Retailer Experiences

The Holiday Throwdown: Why We Should All Take a Page out of Provident Jewelry’s Book

Now that I write full time I don’t find myself in jewelry stores as often as I once did. Occasionally I will visit the shops of my friends if I’m in the cities they’re located in but unless I’ve been invited to attend an event or I’ve been hired to speak about the different topics I know about, I don’t often wander into places unless there’s a reason.

Thankfully, there were several reasons to be at Provident Jewelry in Jupiter, Florida this month.

Back during the WatchTime New York show I had a moment with MB&F’s Phil Ogle where I started picking his brain about a few different stores he works with. Provident, to me, seemed unlike many of the retailers I’d visited in the past. The company was not a family jeweler but rather a joint effort between several guys – young guys, too – and yet they seemed to have their finger on the pulse of what the southern part of Florida was shopping for. They carried big-name jewelry brands but also independent watch brands. They were catering to Baby Boomers and Generation X, yet thinking and marketing like Generation Y. And when the shit hit the fan for every aspect of the jewelry industry in 2008 and 2009, Provident seemed to be thriving and expanding; a notion nearly unheard of during the recession. So, I wanted to see for myself what this place was all about. I’m happy to say that I finally got my chance.

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When I received the telephone call from Nick Linca – one of the owners and well-known faces of Provident’s Jupiter, Florida location – I was sitting on a bench under a set of stairs at the infamous Watergate Hotel in Washington in between sessions at the New York Times conference on the future of the luxury industry.

“So, Barbara, Phil and I were talking, and I’d like for you to come out and visit us during our holiday events next week. We love what you do and I read your writing religiously. Plus, you’re well respected by a lot of people we know and work with, so I think it would be fun to have you here. Max will be here and the SVP of Chanel, as well as a lot of other people you’ll want to meet. We’ll fly you down and put you up. What do you think?”

I mean, how do I say no to that? I get the opportunity to visit one of the stores I’ve virtually watched grow over the years, get to spend some time around one of my favorite watchmakers in the world (#maxcrusheveryday), and get two days and nights in eighty-degree weather in December. Um, yes please!

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Nick and Max. They get it.

As mentioned in my piece over on WhatsOnHerWrist.com, when I arrived at the Jupiter location, I found Nick deep in conversation with the aforementioned Phil and the one-and-only Max Büsser. Lara Pansolli – Provident’s head of Marketing – showed me around the store and gave me a little background on what to expect over the next couple of days.

“Tonight will be an intimate event; only about sixty people (though it’s starting to look closer to eighty) and it will be comfortable for the customers who aren’t into large crowds. Tomorrow night, however…”

“What happens tomorrow night?”

“Oh, just you wait and see. Tomorrow night’s going to be crazy. I mean it, too.”

As I perused the showroom I found my jaw lagging behind me and scraping the floor from time to time. Not only did I notice jewelry from luxury brands Chopard, Crevoshay, Gucci, and Buddha Mama, but their timepiece selection was sublime, and for all the right reasons. Nick, himself, made clear to me that the watch part of their business was based as much on personal preferences as it was on what profits the retailer could turn because of it. They only put in watch brands that they feel a personal connection to and they must believe in the story of the brand or else it doesn’t work. This is probably why they do so well with names like MB&F and Arnold & Son watches, and why they welcomed the designs of Fiona Krüger into their world recently. But what’s just as important as the story the brand tells is the story that the store tells, which I got to know more about when I sat down for about an hour with Nick and one of his partners, Seth Berman, inside the Jupiter store’s “Dream Factory” cigar lounge.

20161207_204653Adornmentality: “This room is incredible. I mean it. I’ve never seen anything like it. Do people really smoke in here? It doesn’t even smell a little bit like cigars.”

Nick Linca: “Oh yeah, they smoke in here, all right, but it’s a negative air pressure room, so you’re not going to smell anything unless someone lights up in front of you.”

Adornmentality: “So, why would you put something like this in a jewelry store?”

Nick Linca: “Because men hate to shop, and they really hate going to jewelry stores, so while their wives or girlfriends are looking around or trying things on or making a wish list, they get to come back here and get away for a little while. They can get a drink at the bar (pointing toward the fully-stocked marble wet bar directly outside of the Dream Factory), come in here, and have a nice cigar. It’s part of the experience. It’s part of why our customers always come back; because they know they’re important to us.”

