By Brecken Branstrator
Since its opening, Spotswood Jewelers has made it a point to find ways to give back to the community. It donated this pearl necklace to an American Cancer Society fundraiser earlier this year.Spotswood, N.J.--After being involved in his father’s diamond wholesale business for years, Chirag Bhagat decided to try his hand at a different side of the industry, opening up a retail store where he could interact with the customer.

He and his wife, Alpa, opened Spotswood Jewelers less than two years ago, and immediately began making the business a regular part of community activities, donating jewelry, money or time to good causes.

He said that doing so has helped the retailer become an important part of the community in the short time it’s been open, reaching clients on a more personal level and keeping it top of mind for locals.

Bhagat recently took the time to answer five questions from National Jeweler about why the store chose to get so involved in the local community and what it has done for the business.

National Jeweler: What kinds of things has Spotswood been doing to support the local region?

Chirag Bhagat: The Spotswood Education Foundation (designed to fund new and innovative projects to supplement school programs) is one of the community organizations we’ve gotten involved in. Then we helped sponsor the DECA program at Spotswood High, which is a business program that they have. And we always get involved with the high school and middle school plays, anytime they need anything or need our help.

We also got involved with the local veterans’ organization here, the Spotswood Memorial for Veterans of Foreign Wars. We donated a watch to them for their raffle. Then for Children’s Hope India, which included a silent auction in New York City, we donated a piece of jewelry, which we had made in-house.

So every time we have someone looking for assistance in terms of monetary or a gift to raffle, we are always there.

NJ: Why do you think that it is so important for Spotswood to be so involved with what’s happening around town?

CB: They always come to us when they need anything jewelry-wise, so I feel that we have to give back to the community because we’re the first ones on their mind. Even with smaller organizations, we go out of our way to help them out and join them.

Everyone who’s ever walked into our door asking for help with their organization or any of their causes, we have never denied them. We always give them whatever they ask us or however we want them to get involved.

NJ: In addition to the desire to be part of the community and help your locals in any way you can, what are the benefits that you see for Spotswood as a business?

CB: Initially when we started the business, we were looking for the benefits when we did these things. Now it’s just the “thank you” that they give us. That elevates us in their minds. The honor that they give us puts us on another level, I feel. It just gives us a different kind of credibility of who we are as people, not only as a jewelry store. Because I’ve bumped into people, for example, at the local Shoprite and they say, “Hey, you’re from Spotswood Jewelers!”

We’ve also been giving watches to the MVPs of the football games at one of the local high schools. And every time the player gets it, they love for us to take their pictures and put it on Facebook. And actually through social media we’re getting a lot of traction because of them.

So they’re not looking at us as just a jeweler; they’re treating us as part of their family and friends because of the type of events we’ve become a part of. This is only our second year and they treat us like we’ve been here forever. We have customers who are not only of one generation, but we’re also starting to get the second and third generations of customers now.

NJ: So you’re a fairly new jewelry store, and you’re getting ready to head into the big holiday season. What is your strategy for that?

CB: This year, our goal was to double the volume of business we did last year. We were lucky enough to surpass that, and we still have the season in front of us. The biggest help, like I mentioned earlier, was the community because in getting involved with them, they reciprocated in a much bigger way than we anticipated. The whole township helps us build our business. It’s a lot of word of mouth. I’ve had customers come from different states to see us because of their family and friends’ suggestions. And they feel really comfortable in here with the relaxed environment we created, so they sit down and stay for a while.

And we have always been very strong in advertising. We advertise in the local papers, like the New Jersey Dining Guide and the Sentinel. We advertise with Lifestyles Magazine, which goes out to about 69,000 homes in the community. We’re also starting to get into billboards this year. We do a lot of social media, and we’re getting a lot of traction from that. I’m sure we could get more and use more, but we’re taking baby steps for now.

NJ: You mentioned the environment of the store helps customers feel like they can come for a visit and stay a while. When you were first considering the layout of the store, how much did that play into it?

CB: Customers feel really comfortable when they come in, and that’s the environment we have always tried to create. Our thing is all about the experience. I have customers who plan a visit to Spotswood Jewelers as part of their daily to-do list. Sometimes they just stop by to relax, have a cup of coffee, chat for half an hour, and move on. And that’s amazing. It feels great that they put us on their daily schedule and want to make us part of their lives like that. It helps build that relationship and trust between us and the clients.

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