Amor Jewelry, Brooklyn, New York
THE OWNERS: Zalman and Simcha Minkowitz; Url:www.amorfinejewelry.com; BASED: 2012; OPEN FEATURED LOCATION: 2018; ARCHITECT: Iris Shemesh; REGION: 720 square foot showroom; 1,200 in total; BEST BRANDS: Shy creation, Gabriel & Co., Nava Dee, Marika; CONSTRUCTION COST: $ 180,000
WHEN NEW YORK shut down what the state considered non-essential businesses in mid-March 2020, Zalman and Simcha Minkowitz, facing a COVID-19 outbreak in their neighborhood, had already decided to temporarily shut down Amor Fine Jewelry.
But the timing was terrible, says Simcha – just before Passover, the biggest gifting occasion of the year for the Jewish community. “You can make an insane amount of sales in a week,” she says. “That’s why last year was such a big success for everyone.”
Creative and determined, the Minkowitzes have geared their businesses towards Facebook Live sales, video meetings, FaceTime calls, and online auctions. “I would try on the jewelry and show it to people,” says Simcha. Auctions became so popular last year that she would like to continue them after the pandemic.
Yet this way of doing business was far from ideal, and in mid-May the shutdown began to seem unfair to Zalman and Simcha, who saw people shopping for non-essentials at big box stores. while hearing stories about the plight of friends, so did small business owners, who struggled to feed their families.
“We put all of our heart and soul into the business to support our family as best we can,” she says. “When they asked us to close our doors during our busiest season, we did everything we were asked to do. But it was hard to look around and see Walmart open and wonder why I can’t be trusted to open my door for one customer at a time.
Simcha shared his concerns and frustrations in a video that went viral, urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow small businesses to reopen. She founded a coalition of petitions, called Reopen New York, and joined 500 other companies in a class action lawsuit against the state. This was followed by a rally in front of the Statue of Liberty, which aired on ABC and CBS, as well as two interviews on Fox News.
“We also received a lot of good feedback from people trying to feed their families,” says Simcha. “Small business owners contacted us. And I had people from all over America calling me to buy from me. We didn’t do it for ourselves, but we really had a lot of support.
Despite the state’s continued ban, Amor Fine Jewelry, along with other members of the coalition, began opening their doors for dates.
The year had been particularly frustrating for the couple, as they had opened their dream store shortly before the pandemic, at the end of 2018, after years of considering such a move.
How it all began
As a child, Zalman had watched with interest his father selling diamonds and jewelry from the family dining room table.
At 21, returning from his yeshiva studies abroad, he asks his father if he can work in his magnificent new showroom, now located in the family garage. When his father said he couldn’t afford to pay him a salary, Zalman vowed to create his own by turning the small family business into a brand built on honesty, quality and exceptional customer service.
After nine years of working with his father and improving the shopping experience, Zalman and Simcha tested the entrepreneurial waters by opening a seasonal boutique in upstate New York, open in July and August. As their clientele grew, so did their confidence.
Their next decision was to leave the family business to open their full-time store in the community of Borough Park in Brooklyn, a center for New York’s Orthodox Jewish community.
They brought a complete wish list to their architect, Iris Shemesh.
“Since we’ve been in the industry for 18 years, we had a lot of things we liked and didn’t like about jewelry stores,” says Simcha. “I don’t like the great outdoors; people can get lost. If they have to look around, it’s too hectic. We prefer small, organized collections.
Overall, the design of the compact space is clean and minimalist with a no-frills white wall and one accented with eye-catching wallpaper. The showcases are sleek and clean, with a residential look, to create a visual space below them. Simple glass boxes sit on carefully selected jewelry displays.
Their seasonal store in upstate New York has a large storefront; Simcha had noticed that when vendors stare at passers-by, window shoppers often become uncomfortable and walk away, instead of lingering on drooling on jewelry.
