34 RETAILER HALL OF FAME 2017 list just to get a special invite,” Cal- houn explains to National Jeweler. For the 2017 party, the store’s 13th annual celebration, 650 customers attended and many were turned away. The party kicked off around 7 p.m. so guests could watch the televised pre-show red carpet interviews. During commercials, partygoers enjoyed meatballs, a self-service sandwich station, and an open bar. Invitees also played Hollywood trivia games complete with prizes ($3,000 worth of Stroili jewelry at the 2017 event) while a live band performed. While no jewelry is sold at the party, sales do occur after the event. For example, some of the cupcakes on the dessert table featured baked-in gemstones like amethyst and citrine to help to drive customers back to the store for custom-made pieces. In the two weeks following the 2017 party, one attendee stopped into the store to discuss an engagement ring redesign. And a friend of another guest ordered a 2.01-carat Asscher-cut Crisscut diamond ring from Christopher Designs, which Calhoun chalked up to a “six-degrees-of-separation” sale. “I got a call from a friend in California who didn’t come to the party, but told his cousin about it,” says Calhoun. “Then the cousin, who also didn’t attend the party, ordered a ring from me simply because he heard that I threw this party.Y ou never know what’s going to snowball when people hear about it.” Beyond social experiences, other merchants achieve success through moves that are non-tra- ditional for jewelry-only stores. Specialty retailer Jamie, in Nashville, Tennessee, does well by selling fine jewelry, couture clothing, and manicures, all under one roof. The single-store operation functions as a lifestyle shop that puts together complete wardrobes for clients—oftentimes, specific ones. When store manager Hud Hudson purchased a Vera Wang dress three months ago, he had a certain local celebrity in mind. He texted her a photo of the dress along with a pair of $5,500 diamond drop earrings from Laurie Kaiser. The woman bought both. “She told me they were perfect for an upcoming occasion,” he recollects. STAY NIMBLE Another key to success is to be fast and flexible, an advantage independent retailers have over major chains. When operations are large, change doesn’t happen quickly (think of super-size Signet Jewelers, with more than 3,000 stores in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada). Smaller outfits, however, have an edge because there are fewer levels of bureaucracy to navigate. “The bigger you are, the harder it is to turn around,” notes WD Partners’ Peterson. Tara Silberberg of The Clay Pot in Manhattan and Brooklyn knows the value of elasticity firsthand. Last spring, she brought in lab-grown diamonds from the Dia- mond Foundry at the request of young shoppers in the market for non-mined gems. More recently, she helped a couple solve a different engagement ring dilemma. At the beginning of February, two women shopping for Her- cules knot rings to symbolize their commitment to each other wandered into Silberberg’s Brooklyn store. The couple asked a staffer for the style, but were bluntly told the store didn’t stock it. Within earshot, Silberberg quickly inter- vened to salvage the sale, and ultimately, tapped an existing vendor to make the rings. “I contacted a jeweler with whom I had previously worked on a custom job, and we turned that ‘no’ into a $7,000 yes,” she says. Here are 5 takeaways from the jewelers and experts interviewed for this story. 1.  Understand what “lifestyle retailing” is all about. Visit and learn from innovative retailers outside the traditional jewelry industry. Look at, for example, Urban Outfitters’ Space24Twenty in Austin, Texas, or Jamie in Nashville, Tennessee. 2. Challenge assumptions. Do the staff members with the most gemological knowledge and level of educa- tion always make the best salespeople? The answer is no; the two aren’t always linked. 3.  Host outstanding events. Pennsylvania jeweler Cathy Calhoun rents out a local, historic theater every year for an Oscars party complete with live entertainment, food and drinks, Hollywood trivia and cupcakes with baked-in gemstones. 4.  Be nimble and quick. New York retailer Tara Silberberg overheard a conversation in her store in which a sales- person was, essentially, telling two customers no. She intervened to save the sale and then tapped a jeweler with whom she’d just worked to custom-make what the customers wanted. 5. Stay humble. It’s 2017, and a lot has changed. It’s OK for even the longest-tenured retailers to admit that they don’t have all the answers, especially when it comes to social media or selling online. QUICK TIPS Every year, Cathy Calhoun rents out the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania for her über-popular Oscar party, which is complete with drinks, snacks and live entertainment (far right).