By Ashley Davis
“We really don’t have a particular (client). It really runs the gamut from young to old, from men to women, low income, higher income,” said Beth Garbo, owner of Burlington, Vermont’s Tick Tock Jewelers.
Burlington, Vt.--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.

Louis Garbo founded Tick Tock Jewelersin Burlington in 1946. He served in the Navy just after World War II and went to watch school afterward on the G.I. Bill, as did many of the men he hired to work at the store.

At the time it opened, the business was solely a watch and repair store, and Garbo held a contest open to the public to name it, settling on the entry Tick Tock Shop.

Eventually the store began selling jewelry as well, which is its primary focus today, and changed its name to Tick Tock Jewelers.

“We’ve gotten to the point where people recognize us for the antique jewelry (we carry) or for our regular diamond jewelry, pearls, things like that,” said Louis’s daughter, Beth Garbo.

Beth runs operations today and Louis, who is 89, is still part owner.

Beth spoke with National Jeweler about the eclectic Burlington customer and internet overstimulation.

20171025 Vermont 1Tick Tock Jewelers was founded by Louis Garbo in 1946 in Burlington. Run by his daughter Beth Garbo today, the store has five full-time and three part-time employees.

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

Beth Garbo: It’s the internet, but it’s not what you’d think (about) the internet.

It’s not that people are buying on the internet and not buying in jewelry stores; it’s that so many young people spend hours and hours on the internet and they come up with thousands of possibilities and can’t make up their minds what they’d like because everything is open to them from all over the world, a million styles.

I find that they come in and can’t narrow down what it is they’re looking for. It’s not so much that it’s the prices or anything like that, but they’re all over the place. From, “Can I put some dinosaur bone inside of a tungsten ring with maybe my fingerprint on it?” or, “I saw this cool thing on the internet in China, do you guys do that?”

So their minds are all over the place because everything is so open now.

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

BG: We do a lot of antique jewelry right now and estate jewelry.

We’re not a branded store. We sell branded watches like TAG Heuer and Swatch but we’re pretty much an independent where we choose more what we like than an actual designer. If it happens to be from a designer though, that’s great. We sell mostly under private label and then we have certain brands like Lika Behar, but the majority is from different lines we pick up and we don’t advertise it as such.

NJ: Describe your regional customer.

BG: We are very, very eclectic. Burlington is a college town. It has several colleges. We started out as a watch store so we do lots and lots of watch batteries in addition to antique jewelry and custom, things like that.

When I was trying to hire one of my employees many years ago, she said, “What’s your customer, client base like?” I said, “We really don’t have a particular (client). It really runs the gamut from young to old, from men to women, low income, higher income.”

She actually took the job and it’s been 15 years and every once in a while I’ll say to her, “What’s our customer base?” And she laughs and says, “You were right, you really can’t say what it is.”

We have doctors and lawyers and farmers from the outskirts so it’s very eclectic.

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

BG: I’m seeing a lot of people liking the antique or estate (styles), vintage, Art Deco, that sort of a look.

They’re still looking at halos but those are kind of going by the wayside a little bit. Simple and classic (is dominating).

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

BG: We do Facebook and Instagram.   

NJ: Do you have e-commerce? 

BG: We do not.

It’s probably not the best fit for us. It’s sort of another thing to add that I just don’t want to learn and don’t have time for.

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

BG: Don’t worry about what your competitors are doing. You have to pay attention to yourself. Focus on what you do.

Also, if you’re not making a profit, don’t do it. It’s not worth doing.  

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

BG: My father is a watchmaker. From 1946 through the 1960s, the store was mostly watch sales, then we sort of gravitated to a jewelry store.

The funny thing is that I really can’t tell time and I don’t wear a watch. I saw my first-grade teacher the other day and she said, “Did you learn to tell time yet?” and I said, “No, not really.”

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