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Nick and me in the Dream Factory

The cigar lounge’s impressiveness doesn’t stop at its walls of dark wood, massive flat-screen television (which at the time [to my glee] was looping a video of Max Büsser [sigh]), and negative air pressure ventilation, either. It also contains dozens of cedar-lined cigar lockers which are given to customers who spend $250,000 per year or more. Now, you might think to yourself, “Really? That’s all they get? A cigar box?” But no, that’s not all they get, because as mentioned above, it’s not just about the cigars, or the watches, or the bar, or the jewelry… it’s about the whole experience, and the experience that goes along with that small cedar box is really quite mammoth.

Dream Factory members (meaning those who get a key to one of those sought-after wooden cubes) get to take part in Provident Jewelry’s “First Thursday,” which means that on the first Thursday of every month, members and a guest might be part of, say, a Poker Night. Only instead of your second cousin Louis pouring Wild Turkey and Pepsi into red solo cups while Little Petey Shoepeddler tries to count cards before Johnny Knuckles beats the crap out of him, you get a fully-catered, top-shelf experience that might just include the World Series of Poker champion. Or maybe it’s Polo Night with three members of the International Polo Club, or Italian Night with Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and gorgeous Italian men and women pouring hundred-dollar bottles of Antinori Tignanello. My point is, this is part of what the “box” gets you, and you get it every… damned… month. But on top of that very cool and special member perk (as well as a few others), in my mind the most notable experience for members is the one that gives back to the community.

Every cigar lounge key holder, one night per year, can have full access to the Provident Jewelry Jupiter store – and all of its amenities – to throw an event that will raise money for the charity of their choice. Provident will supply the member with a one carat loose diamond for which they can sell raffle tickets. Each person who buys a ticket receives a diamond-looking gem. There could be 99 of those gems (CZs or diamond simulants) but only one will be an actual diamond, which Provident will verify when the winner is chosen. This, to me, above all of the marble, or fine wood, or big names, or nice scotch, was the most impressive thing about this company. They give back, and they give back big league (I threw that one in for you, Nick). They know their customers, they like their customers, and they know that success means very little unless one helps those less fortunate than oneself. They had my adoration before I ever stepped foot into their store, but now they had my complete and utter respect.

Nick also gave me a bit of the company’s backstory as well as a little of his own. Provident was originally a small store, started in West Palm Beach by a man in the diamond and jewelry biz by the name of Art Samuels. In 1999 after bringing his son, Rob, into the family business, Rob reached out to a salesman he knew by the name of Scott Diament and together they eventually bought most of Art’s final shares of the business. With more stores on the horizon (they opened a second store in Naples on Florida’s 20161208_200331west coast and a store in Jupiter which eventually became their flagship location), Scott reached out to his cousin – Seth Berman – to try to solicit him to come on board as a partner. Seth had been in Colorado finishing school and had never considered getting into the jewelry business, but after trying it out for a few months he realized how much he was meant for it, and so he came on board and attained his Graduate Gemologist degree from the G.I.A. through their long-distance education courses. Then, Nick – through connections, experience (eighteen years working for one of the most recognizable jewelry companies in the United States), a keen sense of what it takes to sell anything (forget the ketchup popsicle/white suit cliché, I’m talking dude could probably sell an $80,000 watch to a blind guy), and a little bit of luck – was hired as a salesman but was then quickly offered a partnership in the company. Add on Geoffrey Fear, who currently runs Provident’s newest location in Wellington, and you’ve got yourself the recipe for a lifelong friendly partnership and a successful business model.

All in, as of today, Provident has seven stores in south Florida: West Palm Beach, Palm Beach (Worth Avenue), two locations in Naples, Ft. Myers, Jupiter, and now Wellington. They’ve had tough times (a major robbery in 2011 nearly wiped them out) but overall they’ve come out on top. In telling me about their robbery, Nick was clear that the brands who stood by the company in those struggling times are now the brands that they’ve devoted themselves to, and many of those brands showed a strong presence at one or both of Provident’s holiday parties.

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Top shelf

I headed back to the hotel to change into the first of two LBDs I’d packed for the night’s festivities. For the more subdued party I chose a dress by A.B.S. that was sheer at the waist and back accompanied by Ralph Lauren anklet heels. When I arrived back at the store it was as if an entire metamorphosis had occurred in the ninety minutes I’d been gone. There were floral arrangements the size of Fiats and a harp the size of said floral arrangements. That marble bar I spoke of earlier? It was stacked with bottles of Dom Perignon and Perfect Vodka, but for my first drink I decided to go with a subtle Japanese whisky… neat.

