stuller since the beginning. He assured me when I went into business for myself that I had to have a Stuller account. And in addition to Stuller, social media and CAD systems have changed our business tremendously! Social advertising is free and effective. And though it’s difficult to stay on top of social media trends, the effort pays off. If you are not doing social media marketing, start now! Here are a few tips that Stuller offers.

We spend a lot of our time researching “the next big thing.” It’s tough but important to stay ahead of the game with new trends. We’re constantly trying to understand Millennials and overcome the challenges ahead.

Micah Harp, pictured right with his wife Amanda, and two associates
Micah Harp Jewelers Bridge Associates

My advice to all is this: Make as much money as you can. Save as much money as you can. Give as much money as you can. Pray about every business decision before you make it.


How would you like to showcase your business in our next Feature Friday post? Send us your info at blog@stuller.com for your very own Stuller Blog feature.




Feature Friday – Brandon Hill

“If you find something you’re interested in, get involved!” – Brandon Hill

 

As I prepared to finish college, I decided to sign up with a temp agency in an effort to give variety to my work experience. The very first place the agency sent me was the Distribution department here at Stuller in preparation for the holiday rush. Once the holidays were over, the manager of distribution offered me to stay in a newly created position. I quickly grew to enjoy working here, as I met new people and became interested in how the jewelry industry operated. So I gladly accepted the position and left the temp agency.

Within a couple years, I moved through a few different positions within distribution, ultimately becoming a team leader. During my last semester of college in pursuit of my Advertising degree, I sought an internship in a related field. I soon discovered Stuller’s Marketing department was planning to begin an internship program. I applied and was accepted! So for my last semester of college, I worked part-time as a Marketing intern, while still full-time in Distribution.

Go Team Stuller!
Brandon Hill Team Stuller

In Marketing, I reported directly to the PR Manager, who was leaving for maternity leave right as the internship ended. I was offered a permanent position working for her, taking effect immediately while she was out. Working in the PR arm of Marketing provided a unique opportunity to become involved in a variety of projects – from facility tours to video content to work on the From the Bench publications. These tasks specifically helped me to develop valuable project management skills, leading me to apply for my current position when it became available.

As the Catalog Project Manager, I oversee Stuller’s catalog production. This includes creating schedules based on due dates to the printers, facilitating the overall flow of information, and working with the Merchandising and Marketing departments. This means my days are filled with tracking progress and countless meetings.

Brandon Hill Stuller Marketing Christmas Party

My position is extremely rewarding. Though there is stress that comes from working with so many moving parts and different personalities on a project of this scope, it is incredibly satisfying to see the finished product. The process has increased my understanding of the jewelry industry and helped me to understand jewelers’ specific needs. And the best part is being able to incorporate that understanding into the next round of catalogs to make each one better than the last. I strive to improve everything from the design to the internal process of creating catalogs.

Producing a catalog is a group effort. In order to show so many associates my appreciation, I have started get-togethers after work after each catalog successfully goes to the printer. Nearly the entire Marketing department gathers to celebrate another successful project completed! Everyone seems to have a great time, and I’ve come to really appreciate this opportunity to show the team my gratitude.

Brandon Hill and his beautiful family
Brandon Hill Family Photo

Through catalogs, I’m able to give jewelers one of their primary tools, enabling them to find anything they need for their customers at the turn of the page. I’ve also noticed that the incorporation of customization software has made a huge impact on the industry. I was just starting here at Stuller as the company was beginning to develop this technology. It has been quite interesting to watch its growth!

Brandon Hill Eagle Scout Outdoors Adventure

Brandon Hill on an Eagle Scout Adventure

At this time, I have two boys – a 3-year-old and a 5-month-old. So I don’t do much of anything that doesn’t involve them these days. This means most evenings consist of peek-a-boo and Batman. I’ve been involved in Boy Scouting in one way or another since I was 12 years old. It’s a great program that has really helped to shape me into who I am today. In turn, I think it is important to give back and offer that same guidance to the youth today. I have recently become the Scoutmaster of my troop and spend much of my time on camping trips and other Scouting activities. I also really enjoy movies and especially like to hunt down older movies.

My advice to others is this: if you find something you are interested in, get involved! Most people will welcome you with open arms and the overall experience will benefit you in the long run. Also, when you hit a roadblock or new challenge, take a step back and really evaluate all your options before tackling any problem.

Get to know Brandon Hill in his Faces of Stuller feature

In case you missed it, check out the last Feature Friday post featuring Russell Brown of Brown’s Jewelers.




