By Ashley Davis
“We’re the number one jewelry store in South Dakota; just don’t tell that to my friends in Rapid City,” Wink’s Fine Jewelry owner Jerry Miller joked.
Brookings, S.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.

Jerry Miller purchased Wink’s Fine Jewelry in Brookings, South Dakota in 1981.

Miller has become a go-to in the area for diamonds, including loose stones he sources personally in Antwerp, Belgium. It’s a good thing, as the local population includes a university with many young people at the engagement stage of their lives.

Miller talked to National Jeweler about what they’re buying and his future plans for the business.

20171005 SouthDakotaWink’s Fine Jewelry was incorporated in Brookings, South Dakota in 1968. Today, Jerry Miller is the owner of the 1,800-square-foot store, which has six employees, one of which is Miller’s granddaughter, who hopes to take over the business one day.

National Jeweler: What’s the biggest challenge your store is facing today?

Jerry Miller: Millennials and competing with online shopping.

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

JM: Diamonds. Diamond engagement rings--we’re in a college town, South Dakota State University is here--as well as other diamond jewelry: diamond earrings, bracelets and necklaces.

NJ: What’s your top-selling brand?

JM: That’s easy, Wink’s Fine Jewelry.

NJ: Describe your regional customer.

JM: Our bridal customer is in their 20s. For the larger diamond purchases we have clients in their 40s to 70s. I couldn’t say if it’s more men or women but typically the young girls and women come in first to look, then bring the guy with them later, and maybe he comes back to make a purchase.

We have a big city to the south (Sioux Falls), but we serve about a 35- to 40-mile radius going west and east and north. We’re on the border of Minnesota and serve some of that population too.

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

JM: It’s going toward a more simple solitaire; halos aren’t too popular anymore.

Cushion-cut diamonds are popular, as are round brilliants. Fourteen karat to 18-karat white gold are our most popular metals, with some yellow too and a little bit of rose.

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

JM: We just built a new website, which is getting a lot of great comments from people.

For social media we have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest. We’re also on The Knot. Facebook is our biggest (social media platform).

The perfect pear ⯑⯑ #winksjewelry #downtownbrookings #pearobsessed #engagingbrookings

A post shared by Wink's Jewelry (@winksjewelry) on

NJ: Do you have e-commerce?

JM: We don’t, but it’s something we’re looking into for the future.

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

JM: Stay out of debt.

Pay your accounts on time and live modestly today so you can live greatly tomorrow. And join buying groups like the RJO so you can get discounts, and join groups like the American Gem Society so you keep learning.

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

JM: I’m handsome (laughs). Just kidding, I’m not. What’s a fun fact about me?

My 23-year-old granddaughter, Samantha Tupper, joined the business three years ago and she’s better at this than I ever was. I’m looking forward to retirement. She’ll buy me out of the business and that will give me a chance to see my other 30-plus grandkids and great-grandkids and travel.

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