Food preparation analogies aren’t part of the mainstream retail jewelry sales lexicon, but it is for the Kinney brothers. When Adam and John Kinney decided to open a jewelry store together they decided it would be best to sell jewelry “the way we cook,” says Adam. For first timers just starting out the correlation made perfect sense. In short, don’t over buy on the ingredients, be careful not to waste time and resources over-preparing and serve up the goods with the customers’ tastes in mind.
In 2006, the Kinney brothers opened J.A. Jewelers in Farmington, New Mexico. With the help of some support staff, they opened the doors with three display cases filled with jewelry. The guiding philosophy of “take care of the community and they’ll take care of you” allowed Adam and John to quickly take root as homegrown, hometown jewelers people could trust.
Two years later the Kinney brothers moved into a larger retail space where they continued to grow sales while developing their business. As vendors became strategic partners, custom work and repairs evolved to be a definitive part of sales, and the customer base expanded, the Kinney brothers decided to buy their own space in 2022. Despite the well-known challenges related to COVID shutdowns, eventually Adam and John, along with their staff, hosted a hugely profitable moving sale. And, their loyal customer base followed them.
Going it alone as a first-timer is challenging. Adam and John were fortunate they had each other. Timing and opportunity also played a key role in the brotherly alignment. Adam graduated from New Mexico Highlands University with a degree in business management and a minor in finance. As with all newly-minted graduates Adam urgently needed gainful employment.
“After graduation I was engaged,” says Adam, who is four years younger than John. “I needed a job and figured if John could do jewelry, so could I.”
And with that notion and his Highlands education, Adam began working for Crescent Jewelers. At this stage of Adam’s fledgling jewelry career timing was not on his side. He started working for the jewelry chain store just as the company was filing for bankruptcy protection. Despite Crescent Jewelers operational and finance issues, Adam still had plenty of opportunities to learn retail jewelry essentials while establishing industry contacts and fostering key vendor relationships.
Meanwhile, John secured a job with Zales as well as independent jewelry stores. Similar to Adam, John knew the value of networking. Over the years John also established strategic alliances with vendors and developed collegial relationships with other retail jewelry store-owners. Stuller’s Bridge events facilitated many retailer introductions. When it came time to open their own store these relationships proved to be essential for an easier start.
“The real success for us was the relationships John and I had built over the years doing jewelry retail,” says Adam. “Without them starting out would have been extremely difficult.”
The other benefit of going into business with a sibling is the inherent knowledge of the other person’s innate personal attributes. Along with the work experience and educational background, the key to success in working with a family member is assessing strengths and overcoming weaknesses, assuming tasks based on those assessments, working in tandem, and then learning from each other. Adam and John were fortunate enough to have the personal and professional mind-sets, as well as the willingness, to make this happen.
And, with siblings as business partners there is tremendous trust and latitude that other partnerships can’t touch. “Adam is not only my brother, but my best friend,” says John “And, that it’s our combined reputations that are behind the name on the store. We’re brothers first, and then it’s the store.”
Additionally, as siblings Adam and John know one another through and through. This lends itself to a tremendous level of transparency and zero business ego clashes. Their combined talents, personalities, skill sets and educational backgrounds dovetail nicely. In the beginning, each recognized their strongest attributes and leveraged them towards success.
Over time, they learned from each other and have even come to “manage” one other. This has been huge in keeping channels of communication open to discuss store management essentials while growing the business and managing expectations.
Given John’s work experience in a number of retail jewelry settings, he has earned the moniker of “the Swiss Army knife” of many talents – chief among them customer service. Adam is the numbers and finance guy, plus has his own skill set from his years in retail jewelry sales. Together the Kinney brothers have enjoyed a lot of successes, but have also faced many challenges – the COVID shutdowns and the terrible timing of the pandemic topping the list.
Adam and John moved into their second location in 2008, just two years after opening their doors. Thirteen years later they were ready to make a move after diligently saving money for years in anticipation of owning their own store. Then COVID hit. To further complicate matters a local jeweler was practically giving jewelry away during a going-out-of-business sale.
“It almost sank us,” says John.
Through special financing and strategic partnerships with vendors, Adam and John kept their staff going while maintaining their loyal customer base. Competitors dropped out of the market which allowed J.A. Jewelers to weather the storm and then flourish.
“We hit a stumbling block, but that was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made,” says Adam. “Had we closed we would’ve missed out on that year being a record year, followed by the next two record sales years. It was a re-focus and realignment that made us more dedicated to our craft and more focused on customers. And with the loss of the competition came market share because of our reputation and branding.”
Marketing is Adam’s thing. He often jokes that if the jewelry store didn’t make it he would have gone into advertising. The Kinney brothers have always kept a constant marketing presence in their market with a combination of traditional mediums (radio and print) combined with digital and social media. But their moving sale in 2022 was an advertising push that set the gold standard for market saturation. In the latter portion of 2021 Adam and John contacted Chuck Frey of Charles Frey & Company, to help them with the logistics behind the moving sale.
“They walked us through the process,” says John. The moving sale not only met projections, it exceeded them. “They were just a phenomenal company to help,” says John. “We definitely couldn’t be where we’re at without the partnership, and they were one that we are very blessed to have crossed paths with.”
The Kinney brothers have their own home now. And, a retail store wouldn’t be a home without their mother present. “Our mother works with us and is at every store event,” says Adam. “I used to joke that now I get to pay our mother an allowance… Joking aside, she’s become an essential part of the team.”