Feature Friday – Russell Brown

“My biggest tip to those in our industry: take pride in what you create.” – Russell Brown

 

Russell Brown Goldsmith Bench

Meet Russell Brown

At the age of 15, Russell Brown started in the jewelry industry with his father. In the early 80s, Brown’s dad bought jewelry from a family friend and began selling the gold at the Seminole Flea Market in Florida. Once he graduated high school, Brown opened another location at the Oldsmar flea market. After operating two flea market locations for a year or so, Brown and his father opened a jewelry store in Plant City, Florida in 1986. This is when Russell perfected the art of goldsmithing.

Opening a location in Plant City turned out to be the best thing for their business. Since both Russell and his father were Plant City natives, they had a built-in customer base. The two considered moving their business down the I4 corridor to Tampa, but soon realized they would miss their Plant City patrons. “I still have customers today that will come and tell me about the days when my father ran the store,” Russell tells. “It’s nice being able to hear the stories about him because it’s like a piece of him lives through Brown’s Jewelers.”

“My biggest tip to those in our industry: take pride in what you create.” – Russell Brown ⚒ Click To Tweet

Russell has always worked behind the scenes. When he and his father ran the store, he would work in the back on his bench, fixing repair jobs and creating new pieces. He loves benchwork and the opportunity it provides to express his creativity. As with most small business owners, each day brings about something new. Russell makes sure to help in all areas of the store, leading by example and showing his employees versatility with each passing day.

Russell Brown Jewelers Custom Design

A few custom pieces in the making

“I really enjoy what I do. I’ve always been artistic, but working with gold and silver is a completely different field,” Russell Brown says. “I like being able to make something from nothing and create jewelry others are proud to wear.”

After 35 years of jewelry-making, it seems like working in any other industry wouldn’t satisfy Russell’s creative needs. Like his favorite part about the job, for example – creating new, extraordinary pieces out of old unwanted items. “I get excited when my customers bring items they no longer wish to have and ask me to make them something completely new,” Brown explains. “It gives me creative freedom without any boundaries.”

Straying away from cookie-cutter styles is what makes Brown’s jewelers different from all the rest. We strive to offer superior service to our customers, exceeding their needs while setting our store apart from the competition. As the Goldsmith, Russell Brown makes sure to sit down with customers one-on-one to discuss their wants and expectations. He also continues to learn all he can about the field, ensuring his customers receive the most accurate information. By keeping them well-informed, customers seem to return time after time.

Over the years, the jewelry industry has changed greatly, but Russell has stayed true  to the trade by still creating items by hand. And while the laser welder has posed to greatest technical challenge to our store, this valuable tool has helped Brown’s Jewelers create custom designs and quality repairs more quickly.

Russell Brown Plant City Brown's JewelersTo keep up with Brown’s Jewelers, follow them on Facebook!


Did you like this jeweler feature? If you did, don’t stop reading! Find more featured jewelers here.




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Feature Friday – Bernard Jewelers

Bernard Jewelers Storefront Family

The Bernard Jewelers Team

At 18 years old and right out of high school, Bernard Mecherkany began apprenticing for a jeweler in the Jewelers Building in Boston. He loved the work and decided to pursue it further.

In 1989, Bernard became acquainted with Tewksbury, Massachusetts, a large town just outside of Boston, through a friend. He recalls that although there were other jewelers in the town, no one offered on-site repairs and custom work. “I liked it here and decided to start a family and establish the Bernard Jewelers brand here,” he says. We recently moved to our third location in town, allowing us to expand our inventory further, give ourselves more room to perform intricate jewelry repairs and create spectacular custom designs for our customers.

Quality and customer service are the bread and butter of any great business. We pride ourselves on offering a great experience to all who enter our store. Though anyone can compete with price, we strive to ensure our customers are more than happy with our services — whether they’re buying, selling, or repairing jewelry. Maintaining relationships with them is paramount to Bernard Jewelers; without excellent customer service, a business cannot thrive.

In our store, there’s something for everyone — from costume jewelry to diamonds and gold, bridal to fashion and inexpensive silver jewelry. New software programs like CounterSketch® allow us to virtually create any piece of jewelry while customers watch. It presents a life-like picture, so visitors know exactly what they’ll get before their purchase. We also offer insurance appraisals with an excellent independent gemologist who has worked in the industry for many years.

Bernard Jewelers Mother Daughter Gabi Suzan

Gabi and her mother, Suzan

Bernard takes as much pride in his quality workmanship as his wife, Suzan, takes in assisting customers to find just the right piece of jewelry to fit their needs and their pocketbook. This intricate weaving of teamwork and expertise has lead to great success. With Bernard, Suzan, and daughters Alex and Gabi onboard, we have a truly family-run business. Even our cats join us once a week; they enjoy coming almost as much as our customers love seeing them!

Using our state-of-the-art technology laser welder, we can repair just about anything, even eyeglasses! With repairs performed on-site, they remain an integral part of the business. Customers appreciate repairs done in-house, especially since Bernard himself performs them all. Thankfully, repair work is steady throughout the year. And as for technology, it’s changed our business for the better. In fact, from 1989 to 2016, Suzan performed all bookkeeping on paper. Her daughter Gabi finally convinced her to use the Edge® software for jewelers, which has been great for business!

