Marisa Perry, New York
THE OWNERS: Steve, Nicholas and Jordan Brown; URL:onceuponadiamond.com; BASED: 1912; FEATURED LOCATION OPEN: 2008; RENOVATED: 2015 ; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN: Nicholas Brown, Jordan Brown; REGION: 2,650 square foot showroom; 3,400 square feet in total; BEST BRANDS: CrownRing, Noam Carver, Supreme Jewelry, pre-owned Rolex, Almor Design; CONSTRUCTION COST: $250,000
HHAVING A PRACTICAL APPROACH means different things to different business owners, but for the Brown family, “hands-on” can be taken literally.
Steve Brown and his sons, Jordan and Nicholas, designed and renovated the interior of their building, created their own website, did their own buying, merchandising and presentation, and managed all other aspects of their operation without, until present, no employees.
“We designed and built most of what you see with our own hands,” says Jordan Brown. Both Jordan and Nicholas Brown have degrees in architecture and all three owners, including their father, Steve, have construction experience.
They transformed a building that had previous lives into a convenience store, fast food restaurant, pet store, and cube-divided office building. The Browns did all the interior work themselves, but hired a contractor to make sure the exterior met building codes when they built a second story, put down a new roof, stuccoed it and repainted it. . They also enlarged the main entrance to install a double door.
Inside, they dismantled cabins, demolished and rebuilt a bathroom (taking turns hammering) and leveled the floor.
“It was a total makeover,” says Jordan. “We worked all day, then from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. or 11 p.m. or midnight, we would come here and work. But I love doing stuff like that, creating and building; we all do. There is the freedom to do whatever we think. And if it breaks down and collapses, it’s also our fault.
They used their creative license to give the store a split personality. The exterior is modern and sophisticated with a black and white color scheme. Inside, it’s dynamic, bold and shimmering, rendered in tones of gold, redwood and charcoal gray. “The burst of excitement and color inside makes you want to walk around and explore,” says Jordan. “Most people say it’s beautiful and they didn’t expect it.”
Half of the store is filled with natural light, while the other half is a frame of controlled artificial light, so the spaces provide varying degrees of shade and light for viewing the gallery.
The Browns wanted a gallery-style space, rather than the classic jewelry experience of peeking into cases. “I’ve always loved going to museums and having that space for myself to stand and look at the wall space, walk around looking at artwork on the wall. I wanted customers to have time for themselves as if they were in a museum space,” says Jordan. The majority of showcases are recessed directly into the wall. They are crafted in reflective black acrylic with larger and smaller viewing windows surrounded by carved red mahogany stained wood trim and hand applied gold Venetian plaster.
The brothers earned their degrees in architecture during the Great Recession and the housing crisis, so it was difficult to find jobs in their field of study. But the family had a jewelry background, and Steve had returned to that craft around 2001, when he started selling jewelry online. It was natural for the brothers to join him in business.
“I’ve always loved the jewelry business, as has Nick,” says Jordan. “Architecture is definitely my passion. It’s weird to think about what we would bring to the architecture table, but I learned Photoshop, organizational skills, and structural skills, and I think of jewelry as small-scale architecture. We use our knowledge to design all aspects of the business, from packaging to website, store and jewelry. We had to play with CAD to design the store. »
Steve had taken a detour from the family tradition of jewelry when he became interested first in opening a guitar store and later in horse racing, a pursuit that brought the family to Shreveport, LA . When he returned to jewelry, he recognized that e-commerce was on the verge of explosive growth. When his sons joined the business, they took over the internet side while Steve focused on growing their first physical store.
Getting a jump on e-commerce has paid off. Nearly half of sales revenue comes from online, and they sell across five channels, including their website, eBay, Etsy, Ruby Lane and Chrono24. “By providing this access to our business from multiple avenues, we are able to take chances on more unusual pieces that may better match the tastes of other places,” says Jordan, who tags all the places he is. shipped on a large map of the world installed in his office.
“My biggest dream was to travel, and the next best thing is to sell to different people all over the world,” he says. “Each piece is a chance to meet someone new.”