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With Olivier of Chanel

It was great to see some familiar faces like those of Eric Frank with Bell & Ross, and my friend Samir Shah with Arnold & Son and Angelus watches. But it was also pretty rad getting to meet a few other major players in the watch and jewelry industry. Folks like Olivier Stip, SVP of Chanel Fine Jewelry and Watches, as well as Markus Döttling of Döttling, which makes luxury high end safes and watch winders. On the timepiece side, representatives were there from Louis Moinet, Corum, and Emmanuel Bouchet, and Carl F. Bucherer’s North American President, Ron Stoll, was also in attendance. For me, of course, it was a joy just to get to spend some time around Maximilian Büsser on his only visit to the U.S. this year. And his presence at this event, from what I gathered, is part of the draw for Provident’s customers.

While a harpist softly played holiday music, a professional ballerina – complete in toe shoes, tutu, and tiara – held a tray of lrg_dsc02007crystal flutes filled with fine Champagne as people mingled about wearing their finest jewels and most holiday-party appropriate attire. Outside, valets parked several cars that likely cost more than my house, but inside there was no discussion of wealth and no discussion of politics. It was an elegant affair filled with people who seemed to get one another, and who also seem to understand luxury in its truest form. It was joyous, yet subdued, and it was an honor to have been invited.

Then, of course, came Thursday night’s party. Man, what a difference a day makes.

I am not using hyperbole when I say that this was the largest number of people I have even seen piled into a jewelry store at one time, by a landslide. HUNDREDS. I mean it… there were literally hundreds of guests at this event which was held both inside the store and in the store’s lrg_dsc02101parking lot (which had been converted into a second bar and table area). Caterers were running around like hamsters on wheels. Valets were tossing keys over one another’s heads. There were blondes in black dresses and Baby Boomers in four-figure duds and everyone – EVERYONE – was laughing and eating and drinking and dancing. Wait? Did I just type, dancing? YES, YOU JUST READ THAT I TYPED THAT PEOPLE WERE DANCING. “Why were they dancing?” You say? Because Provident hired the baddest-ass DJ/Electric Violinist in all of South Florida, Timothee Lovelock, and because he pretty much single-handedly turned Provident’s back room into “da club.” It was insanity, Lara was right, and by the time the doors closed for the evening, everyone – including yours truly – was exhausted.

Nick took a small group of us out for some late night grub and one last drink on the water before we were all to go our separate ways the following morning. Samir was there, as was Gustavo with Corum, and my new buddy Matteo (#whyareyoustrokingmyarm) sat on my left. Phil Ogle showed up too, only he brought along some friends: namely, his left and right biceps (feel free to tease Phil about this, guys). We took one final breather, inhaled the last drop of Champagne, and toasted what was surely two successful and hopefully profitable holiday events.

Provident Jewelry, I applaud you. You have shown me what a jewelry store is capable of and how something as simple as a 20161208_200346positive attitude can save and even catapult your business. You gave new meaning to the word “experience” for me and I hope that retailers who read this piece will take away with them that this is what success is all about: giving the customer more than just a good product or even great service, namely, something they’ll store in their memories for many years to come.

Nick, I get you. Not in every way, but in the ways that matter. You and I understand that fun can change things; it can change mindsets, and business, and what some believe should always be the norm. I think we’ll be friends for a long time after this. Thanks so much for having me and I hope we get to do it again real soon.

To Seth, Rob, Scott, and Geoff, I wish you all much luck and success in your future. To Lara and Ashton, thank you for your hospitality and for dressing me in the finest of jewels every night.

Thanks for reading not just today but all year long, and Merry Christmas, everybody. May 2017 bring bright, shiny experiences for us all!

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 2 – Russell Simmons and The Book of More Men

One can learn so much from taxi drivers. Often enough they are folks who have lived for years in the cities they travel. They know history, and back roads, and the best places to find some decently priced Thai food. They’re hardworking and no bullsh*t, and I’m the passenger who, like it or not, usually strikes up a conversation with them.

Me: “Mandalay Bay Convention Center, please.”

Disgruntled Cabbie: “You here for da Jewelry Convention?”

Me: “Oh, heavens no. I’m currently writing an erotic coffee table book about the country’s most promiscuous convention attendees. I’m calling it… ‘The Book of More Men: A Lady’s Guide to Multiple Partners at Trade Shows’ and, well, I need to do a little *research* if you (giggles) know what I’m saying…”

Disgruntled Cabbie: “…………………………………………………((crickets))…………………………………………….….”

Me: (clears throat) “Yes, actually. Yes. I’m here for the jewelry convention.”

Disgruntled Cabbie: “Okay, so what you want to do is tell whoevah is drivin’ da cab to not take the strip if you’re gonna be goin’ back and forph between da Wynn and da Mandalay, ya got it? Tell ‘em to take Industrial. Dey gotta take Industrial or else you’re gonna get stuck, ya got it?”