The family’s daughters Alexandra, along with Gabrielle, both work full time in the store. In addition to other responsibilities, Alex came up with the idea of selling costume jewelry, so now she and Gabi run a special jewelry section in the store. Alex loves fashion and has a fashion blog on Instagram. Gabi, whose latest obsession is watching The Walking Dead, practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu. She enjoys working behind the computer, carrying out the store’s marketing, and photographing jewelry for the store.

Both girls plan to continue their education online with GIA and are the future owners of Bernard Jewelers. The girls’ first order of business once their parents retire: take off more days to go to the beach! Alex and Gabi both agree that creating special bonds is extremely important. “My favorite part of the business is the emotional connection we share with customers,” Alex says. “Like seeing someone cry tears of pure joy after we repair and refinish their late grandpa’s chain.”

Alex declares one of the main challenges of their business is overcoming the adage that the customer is always right. “Some customers are just difficult,” she says. “Some seem to come to us with a great entitlement, or crazy requests. But that’s all water off a duck’s back,” she assures!

 


Is your store an all family affair? Tell us about it in the comments below! And for another family business success story, read Sarah Bond’s Feature Friday post.




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Feature Friday – Lou Meinerz

Lou Meinerz Stuller Office Team

The office staff when I started at Stuller

I graduated with a service and hospitality degree, which lends itself to working in hotels and restaurants. After working in that arena for over 10 years, I moved to Lafayette to take on a Marketing position. More specifically, I was the personal assistant to a local family. When the business eventually closed down, I was on the job hunt and applied at Stuller. They said they had nothing to offer in the main plant however, there was a possible opportunity for me as the Personal Assistant to Matt Stuller. I interviewed, received the job, and love every minute of it 15 years later!

I’ve kept this same position all throughout my tenure, the only change being my move from the Ranch office to the main plant about eight years ago. It was at this time when Mr. Stuller made the decision to work directly from Stuller headquarters to oversee and assimilate a prime Executive team. I recently entered into my 15th year as the assistant to Matt and his family. I asked him if I could sign on for another 15 years, as it is a total joy to work for the Stuller family. (FYI – Matt said yes, so I pray I can hit 30 years!)

Each day, I have the pleasure of being Matt Stuller’s gatekeeper – you must get through me to get to him! It’s been rewarding to serve him, his wife and children to the best of my ability. This means I wear many hats over the course of a day or week, though I must admit, I love the costume changes and have learned flexibility through the years. Do not get me wrong. Flexible does not equal precision — for most know that Matt sets a high standard for himself and the company. Every aspect of Matt’s life is very detailed, so I strive for precision and poise as my ultimate goal on a daily basis.

Lou Meinerz Matt Stuller Mardi Gras Ball

Matt Stuller and me at a Mardi Gras Ball

One of my favorite memories happened when I began working for Matt. It took place at the former Ranch office located on Mr. Stuller’s personal property. During the first two weeks of work, Matt asked me to bring some documents to him at his home. I was so nervous to do this small task, as I had only spent a few days working for him and didn’t know much about him or his family. When I entered the house, Mr. Stuller was scrambling eggs on the stove for his two youngest children: Matthew (6) and Lauren (5). Shocked, I quickly realized he was just like every other Dad out there, loving his kids and making them a fun evening meal. But to top it off, he took the time to introduce me to both of the children. He explained that Mommy took care of Daddy when he was at the house, but Mrs. Lou was the person who takes cares of Daddy while he is in the office. I felt like part of the family and will never forget this warm welcome!

Gratitude keeps me going. My boss always takes time to thank me for my service, whether is it bringing him a cup of coffee each morning or going the extra mile to ensure that every detail is in place for an important trip. We may think we do not need a “thank you,” but when you hear those simple words it calms your spirit and lifts you up! In turn, I use that positive energy to perform my job in the best way possible. For example, when a call comes to Matt from a disgruntled customer, I do all that I can to efficiently connect them to the right person to best help with their situation.

Lou Meinerz Family Photo

My husband John, Maggie, and me

My words of wisdom are simple: understand that passion and God’s gifts sometimes go hand in hand. Once you learn what your God-given gifts/talents are, you will find total enjoyment in your career path by aligning the two. Personally, this took several years, as I did not accept the Lord into my life until I was about 36. But once I did, God’s path led me to my position as PA for Matt Stuller. Then I knew I was using my gifts to glorify God and do the best to care for the Stuller family behind the scenes.

On my own time, I love to organize, plan, create, network and partake in fun events and outings for family, girlfriends, couples, neighbors, co-workers — the list goes on. Life is about people, not stuff and I believe relationships developed along the way happen for a reason, so nurturing them is important!