“It’s interesting to see what kind of pieces go where. A lot of the rooms are weird and unusual and not really to Shreveport’s taste, I don’t think. But we can sell coins across the world and not just wait and hope someone from that region buys them. Because the pieces we love are the ones that are really out of the ordinary. Some pieces that we thought we could sell here are selling elsewhere and vice versa. Domestic sales were very low when we first closed (for COVID), but I’ve sold internationally to odd places like Japan, Germany, and the Isle of Man.
Often there is a dialogue with online buyers, but sometimes not. Jordan sold a pair of earrings online for $50,000 without discussion; his father’s record is an $80,000 pair.
But discussion and even negotiation are encouraged.
“I let them make an offer because everything is negotiable. This option to make an offer creates that kind of dialogue to start a conversation,” says Jordan. About 70% of online shoppers bid online, but 30% simply buy the part at list price. “We try to be fair with the prices,” says Jordan. “We want the pieces to find a home and want our name to come out; we want loyal customers.
Online shoppers might ask, “Can I see this on a model?” When that happens, Jordan asks his girlfriend to come over and model the part. He is hesitant to post photos of models with each piece in stock because he says this request is a way to start a dialogue.
Five cool things about Once upon a time there was a diamond
1. They are flexible. “We all wear a lot of hats,” Jordan says. “My father takes care of payroll, purchases and sales. My brother takes care of the books and does internet sales and packaging, as well as in-store sales. I mainly work on Internet sales, but I do in-store sales. I love packaging and shipping, photography and website work. We all have a say in displays, but my dad really enjoys doing it; it’s his favorite part. We all seem to do what we have to do when it has to be done.
2. What’s in a name? They didn’t want to be brown jewelers, especially on the internet. “We wanted something different that was also easy to remember if you wanted to shop online,” says Jordan. Focusing primarily on selling fine jewelry and rare collectibles, Steve felt the company name should evoke a particular feeling or fantasy. “Once Upon A Diamond” was born to remind everyone of their personal fairy tale and that maybe a piece of it could be found in store.
3. Origin story. The family’s first pawnshop and jewelry store, Brown’s Loans, was founded in 1912 in Council Bluffs, IA by Nellie Brown. It was passed down to his two sons, George and Melvin, in the late 1940s. Melvin ran the shop with his brother and also mentored his only son, Steve, to one day take over the business as a third generation. .
4. Best performer. In 2016, eBay’s Once Upon a Diamond store was chosen by eBay Mainstreet to represent the state of Louisiana in Washington DC, as it was recognized as one of the state’s top sellers.
5. The right attitude. “Working as a family? It’s funny. You thought you knew someone, then you really get to know someone when you’re in business,” says Jordan. “But you can’t be too upset because you want to fix the problem.”
PHOTO GALLERY (16 PICTURES)
- Hugo Kohl: Impressed with the quality of their internet presence. The family history and intense involvement with the showcase is incredible.
- Ruth Mellergaard: Their social networks are very friendly. The exterior of the store is charming and serene.
- Michael O’Connor: A well thought out story and a great design theme. Really enjoyed the website experience and accessibility of information.
- Jeff Prine: Good use of social media to reinforce breadth of merchandise offerings. I love the practicality of the store design and the owners use of their architectural background. Impressed with the ability of store owners to anticipate their customers’ needs, especially the ‘make an offer’ aspect, which encourages customers and lessens the intimidation factor that many jewelers encounter with high end merchandise.
- Jennifer Shaheen: The store is very eclectic. There seems to be something for everyone. This would be where I would go if I was looking for something unique. They do a good job of posting different content on different digital outlets.
Try that: Online elevation
Offering online e-commerce across multiple sales platforms has allowed the Browns to reach audiences around the world. Overall, they offer a two-week return policy and free same-day shipping unless the part needs to be modified. They also wrap each piece and include a handwritten thank you card sealed with a real wax stamped seal. “We try to bring the store to them,” says Jordan.