A number of retail jewelers have had the good fortune and timing to move locations into old bank buildings. Dominick Rodriguez and his wife Kim, co-owners of Romantique Jewelers, recently converted a small bank into an upscale standalone jewelry store and are taking full advantage of the built-in features including a sturdy walk-in vault and a drive-up window.
There’s a humorous coincidence that Dominick discovered the new location on a banking holiday. During a site scouting expedition in St. Louis County, Missouri, he found the old bank building on Martin Luther King Day 2023.
“On Martin Luther King Day, I was driving around looking at a few addresses and that’s when I saw the unmarked bank building,” says Dominick. “We knew it was a great location and opportunity. We decided to move quickly so no one else would snatch the property.”
Weeks later, Dominick and Kim hired Wilkerson to assist with a nine-week moving sale and officially opened the doors to their new store in early summer this year. The couple went from 3,000 square feet of space to 4,000. The gain of 1,000 square feet brought with it new products and services.
“We’re looking at expanding relationships with existing vendors and we’ve brought in Vahan which has been received well in the two months that it’s been here,” says Dominick. “From a service side, we are going to add to our bullion business as well as offer storage service with the vault boxes and a drive-up window for repair and merchandise pick-up.”
Dominick and Kim represent Gen 2.0 for Romantique Jewelers. Dominick’s father Dominick, Sr. started the family jewelry business in 1980 with the opening of the first location in Bridgeton, in the suburbs of St. Louis, after operating a trade shop in downtown St. Louis.
Like most men of his generation, when Dominick, Sr. became an adult there were a handful of options after graduating from high school: “Go to college, the military, or a job,” says Dominick. “My father found work with a jewelry manufacturer in New York City.”
Dominick, Sr. began working at the jewelry manufacturer in the early 1960s. His first job was in the casting room where he learned the essentials of jewelry making. Several years after joining the company, operations were moved to St. Louis. Dominick, Sr. went where his job took him. Within a year the company relocated again, but this time Dominick, Sr. stayed put. In 1972, he opened his own trade shop and wholesale business.
“His credentials were experience in the trade shop/wholesale business and the school of hard knocks,” says Dominick.
Dominick, Sr.’s choice of a store location was as matter-of-fact as his retail jewelry experience. There was a new strip mall close to home and that worked for him. “My father started with a full line, mid-level store with jewelry, some gift items, gold, and watches.”
In the early years, Dominick, Sr. manufactured much of the jewelry he sold. As the store got its footing in the Bridgeton market and its customer base expanded, the trade shop operations continued to help fill display cases, while goods from new vendors and casting companies allowed Dominick, Sr. to go deeper and wider with inventory.
Eventually Dominick began working side-by-side with his father. He did the usual store owner’s kid work of sweeping, cleaning equipment, polishing, and a host of other “gofer” tasks. As a teen, Dominick’s duties transitioned to those of more responsibility. But the real jeweler work happened when Dominick returned to the family business after college.
“I thought I wanted to be an architectural engineer,” says Dominick. “After two semesters of that I decided to transfer into the business school. At the time, it made sense to come back to St. Louis and finish my degree and work in the business at the same time. After graduation I began managing buying, selling, and computerized the store.”
Dominick married his wife Kim, and they had two kids. Eventually Kim worked at the family jewelry store. Time passed and Dominick, Sr. was ready for a change. He semi-retired in 2016 and Dominick and Kim became co-owners of Romantique Jewelers.
With a business degree and mind to match, Dominick, along with Kim, knew the potential for the family business to reach new heights with the right expansion plans. Six years after taking over the store from Dominick, Sr., the couple approached another jewelry store owner looking to sell his business in late 2022. Ultimately the proposed transition didn’t pan out.
That’s when Dominick started scouting building sites and discovered the old bank building. Dominick and Kim are settled in their new store, but there’s still much work to be done. Chief among these tasks is making sure old customers know about the new store location.
“We are hammering away with social media, we’ve sent postcards to our existing customers and are getting ready to drop a different card to new prospects around our new location,” says Dominick. “We also have a couple of grand opening events in the works.”
For the customers that have already visited the new Romantique store, they like the location and the “spacious feel,” according to Dominick. And for the industrious storeowners: “We like the location, the fact that we are in a standalone building, space to move, and most of all, the chance to take our business to the next level,” says Dominick.