Our retailer for North Dakota is Knowles Jewelry of Minot. Current owners Al and Linda Torrington took over the store, which has been in business for 33 years, in 2006.
Minot, N.D.--In 50 Jewelers/50 States, National Jeweler interviews one retailer in each of the 50 U.S. states to find out how they are meeting the challenges of the changing retail environment.

In 2006, Al and Linda Torrington took over ownership of Knowles Jewelry of Minot, which was founded in 1984.

Minot, North Dakota is the fourth largest city in the state, and its economy is largely dependent on agriculture and oil.

Through boom and bust, the Torringtons serve their clientele with a staff of true fine jewelry experts, some who have been at the store for over two decades.

National Jeweler chatted with Al Torrington about defining their store brand and what North Dakotans are buying now.

20170908 50States insert1Knowles Jewelry of Minot was founded in 1984 in Minot, North Dakota. The store is approximately 4,000 square feet and has six employees. Al and Linda Torrington acquired ownership of the store in 2006.
National Jeweler: What’s the biggest challenge your store is facing?

Al Torrington: The biggest challenge we’re facing is continuing to get customers, because it’s been a difficult time in North Dakota since the oil boom ended rather suddenly and agriculture has been very stressed because of a terrible drought. Agriculture is the biggest business in North Dakota, even when the oil boom was happening.

NJ: What’s the top-selling category at your store?

AT: On good days, it’s bridal. That’s still our bread and butter.

NJ: What’s your top-selling brand?

AT: We have a good selection of brands, probably about seven different ones. They’re not big names like Tacori, they’re smaller companies. One of our bestsellers is Spectrum Diamonds.

NJ: Describe your regional customer.

AT: With bridal, typically we’re looking at people in their 20s and 30s, then there’s usually a jump for our clients who are looking for anniversary bands--they’re in their 40s and 50s.

Our customer is very wide-ranging. In the good days when farm income is high, we get quite a few people in agriculture. Through our website we tend to draw--the famous, or infamous, depending on how you look at them or what article you read--millennials.

We also draw from the Air Force base here. It’s a broad spectrum so we try to have something for everyone in category and price. We try to stock pieces that are not so expensive, to fight the perception that only wealthy people can buy from a fine jewelry store. We have everything from a $10 bracelet to very high-end pieces.

NJ: What’s the most popular style of engagement ring with your clientele now?

AT: Halos have been really big. White gold is still paramount here in North Dakota. I know in some parts of the country yellow gold is making a return, but not here. As far as diamond shapes, cushions have been really popular and we’ve had a return to round brilliants as well, the grand old shape of diamonds, which really pop.

Oddly enough, solitaires have become more popular too.

20170908 50States insert2Al and Linda Torrington

NJ: Which social media accounts are important to your business?

AT: Facebook is number one. That’s where we really focus. We should, but we don’t, dabble in other areas. We do a lot of e-mailing to our customers through our point-of-service software.

NJ: Do you have e-commerce?

AT: We don’t. We do have a very comprehensive website that updates in terms of inventory on a daily basis, in all categories. But we prefer, for fine jewelry in general, for people to come in and see the product in person.

NJ: What’s the best piece of advice you’d offer to a fellow independent jeweler?

AT: We know third- and fourth-generation jewelers so this is coming from a young guy, relatively speaking. My advice is to judiciously advertise in your area, to feature your best products and to make yourself a destination store. We’re not in a big mall, so it’s important to become known to the public in a specific area. In our case, we go to Antwerp, Belgium every fall so we try to be known as the diamond experts here.

NJ: What’s a fun fact about you we can share with our readers?

AT: I guess that both my wife and I came into this business with no particular degree in jewelry. I had a master’s in business and I’m a retired Air Force officer. We jumped in with both feet and GIA, God bless them, really helped us.

We’re very fortunate because we have a staff that’s very experienced. Our goldsmith has been with us 27 years--he’s a master. We have a saleswoman who has been with us 23 years. We know this is rare and not often the case for jewelers. When some jewelers go to a trade show they pretty much have to shut their store down, but we always know our store is in excellent hands.

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