When you think of a small town family run jewelry store in today’s marketplace you might think of dark wood antique showcases filled with traditional, live merchandise and a bell over the front door. Or you might think of a contemporary setting with floor and wall coverings and showcases all designed to coordinate with light boxes featuring duratrans from the most current watch and jewelry brands offered for sale in the store’s showcases. Both will offer hometown friendly service mixed with years (or generations) worth of experience, training and expertise.
Now imagine a small town store, about 1200 square feet, with two generations of jewelers inside. The medium priced merchandise selection is 75% custom designed, but a large portion of the inventory is prototypes. Most every customer that shops in the store will spend time with a salesperson first looking at merchandise to narrow down the customer’s needs or wants, but then will move to one of the two computer stations, each with a large flat panel monitor. The sales person will open the store’s virtual showcase and work with the customer one on one to find exactly what the customer is looking for using a variety of “build it” programs.
You have just visited Artisan Jewelry in Sharpsburg, GA. This small town store, owned by Jerry and Tammy Northcutt, is all about utilizing technology to improve their sales and their bottom line. Daughter and recent GIA Graduate Gemologist Heather Northcutt Kutzman told SJN that, “technology has helped make our store profitable. We use our software and large screen monitors every day in the store to help make sales. We could not go back to doing it the old way.”
Tammy Northcutt has been in the jewelry business since her parents owned a pawn shop and she fell in love with the jewelry part of the business as a teenager. When she married her husband Jerry he worked for Delta Airlines, but loved the bench and working with the torch. Jerry couldn’t get the bench jeweler to train him, so he took some classes and began to train himself.
“I needed to get solder and researched who might sell it to me,” he recalls. “I called Stuller and spoke with a man who said I would need to have a store and have credit to buy from Stuller. I said I was just starting out and couldn’t they sell to me with my credit card. The man said how about a $300 credit limit, and that was the beginning.”
The couple opened their first store, Artisan Jewelry Company in Riverdale, GA in 1986. A Stuller salesman came to visit and Jerry, now on the bench full time, began to buy more and more tools and supplies.
The business did well until 1991 when Jerry, an ordained southern Baptist minister, moved his family to Geneva, NY to become the pastor of a church there. Heather spent her teenage years in upstate New York where the family experienced long winters. Jerry retired from the ministry in 1997 and the family returned to Georgia where Jerry worked as a contractor specializing in restoring old homes, and Tammy worked as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines. During that time, they continued to do trade work for other jewelry stores in the area.
In October of 2007 Jerry and Tammy decided to open a new store not too far from the original location, and called it Artisan Jewelry Company. “I realized I would never hurt my back picking up a diamond,” laughs Jerry.
With a degree in economics from Georgia Tech and four years of consulting experience, daughter Heather was asked if she would consider becoming a part of the business. Tired of constant travel and long hours, she began working in the store on Saturdays and after six months she was hooked and joined her parents full time in April of 2008.
Tammy Northcutt is the sales leader of the family. “My mother has the best interpersonal skills and has taught me much about selling,” says daughter Heather. The family and their two part time sales people (one a former customer who could not stay away) help clients come up with custom designs to create unique pieces using CounterSketch Studio by Gemvision. On a daily basis they use the Stuller Showcase which shows Stuller’s inventory and updates the (retail) prices daily to reflect current market prices. They rely on the Stuller Kiosk programs for their Kera bead builder bracelet sales and use the earring builder and the fashion gemstone kiosk for clients to create exactly what each customer is looking for.
The try-on feature in CounterSketch that allows the customer to see what her custom designed ring will look like on a model’s hand that resembles hers “usually seals the deal,” says Heather. This past February Heather attended training for Matrix 3D design software and she is currently working to implement it at Artisan.
When working with men looking for an engagement ring, the salesperson shows the client live and prototype merchandise, never making a distinction to one or the other, to narrow down what he may be looking for. “Most of the guys have a picture on their phone of what she likes and that helps too,” quips Heather. “Sometimes we might pull out catalogs next, but guys we have found don’t like catalogs, but love the computer. We go straight to CounterSketch and build a unique piece. The estimate for pricing is right on the screen.”
Once the design is chosen, they move to the Stuller Showcase for diamonds, Red Box diamonds. After going over the four Cs they begin selecting by size, clarity, etc. from the Stuller inventory and then schedule a time for the customer to return to see the three or four diamond options selected. “Often a customer will come in and sit with Jerry when he sets their diamond and the customers really like that,” Heather confided.
When Jerry and Tammy first started their business almost 30 years ago they would not have guessed that their first partner in business would years later be their number one supplier. “When I call out there to Stuller, I talk to my friends in most every department. They will say, ‘Jerry, I will walk this rush order to shipping for you’ and they are just loyal to me. If they don’t make a particular size for stock, they will make it for me and I know that I will be satisfied with the results. I count on Stuller for most of my needs.”
Jerry has other people he relies on as well - like Dominick, his Federal Express guy. “If he sees in the morning that I have an early deliver package, he runs his route backwards to get me that early. Same with Jeff my UPS guy. We are partners. At Christmas time I remember their loyalty to me and I make sure they know how much I appreciate them and they have a Merry Christmas.”
As recent new members of the American Gem Society, Artisan Jewelry Company knows the value of high ideals and standards the society demands. This family won’t have a problem keeping up with the AGS requirements; they live by the standards each day. And if the bridal couple with the custom designed ring the staff has helped design and deliver is lucky, ordained minister Jerry might even marry them as he has several couples in the last four years. Now that is what you call a full service jeweler.