(Louisiana Jeweler)

LaPearlite-Map

A few months ago, Anne Dale treated her customers to a night of Belgian-style socializing, complete with waffles, beer and enough wine and cheese to keep them floating through her Mandeville, La., jewelry store until 1:30 in the morning. Then they treated her right back—by purchasing the diamonds she brought back from Antwerp and turning the evening into one of the year’s biggest successes. “Because I’m a first-generation Louisiana jeweler, I can do things like that. Nothing is set in stone,” says the GIA graduate and FGA gemologist, who recently uprooted her 10-year-old jewelry business in LaPlace, La., to relocate to swankier digs in Mandeville, an upscale community on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, directly across from New Orleans. “I could never have done anything like that in LaPlace.” That’s because the move, which involved changing homes, schools and local affiliations, took her from a blue-collar, “river parish” dominated by the petrochemical industry to a well-manicured bedroom community of 12,000, known for having the highest per capita income level in the entire state. Now, instead of specializing in 50% discounts, Dale proffers $16,000 strands of South Sea cultured pearls in a brand-new, 2,500-square-foot store that, before Christmas, held over a million dollars’ worth of inventory. “There was nothing wrong with our business, but we had reached our plateau,” says the 37-year-old mother of three who runs the store with her husband, Mike, and five employees. “We knew exactly what people were going to buy. I wasn’t feeling challenged enough. I couldn’t sell a red spinel or a blue garnet in LaPlace. It was a trendy, shotgun market: ‘Give me what’s in and give it to me at the best price.'” In her new location, which opened on the day before Mother’s Day, Dale finally has a chance to put her five years of experience as the American representative for the Gemmological Association of Great Britian to work. On that note, she renamed the store Anne Dale Jeweller, spelling it with the double L in order to emphasize her European training and using her full name to highlight that the store is owned by a woman. “I find that a lot of people really appreciate a woman’s touch,” she says, adding that she sprays men’s cologne throughout the store to encourage her female customers to linger as long as possible. But getting them there in the first place has required a marketing blitz that’s made Dale one of the most familiar faces in town. She joined the Rotary Club, Professional Women, Habitat for Humanity and the Italian Gourmet Society. She’s advertised in the Times-Picayune, movie theaters and local schools, where she gives talks on gems and minerals. When she’s invited to functions, Dale brings along two models dressed in head-to-toe black and draped in her jewels. The promotions, however, don’t end when people set foot in the store. “I get on my employees like gravy on rice to approach the customers and offer them beverages,” she says. “I have a girl in the store who sings professionally and I can’t tell you how many times she’s sung to customers.” Dale is also religious about noting her customers’ birthdays and anniversaries. “I have a girl who strictly sends out cards. It’s a lot of work, but that’s what it takes to establish a business.” Source – National Jeweler