Rent or mortgage payments are among a retail jeweler’s top-three expenses each month. Looking at ways to better manage that large monthly outlay has turned many jewelry store owners into real estate investors and experts. Ty Cooper, owner of Tiffin, Ohio-based Jeffrey Jewelry, is one of those.
In 1997, Ty and his late father Charles Cooper (died in 2014) decided they had enough of renting at the store’s former location on West Market Street. Jeffrey Jewelry opened its doors in 1946. Since the early 1970s, Ty’s father did much to grow the business over two decades by bringing in a watchmaker and a goldsmith as part of an on-site shop expansion. By the late 1990s, the father-and-son team had outgrown their store and were ready to make a move.
But not just any move. Small measures typically don’t yield big results. Ty and Charles didn’t just want to build their own store. They wanted to build the strip mall where Jeffrey Jewelry would call home for many years to come – perhaps even generations to come.
When contemplating the move 25 years ago Ty and his father felt “land-locked” at the West Market Street location. That location had sentimental value for the family business. In 1975, Charles came to Jeffrey Jewelry and three years later purchased the business. But clinging to sentiment isn’t a sound business decision.
Similar to other jewelry store locations and relocations across the country, the Cooper family set up shop where business thrived. Upon its opening in 1946, the downtown area was the hub of the town. Decades later, The San Mar Center on West Market Street was showing signs of healthy commerce.
By the end of the 1990s, the Tiffin area was proving to be a very lucrative location to not just run a jewelry retail business, but to build a strip mall with like-minded business owners. “The west side of Tiffin was our choice location based on all the car dealerships, grocery stores, fast food restaurants and traffic already established,” says Ty.
As the builders of Wolf Creek Plaza, Ty and Charles took the prime center location. The strip mall has nine storefronts. Jeffrey Jewelry has a footprint of 4,000 square feet. The largest store in the strip mall is roughly 11,500 square feet.
Before making it official and breaking ground on the project Ty and Charles wanted to make sure there were some solid anchor stores in the strip mall. It was more than just having reliable tenants, the Coopers wanted to establish a certain retail feel to the developing area.
“We have a few amazing ‘neighbors’ that help create a ‘big city’ shopping experience in a small town [population 18,000],” says Ty. “All nine store fronts are occupied.”
The Cooper’s strip mall neighbors include a Goodwill consignment store, an Edward Jones office and a Legacy Federal Credit Union. Alongside these well-known names are small local businesses including Threads (a clothing boutique), Tangles (hair and nail salon), and B & K Home Medical Supplies.
Traffic-drawing neighbors to Wolf Creek Plaza include big box stores (Lowe’s home improvement store) familiar fast food establishments (McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Buffalo Wild Wings to name a few), as well as a CVS store plus local hospitals.
By all measures the investment in building the mall, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with good retail neighbors, and a location in a developing community, have paid off for the Cooper family business.
The successes Ty, his store manager Ray Wise and their staff are experiencing were built in to the business, in both figurative and literal terms. Ty and Charles hired a contractor that specialized in jewelry stores. The contractor created a “nook” for the store’s main vault.
When the buildout was complete it was time to usher changes the store’s customers could see and benefit from, including a range of new inventory and customer-friendly services. “We added Lladro figurines, Waterford Crystal, several new bridal lines and ultimately Rolex,” says Ty.
Securing a premier watch brand to accompany a suite of notable timepiece brands (Tissot, Citizen and SEIKO to name a few), plus bridal lines, and adding fashion collections were all positive growth changes. But the younger generation had some ideas for sales expansion. Ty’s daughter suggested the store tap into the Forever Jewelry trend.
“In early 2022, I started hearing more about it and started getting requests from my clients,” says Ty. “It is basically choosing a style of chain in gold, silver or gold-filled to be ‘zapped’ permanently onto your wrist, ankle, neck or even finger. It’s a great ‘bonding’ gift for mothers/daughters, bridesmaids, best friends, etc. It also creates an experience, which is what we credit most of our success to. It’s nice that they start at $30 – a price point everyone can handle.”
All work and no play can make a retail jeweler dull. That’s why when the business of building their business reached a certain level of success, Ty and Ray decided to build a new bar to celebrate their 25th anniversary in the Wolf Creek Plaza location.
Dubbed the Gold Bar, Ty and Ray invested in a triple kegerator. This allows the staff to serve patrons more than one draft beer at a time. “We’ve teamed up with three local micro-breweries to help service the bar,” says Ty.
Nothing beats a cold beer for most. But Ty wanted to up the game a bit with his Gold Bar’s own brand of bourbon. “We basically partnered with a bourbon we like, and store and serve it in our personalized five-gallon oak barrel,” says Ty. “The customers love it.”
As 2023 begins, Jeffrey Jewelry sees another milestone anniversary in the coming years – the store’s 80th anniversary in 2026. “With Jeffrey Jewelry entering its 77th year, we hope to continue to grow, be able to provide fantastic customer service and potentially make way for a third generation to continue our legacy,” says Ty.