Opening a retail store

I am considering opening retail store to sell my own designs, do
custom work and possibly repairs, a small one person operation. I
would appreciate hearing from anyone with advice, personal experience
(good and bad!), what they would do differently and just any info
advice etc.

My experience in doing anything is find somehow to do it first with a
lifeline. For example - if you want to open a retail shop, get a job
in a similar shop, selling. That will expose you to much of what
happens. If you get a bench job, you would also learn, but aren’t as
close to pricing, store management, buying, bookkeeping etc…
Working retail jewelry is different from most retail stores - it’s
just the nature of the business. You seldom get to be a jeweler
doing lots of design and wonderful stufff. You have to be the
manager first.

On the other hand if you want to set up a job shop, work at the bench
for one. Are you fast enough to make money, and do you have the
temperament to do repairs? Are you competent in all the things you
need to do. Or do you know where to find help - casting or

For either job, be upfront, so it doesn’t feel later like you tried
to take customers with you. Most folks in this business are willing
to teach you as long as they get fair return for their effort.

I did piecework for a production line for a while and lots of the
facination disappeared when I figured out how many I had to make an
hour to make a living. But I got a lot faster. I also worked for a
retail designer jeweler for a while, selling. I learned very quickly
that I didn’t want a retail store. My compromise is to have a studio
at home, sell at arts and crafts juried shows, stock galleries on
commission, tend to my wholesale accounts and nourish my wonderful
custom clients. I also have written a book on tumble finishing, and
teach classes in silversmithing at a senior center and teach a
marketing class for selling crafts. I’m busy, and I make a good
living. It’s just what works for you.

Most entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that because they
know how to make something well (whether it’s jewelry, clothing,
houses, or computer programs), they can run a business well, too. I
can tell you from experience that it is very difficult to be fully
committed to the administration of a business and the creative
demands of making fine jewelry. Running a retail store requires you
to fully understand bookkeeping and accounting, cash flow management,
personnel management, advertising and display, and sales. If you
think that you can simply hire someone to take that responsibility
from your shoulders, you are in for a real surprise. What will you
do when your bookkeeper tells you that they are quitting? And your
books are really screwed up? And, by the way, they forgot to file
your taxes on time? They can walk away, but you will not be able to.

I have been self-employed for over 20 years, and I have made all the
mistakes that anyone could make. I have spent many sleepless nights
wondering how I’m going to survive the latest crisis. I have watched
my employees totally screw up an expensive piece, pick up their
paycheck, and leave after putting in their 40 hours to spend their
weekend at the beach, while I work late into the night and through
the weekend just to keep everything running for one more week.

There are good things about running your own store too. Everyone
knows about those. But be prepared for more work than you imagined,
and working “retail hours.” If you’ve been working at home, keeping
your own work schedule, you must be prepared to give that up. The
best retail times are the weekends, when the rest of the world is off
work. And holidays.

Before you take the plunge, check out a book called “The E-Myth.” I
forget the author, but the book was great.

If I could do it all over, I probably would find someone who wanted
to open a retail store, and I’d agree to be their designer/goldsmith.
That way, I’d be doing what I know best. For a business manager,
finding someone like you that can produce a great product, and has a
"vision," is a dream come true. Let them worry about the books…

Good Luck
Doug Zaruba

Doug, All you’re saying is true. Not to mention perhaps the MOST
daunting and difficult part of running a retail business (in my
opinion): difficult customers. --Arts

Dear Judy: Thanks for taking the time to express what you have been
thru to get where you are today. What I have is lots of time and I
truly have the desire for learning from a local jewerly owner, plus
the knowledge which I can gain from Orchid. I realize mistakes will
be made, but I will have to travel down that road in my own shoes on a
first hand basis. I have the income which I have been more than
blessed with and now it is time for Linda to do what makes Linda a
happy person once again. I wish you all the best in every endeavor
you take on and I hope we will talk again. I know life is not a bed
of roses, but to follow a dream which I have had since childhood and
now being able to have the chance to prove to myself I CAN DO
IT…will be the quest that I WILL CONQUER. I realize retail is very
stressful, I can understand time limits and quanity vs quality to
produce, however, with me not having to rely on the income and can
enjoy the creation will be my enjoyment.

Sincerely and respectively yours,

To all,

Just read Doug Zaruba’s letter. It’s Sunday morning, and here I am,
on a beautiful summer morning with the golf course calling my name,
and I’m in here working. I am in my 21st year of “owning” my retail
and wholesale business, and just now starting to make a wage
comparable to what General Motors was paying me in the late 70’s. I
don’t want to know what they are making today, besides most of my
friends are retired now, living on benefits I can only dream about.

Am I bitter? No, only about how I went into this without any real
idea what was to be expected. Would I do things differently if I had
a chance? No again. I’m a workhorse, have always worked seven days a
week, have an understanding wife, and seem to thrive on the pressure.
I will never retire, as I love what I do, and can think of nothing
else I would rather be doing. I would gladly share some of my
experiences with anyone looking at starting a retail business, and if
you contact me off-line, I will give you some free advice (surely to
be worth every penny you pay). Good luck, JMF

Great message and I really appreciate that approach. You are execute
right. I have always been the client or customer ,where I could see,
truly see and could actually see the whole picture. Then take another
look at it closely, I really gave it alot of thought. Sounds like
it really was a challenge experience in life. How many years did take
you to actually reach the Plato you are at ? Best of Luck,