Me: “Okay. I Got it.”

Us: ((silence for a good four minutes))

Me: “So, um, where’s the best place to get cheap Thai food around here?”

DC: “Okay. Here we go, Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Good luck wit dat coffee house thingy. Swipe your card. Have a good show.”

Me: “That’s what I thought.”


When I got to the newly renovated Prestige pavilion, our team was hard at work. The booth, thanks to Jodi, Myriam, and Tatiana, was already looking splendid. Our new West Coast AE, Chris, arrived shortly after I did and we continued to work like busy little bees (pun intended) until the cases were set up and the line was prepared. The countdown to JCK 2014 was officially on, and I had a big event to get to and forty-five minutes to prepare.

Prior to my arrival in Vegas I had received an email from Rio Tinto’s North American VP of Marketing, Brandee Dallow. Brandee asked if I was available to attend the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s “Diamonds in the Sky – Las Vegas” gala at the Four Seasons on Thursday evening, as she would like me to come as the guest of Rio Tinto. After reluctantly clearing my schedule which had been previously filled with “nothing” from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., followed by “boredom” from 7:45 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., I graciously accepted the invitation and then danced around my bedroom like I’d just found out that my real parents were Kennedys.

With short notice and an emptyish wallet, I opted to pack and ultimately wear a tea-length Donna Ricco red halter dress that had been hanging in my closet, unworn, for a year. With ten minutes gone and no time for a disco nap, I did my best impersonation of a refreshed woman who had taken a shower, before heading down the elevator to walk the smoke-filled casino path from THEHotel to the Four Seasons, praying, all the while, that my both my deodorant and my eyelids would hold up.

I had two invitations with me. The first was for the actual event, and the second was a private pre-event for guests of Rio Tinto as well as VIPs. This was cool. I figured I could get there and settle myself in first. You know… relax, make friends. Do what I was comfortable doing… networking. That is, until I started to get closer to the ballroom, and realized that everyone in front of me was either in a tuxedo or a ball gown. Ummmmm, what did I miss here? I’m underdressed! WTF!? I’m NEVER underdressed. Holy crap holy crap holy crap. I can’t turn back now, there are people behind me. People I know! They’ve already seen me. Holy crap, uh, okay. Keep calm. OH, there’s a guy. He looks nice. He’s middle-aged. He’s in a tux, but he seems real. OKAY. HE MADE EYE CONTACT WITH ME. Okay. Okay. I have no choice now. I’ll talk to him. Here I go. I’m going over to this nice man now. Walking over. Here I go. Almost there. Aaaaaaaannnnnnd, speak.

Me: “HI!!!” (That was way too loud, nutcase.) “I mean, hello. Hi. Could you tell me where I need to go for this (shoving what is now a slightly wrinkled laser jet printed invitation into his hand), please?”

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Dress by Donna Ricco. Photo by PHOJOPHOTO.

Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman: (smiling. Because OF COURSE HE IS) “Yes, yes, no problem. Just follow those folks right there, and then make the left. The VIP room is the first door.”

Me: (a little more calmly) “Okay. Thanks very much. Thank you. I’m a little nervous.”

Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman: “It’s all good. You’re fine. You’re just fine. Don’t be nervous. Have a good time.”

Me: (Walking away) “Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

(Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk…..walk………walk……walk more slowly…..slowly……. stop…. turn around….. walk back…… walk back…. walk back, walk… back, walk back, walk back, walk back, walk back, walk back… back to the Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman.)

Me: (Whispering) “Hi. Me again. Um… how do I look? Do you think I’m underdressed?”

Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman: (Whispering back) “Not in the least. You look fabulous. Go enjoy.”

And with those words I felt completely at ease in my skin, until, of course, I made the left turn where I was supposed to and almost walked into rap icon and media mogul, Russell Simmons. This… this is going to be a long night. I knew I should have taken a shower.


The room was small and filled wall-to-wall with men. Men in tuxes. Men in suits. American men. African men. Asian men. Indian men. Men of all shapes and sizes, and very few women. I usually like it when I stand out, but the bright red dress and heels I was wearing made me a 6’3” crimson-colored distraction. There was a bit of an E.F. Hutton moment when I first entered the room, and man, I have never felt so out of place in my life. I scoured the pack looking for even the slightest hint of a familiar face, but nothing. I had nothing. So I found a table in the center of the room next to a woman who was clearly a photographer. I felt like I’d be safe there for a moment, at least long enough for me to text to my husband that I almost ran over Russell Simmons.

