Independents

Squirrel Spotting: #ThemTwo

IndependentsJun 11, 2018

Squirrel Spotting: #ThemTwo

Peter Smith profiles two women who realized their life’s dream of opening their own jewelry stores.

Jenny Calleri (left) is the owner of Huntington Jewelers in Las Vegas, while Liz Rayon owns Presley & Co. Jewelers in San Diego. Columnist Peter Smith talked to both about realizing their lifelong dream of owning a jewelry store.

One of my favorite Elvis songs is “If I Can Dream.” It’s a powerful and uplifting song of hope and aspiration. I do a little singing when I can, and one of my personal highlights was singing that song on stage at the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas with the Las Vegas Mass Choir.

The song is also an apt metaphor connecting two of my industry friends, both of whom realized their lifelong dreams of opening their own jewelry stores in recent months. One of them, Huntington Jewelers in the above-mentioned Las Vegas, and the other in San Diego named, appropriately enough, Presley & Co. Fine Jewelers.

Liz Rayon of Presley & Co. and Jenny Calleri of Huntington Jewelers have been around the business for many years. Jenny is a passionate, hat-wearing bundle of energy and happiness, fueled by positivity and an ever-present expectation of success.

When meeting Liz, one can’t help but be impressed by her steely resolve and her clear sense of purpose. She comes across as serious, but that exterior belies her wry sense of humor and a real passion for music, none more so than Elvis Presley, after whom she named her daughter and her store.

That Liz and Jenny opened their stores amidst a significant contraction in retail jewelers is no small feat of courage. Like most, they read the stories of retailers closing their doors—241 in the United States in the first quarter of this year alone—not to mention the obvious and inherent challenges of opening a small business in any environment.

When I asked Jenny why she made the decision to take over Huntington Jewelers in Las Vegas, she said that she knew she would one day own her own store from the moment she first attended the GIA in Carlsbad almost 20 years ago.

Jenny worked for other jewelry stores in the ensuing years and finally realized her dream of owning her own store when presented with the opportunity to take over Huntington Jewelers a few months ago.

Liz’s dream of opening her own store has sustained for almost 35 years since she started working in the business for a small independent jewelry store in Dana Point, California.

Her light-bulb moment came last year when her daughter Presley, 15, asked her one night if she had any regrets. That was the moment that she decided it was time to do something about her long-standing dream.

She

told me, “I’ve worked for some amazing independent jewelers over the course of my career, and I worked for some who, quite honestly, I don’t know how they’re still in business.”

As different as Jenny and Liz’s personalities are, I found myself being drawn to their similarities the more I understood their personal stories. Apart from being mothers, both knew very early in their careers that they were going to open their own stores. And they never gave up on their dreams.

Both ladies made a point of expressing how appreciative they are of having had the opportunity to work for different retailers before taking the plunge themselves. They were grateful for the lessons learned from some very good mentors and, as they both indicated, what they took away from having worked in more challenging retail stores and for less-inspiring leaders.

As Jenny said, “I’ve lived in Las Vegas forever and I’ve picked up so much from other retailers of what to do and what not to do. I think I have a pretty good idea of how to get away from that older, more dated style and infuse my store with a sense of newness, more in keeping with my personality and today’s retail customers.”

Liz said: “All of my experiences have brought me to where I am now. I’ve learned so much from all of them on what I want to do, what is successful and what to steer clear of. I wouldn’t be in this situation today without those experiences.”

Another important theme that emerged from both Liz and Jenny was their strong desire to make their daughters proud. Liz said that it was important for her to be a great example for her daughter; to show her that she should never allow her fears to keep her from accomplishing her dreams.

Jenny worried that her daughters, 4-year-old Chloe and 1-year-old Caylee, would not share her remarkable passion for jewelry and gems as they grow up and is determined to create a business that will excite and engage them.

As I listened to Jenny talk about her desire to see her daughters follow in her footsteps, I thought about the amount of jewelry stores that are closing their doors; some, in part, are closing because the next generation has no interest in the business.

Both women also expressed a desire to give back to their respective communities.

Liz has lived in the North Park area of San Diego since 1999, when it was an up-and-coming neighborhood. It is now a very hip area, filled with great restaurants and specialty boutiques, and, as Liz told me, the community loves to shop small and support their local merchants. Presley & Co. Jewelers features talented, up-and-coming local and international women designers.

At Huntington Jewelers, Jenny proclaims that her driving ambition is to provide the most amazing experiences for her clients. “High-quality merchandise is very important, no doubt, but for me it’s all about the experience. It’s experience that people remember, and you will never get that online.”

Liz said that she knows about all the horror stories of stores going out of business, but she isn’t surprised.

“So many of them haven’t changed their business models; they’re still trying to do business the way they have done for years and that just doesn’t cut it anymore,” she said. “I’m helping people create lifelong memories. I’m building cherished relationships and becoming a part of my customers’ lives. People may think I’m being silly, but I’m selling happiness.”

Jenny, too, believes that so many retailers are going out of business because they just haven’t adapted.

She said, “Brick-and-mortar stores will always have a place in the market, especially when you can differentiate yourself with high-end products, and, once again, it is all about giving my clients an amazing experience.”

It's not hard to be excited about what Jenny and Liz are doing in their respective stores. They are under no illusion about the challenges ahead, but both are proud moms and entrepreneurs with a clear vision for what they want their stores to be and the talent and drive to make it happen.

Oscar Wilde once said, “I see when men love women, they give them but a little of their lives. But women, when they love, give everything.”

Liz Rayon and Jenny Calleri are giving everything, and I, for one, like their chances of making it happen at Presley & Co. and Huntington Fine Jewelers.

Peter Smith is president of Vibhor, a public speaker and author of “Sell Something” and “Hiring Squirrels.” He spent 30 years building sales teams in retail and wholesale and he can be contacted at dublinsmith@yahoo.com, peter@vibhorgems.com, or on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.
Peter Smithis president of Memoire and Hearts On Fire, and author of three books, “Hiring Squirrels,” “Sell Something,” and “The Sales Minute.”

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