With Waterfall in the name of a jewelry store, a hydroelectric powered car charging station nicely reinforces the brand. Mark Ettinger, co-owner of Waterfall Jewelers and Gemologists, opted for the more practical than coal-fired energy source when he installed a charging station for customers with electric vehicles.
Mark is a third generation jeweler. His family has served the community since 1979 and counting. With two store locations (Waterford and White Lake) in the southeastern portion of Michigan, Mark and his family know the communities they serve well.
In addition to identifying trends in jewelry, Mark and his family have also tracked evolutions in other aspects of their customers’ purchasing power: Electric vehicles are gaining popularity among Waterford’s roughly 75,000 citizens.
Years ago Mark purchased a hybrid. It offered fantastic mileage and was economical for his commuting needs. In the spring, Mark decided it was time to give customers who drive electric vehicles the opportunity to top them off while shopping for jewelry or items serviced at his Waterford store.
“We are always trying to look forward with trends both in the jewelry industry and other trends that our customers want,” says Mark. “And, we’re always looking for ways to add value to everything we do here at Waterfall Jewelers. Providing a free charging station for our customers was an easy decision.”
The decision may have been easy, but it took some planning and logistics to make it all happen. From idea to completed project the charging station took about three months to complete. And, as Mark and his staff discovered, the deeper they dug into the project the more it mushroomed on them.
“At first, we wanted to go with a high-speed supercharger,” says Mark. “We originally looked at Tesla and other high-speed direct-current chargers. But they needed a service voltage to the building of 420 volts and we only had 240 volts. The cost to change the service drop and the extra cost of the chargers was not feasible.”
Determined, Mark did additional research to learn more cost-efficient options. He found that Level 2 chargers are fairly standard and have support networks with apps that are integrated into these stations.
ChargePoint and its network offered Level 2 chargers that provided upwards of 30 amps. And, owning and operational incentives through ChargePoint, the local utility company (Detroit-based DTE Energy for Mark’s store) as well as Federal government tax incentives took this decision from good to great.
Mark decided to assign two parking spots with access to the charging station. It is clearly labelled as dedicated parking. Some customers, however, with traditional internal combustion vehicles park in these spots. “But there has never been an issue with someone waiting for the charger,” says Mark.
With the equipment selected, it was time to hire a contractor. Mark went to a trusted electrician of many years and he got to work. The store’s electrical panel could handle the extra load that comes with charging an electric vehicle or two. The distance from the charging station to the circuit breaker panel required the electrician to run a fair amount of wire through the store.
Mark knew it wouldn’t take long for the front-end costs to pay off. The ChargePoint unit itself was $7,200. Each year Mark pays a $500 network fee. And, the electrician charged Mark $4,800 for the work to install the unit. The total bill for the first year of operation will be $13,000.
It’s a big number for sure, but DTE Energy will give Mark a $5,000 credit and the Federal government also offers him a 30 percent tax credit. “The unit will cost virtually nothing after the DTE credit and the tax credit is used,” says Mark.
Mark could also assign hours of operation for the charger to coincide with the store hours. But he keeps the charging station accessible 24/7, a decision that may change at some point in the future. For now, Mark offers the charging station as a customer and community service.
“It’s roughly $2 for 30 minutes of charging,” says Mark. “And, according to the ChargePoint app, there are other charging stations in town, but not any that are really close by.”
As hybrids and electric vehicles become increasingly popular, Mark is enjoying the caché of being one of the first businesses in town to have a charging station. He received some local media attention and customers, both electric vehicle drivers and otherwise, think the charging station is “pretty cool,” according to Mark. “Overall the feedback has been positive.”
Mark’s charging station has been operational since July 12. From then through early September roughly 25 people used it. To bring attention to the new added-value service, Mark and his staff posted a promotional notice on Facebook. The first customer to use the charging station would receive a $25 gift card.
“We put that posting up on July 13,” says Mark. “Someone used the charging station and got the gift card within three hours.”
So far the charging station hasn’t had any direct link to big sales. One existing customer who drives an electric car used the charging station and “purchased a nice set of diamond earrings,” says Mark.
For Mark and his staff, it’s more about customer service and the range of services that come with this refrain from essential retail. Plus, at this stage of the evolution of vehicles, Mark definitely likes the cool factor of being the only jeweler in town with a charging station. And, it’s always good when positive aspects of a retail jewelry store can create some word-of-mouth buzz in the market it serves.