(texting)

“Babe….. I… wish…. you…. were…. here…. right…… now…. I…. feel…. so…. intimidated…… oh…. and…. Russell…. Simmons….. is….. here….. in…… a…. tux…. why….. did…. you…. let…. me…. wear….. that…. red…. dress…… I…. knew….. I….. should…… have…. gone……. with……”

(interrupted by sudden pain)

Woman Who Stepped On My Foot: “Oh, I’m so sorry. Are you all right?”

Me: “Oh, no, I’m fine. It’s fine. I have big feet. It happens all the time.”

(back to texting)

“…… okay……. Jaime……. King…… just… stepped…. on… my…. foot…. and…….. it…. hurts…. but…. she… apologized…. to….. me…… who…..the…..ef…. am…. I…. right… now……???”

As I finished my text I noticed that the photographer was staring at me, probably because I was the only idiot rude enough to be on my telephone, texting.

Me: “Sorry. I know this is rude. I just was texting my husband to tell him that I’m in the same room with Russell Simmons. You know. A little star struck, I guess.”

Uncle Russ and me. Photo by Patty Long.

Uncle Russ and me. Photo by Patty Long.

Photographer: “I’m not star struck. You want to text your husband a picture of you with Russell?”

And before I had the chance to even respond, she called him over and said “take a picture with this young lady so she can send it to her husband.” Russell graciously obliged, nodded, and carried on with his Simmonsly duties.

Photographer: “Who else you want a picture with? Did you meet Dr. Ben? Dr. Benjamin Chavis, former Executive Director of the NAACP and prominent civil rights leader? Here, let me get him for you. (Calling across the room,) Dr. Ben! Dr. Ben! Come meet this young lady…”

And walking in my direction was none other than the kind-faced Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman who I had naively asked earlier if I had been underdressed. I was ashamed of myself that I didn’t recognize the man in front of me, but he, because of the type of person he is, didn’t let it bother him. We spoke for a few minutes until he was whisked away to do more important things, and that’s when I decided it was time to mingle amongst the non-VIP’s, as I didn’t think my heart could handle any more.

Craig and number five of his nine tuxedos

Craig and number five of his nine tuxedos

Billy Furman! OH, THANK G-D, that’s Billy Furman! I have never been so happy to see that tiny man in my life. And there’s Mark Smelzer, and Diane Warga-Arias, and, oh, there’s Andrea Hanson, again. And my good buddy, Craig Selimotic Danforth, in a tuxedo, of course… I’m pretty sure he wears them to bed. He must own like nine of them or something. There’s Natalie Bos, I recognize her, and Matthew Tratner, m’kay, that’s cool. AMANDA GIZZI!! She looks gorgeous. Okay, whew, now I feel at home. My people are here. I can breathe once more. Man, I needed these faces. I am thrilled out of my mind to see these faces.

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Table 17, courtesy of Rio Tinto

By the time I had set my sights on Brandee it was almost time to be formally seated. Since Rio Tinto was one of the three main sponsors of the event, their table was fairly close to the stage. As I walked past many of my friends and colleagues to get to table 17, I could hear Bob Uecker’s voice ringing in my head…

“Oh. I must be in the front rowwww…”

I’ll be honest… it made me laugh to myself. And after one or four scotches, I was feelingly final like I was (hiccup) relaxing down.

Seated to my right was Ben Lewis, Rio Tinto’s Antwerp-based Customer Accounts Manager, and I’m pretty sure that he was strategically put there for my enjoyment because he and I had a buh-last all night. Across from me sat JCK’s Victoria Gomelsky (whaddup, Vic!) as well as Melissa Bernardo, and of course, the lovely Ms. Dallow was seated to my left. The event itself consisted of an awards ceremony wherein the Global Diamond Industry Achievement Award was presented to H.E. President Ian Khama and the Government of the Republic of Botswana. It also had a live auction and concert by none other than Grammy Award-winning artist, Chaka Kahn. The event – the first of its kind on U.S. soil – raised over one million dollars and will benefit the “Diamonds Do Good” mission.

It was an evening that I won’t soon forget, and I am ever grateful to my hosts, Rio Tinto, for allowing me to represent the blogger community at their table. More about Rio Tinto’s “Oculus Rift” technology introduced at JCK will be talked about in an upcoming post, but for right now, I’m going to keep the people stories going before I get into the brand and product posts down the road.

And with this post as well as yesterday’s, the stories of day 1 in Las Vegas come to an end. I ate. I danced. I high-fived Chaka Kahn. I mingled with super models and rubbed elbows with heads of state. I took selfies, met dignitaries, and wore beautiful jewelry by the wonderful GUMUCHIAN. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it, and my wish is for you to stick around longer so that you can see where the rest of the week took me.

Until then…

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