CAD David Konkle Feature Friday Blog

Feature Friday – David Konkle

CAD DAVID KONKLE DESIGN

At my work area

The owner of Peter Franklin, Peter F. Ball, had been good friends with my dad growing up. Around May 2010, I heard he needed help with CAD drawings to meet the demand for more custom pieces. Having prior CAD experience, I helped out and quickly realized how comfortable I was with the system. Over the next three months, I did extensive training with our Matrix design program and also received the A.J.P through GIA. I now have over seven years in the jewelry industry.

I do all the custom CAD/CAM designs for Peter Franklin Jewelers’ three stores. I put together estimates of the work and give the quote to customers. Once our estimate is approved, we create a 3D drawing using the newest CAD technology so our customer can see a computer picture of their piece. Next, we create a wax model with our 4-axis Revo mill or our Perfactory 3D Micro Printer, so the customer sees the jewelry to scale. (We use the model for our lost wax casting method.) The 3D printer, which we’ve had since 2012, has changed the way we create pieces and has given us an incredible edge in the local industry. Along with the CAD work, I share responsibilities in our quality control department, checking jobs before they are filed for delivery to our customers.

CAD JERRY KISSNER GOLDSMITH

Our Master Goldsmith Jerry

Anyone who works in a small business knows that responsibilities are often shared. I mostly enjoy working in our shop area. The thrill of watching something come together captivates me and piques my interest daily. But I also enjoy working with our customers when needed to fully understand their vision for a finished piece. We also do a lot of trade shows and fundraisers, and I enjoy working those events too.

Once, we had a guest come in who wanted something special made for her daughter from her late father who passed away the previous year. We took a card he had written to her on her 18th birthday and put it into our CAD matrix program to trace his actual handwriting. Her mother chose to give her the message, “you always will be my proudest moment. Love Dad.” We put it onto a bracelet for her to wear every day. Needless to say, she cherishes that bracelet. You can’t really put a price on something like that. It makes what we do worth all the effort.

My favorite part of working in the business is that every day I have a new experience with something more to learn. One of my favorite memories is when a guy picking out an engagement ring and suddenly realized he was actually making one of life’s most important decisions. To be a part of such a powerful moment time after time is very exciting!

When I am not at work, I enjoy sharing time with my wife Darbi and our three beautiful daughters Daelyn, Deslyn, and Dellah. Before Peter Franklin, I was in healthcare and real estate. I still hold a building contractor’s license and am almost always working on a project, whether it’s building a house or remodeling. I’ve always had a creative side and love working with my hands, which is probably why CAD design came so naturally. I also hold a private pilot’s license and often fly around our area with family and friends.

CAD SHOP

Our CAD area in the shop

I feel that our shop sets us apart from others. Before we built our newest store about 13 years ago, our owners actually took a tour of Stuller’s shop area. We based our 6,000 sq ft shop on how they had theirs laid out. This has helped tremendously with how closely we can work with one another. We have five full-time goldsmiths on staff and the ability to do almost anything while a customer waits. If it’s the last-minute Valentine’s Day guy or the guy who wants a diamond set while he waits so he can propose that same evening, we can do it! I think it’s valuable having our shop available to complete repairs, and as a resource to our sales staff. We can answer questions customers have. Is it possible to repair a piece? Is it worth it?

Our state-of-the-art shop includes a laser machine, five fully equipped work benches, our mill and 3D printer, our wax injector, two furnaces and a vacuum caster. We have the ability to cast platinum with our induction spin casting machine and a whole lot more. We are continually updating our ability to fully service our customers and ALMOST NEVER have to say, “no, we can’t do that.” Plus, if we don’t have it in our shop, we can have it in as little as one day with the help of vendors like Stuller!

One of the primary challenges in our current jewelry climate is internet sales. The internet means many customers have the ability to inform themselves. So sales associate needs proper training to stay up to date on the current trends. To ensure a millennial customer feels secure in their purchase, we give them a lot of information and answer every single question they ask. We have many customers come in and wonder why the G, SI1 diamond without a grading report they saw on the internet is priced significantly less than the G, SI1 diamond with a GIA grading report in our case. When you’re well equipped to answer this question, tackling those closing hurdles becomes fun.

CAD amethyst design  CAD pear citrine design

Above all, the most important thing is our customers. The adage “the customer’s always right” has a lot of truth to it. Our customers essentially sign our checks and the happier they are, the more successful we will be. You’d be surprised to see how many people appreciate small gestures like a simple thank you card after a significant sale or a follow-up phone call after a repair. Those little gestures speak volumes to a customer. If I could sum up one tip or suggestion to my fellow jewelers, I’d say maintain the highest integrity.


Share your successes with Matrix® and CAD design in the comments below. Then, check out last week’s Feature Friday participant, Candace Ledet.