So, in the Brooklyn store, they created window displays that passers-by can see without being noticed from inside, creating a pressure-free browsing opportunity. “When we ask them how they found us, a lot of people say they looked at this thing out the window 10 times,” says Simcha.
Recently, a new customer bought an emerald ring that she had seen in the shop window several times. “If you see it, then you want it,” said Simcha. “If you see it more than once, you might go and buy it. We put all the prices on the labels; no one likes having to figure out the price.
The setup also creates a mystery about what is behind the wall. “The idea was that for the exterior, the interior should appear mysterious and luxurious,” explains Simcha.
Building the Amor brand
Simcha, who heads up marketing, spends a lot of his time building the brand through social media, especially Instagram and LinkedIn.
Although initially, Simcha confesses, she hated Instagram, she recognized its potential as well. Today, after spending time on it, 70% of sales come directly from Instagram.
“We didn’t know how to use Instagram until we started,” she says. “We are now on Insta all the time. I can even say Insta without cringe, and we have over 4,000 subscribers. Customers come from out of town to meet us or shop directly from Instagram. Customers stop us like we are famous in local restaurants or on the street because they have seen our Insta stories.
Lifestyle photos are an integral part of the medium. So Simcha is looking for bloggers, influencers, and wedding-related businesses who are gearing up for photoshoots that could use jewelry to enhance the mood, and then bring their own photographer along with the jewelry. She has worked with wedding dress companies and caterers, who set up table settings. “You get these amazing shoots where half or more than half is already done. Someone was doing a photoshoot for the Passover dinner, and we hopped on board. My next photoshoot will be in a supermarket with people doing ordinary, everyday things while wearing jewelry. “
“People like to see things in real life,” she says.
PHOTO GALLERY (7 IMAGES)
Five cool things about Amor Jewelery
1. Connection with proven influencers. The couple must have spent very little on marketing, as teaming up with bloggers paid off. “Having them wear our items and talk about us really got us a big and loyal following,” said Simcha.
2. Be worthy of a review. Each customer receives an SMS with a link to leave a review, and they were satisfied. Google’s five-star reviews are plentiful. One reviewer describes Zalman and Simcha as “the most knowledgeable, likable, and kind jewelers you’ll ever find.” Other reviewers marvel at the breathtaking jewelry and extraordinary service. “My husband is very demanding on the quality,” explains Simcha. “And he has a real talent for putting together an incredible collection. Everyone who enters is treated incredibly. These are our values, what we believe in and how we live our lives.
3. Broaden horizons. Although most of their customers are from the neighborhood, when Google’s reviews draw people from other places, Simcha considers this a big win as well as a learning experience about the type of. jewelry design that a wider audience might like.
4. This is not a trap. It was important that the security entrance look like a well-designed entrance for a luxurious shopping experience, not a cage. A decorative grid design did the trick. “It was difficult to create something that was safe for us and that didn’t feel like a prison,” says Simcha. “Iris, our super talented designer, created the perfect man trap. The design is safe for us and inviting for the customer.
5. An oasis of privacy. The interior design and window box display in the front wall provide an intimate atmosphere and welcome privacy for guests, who cannot be seen from the street. “Our customers appreciate being able to shop with complete discretion.
- Jacqueline Cassaway: Nice presence on Instagram. The store is absolutely beautiful.
- Megan Crabtree: The decor and thought process of each section of the showroom was impeccable.
- Larry Johnson: The use of bright colors in the store creates a great background for the jewelry.
- Pam Levine: A mark of warmth and modern luxury. A beautiful mix of elegant materials, tones, textures and design sophistication. Attractive, friendly and welcoming communications. The brand’s voice and images are inviting, authentic, discreet and respectful.
- Catherine Cotterill: I love that they are really looking for a digital presence and find using LinkedIn very interesting! Their space looks very luxurious but inviting.
Try that: Advisory board
- “Our teens help us with marketing ideas. We really take their views into account; you would be surprised at how many cool ideas they have.