Walking through the glass doors of Snellville’s A&J Jewelers jewelry store, the interior feels luxurious. The display cases sparkle under the reflections of the ornate chandelier, offering contents to delight customers and fit any budget. Now online shoppers can have a similar high-end experience.
For the first time in its 34-year history, customers can browse A&J Jewelers’ entire inventory online at www.snellvillejeweler.com. The jewelry store launched its new website on August 8 and, in addition to providing online shopping, the site now features a more comprehensive overview of the store’s services, including repair, maintenance and custom design.
“The online store was planned before the pandemic, but we accelerated it so people could have a better online experience,” said Amit Taank, director of A&J Jewelers and son of the store’s owners, Ashok and Jody Taank. Even before the store shut its doors for five weeks in March and April due to state orders meant to stem the spread of COVID-19, Taank wanted to expand the store’s online presence to better compete with the larger corporately-owned jewelry stores. He also wanted to provide resources to better inform customers about the store’s jewelry as well as its accolades and services.
“Educating the customer is very important,” Amit said. “People need to feel confident when they buy from us.”
Since Ashok & Jody first opened A&J Jewelers in 1986, the family has primarily relied on positive recommendations from long-time satisfied customers to bring in new business. “We’ve never lost focus on the customer,” said Amit, who joined the family business full time in 2004.
In fact, the Taanks followed their customers from DeKalb County to Gwinnett. The first A&J Jewelers was in Stone Mountain but moved to Snellville in 1996. “We saw a lot of clients were moving this direction and we’d always made a home in South Gwinnett, so we decided to move to serve this community. And this community has given back to us,” Amit said. “Whenever they think about jewelry needs, we’re usually the first company that they think about and they tell other people about us, too.”
Good customer service is touted so often by so many businesses that it’s become a somewhat meaningless phrase, Amit admits, but, he said, “There are many companies that cannot stand to lose a profit. They will lose a customer before they lose a profit and that’s very short-sighted.”
The Taank family has found more success in staying consistent with their “customer first, always” approach. “I don’t have to make a profit on every customer,” Amit said. “I have to satisfy every customer. Eventually that relationship will become profitable.”
The Taanks also are invested in maintaining that long-term commitment to their employees. During the five weeks the store was closed, their employees were paid full salaries, and no one was laid off. This is credited to help from a first-round Paycheck Protection Program loan, but even during tough times in the past, the store has never let go of an employee due to economic reasons. “We’re not interested in letting people go. We’ll take a hit internally first,” Amit said.
This dedication to providing a stable work environment and creating long-term relationships has not been without its challenges. Today in the jewelry business, rising material costs, especially gold, and the pressure of big-inventory large-chain jewelry stores are concerns for the Taanks, but they have faced many challenging economic situations over the last three decades and have always persevered. In the past, the family has made their own display cases, cut out wholesalers and bought directly from
suppliers, recycled materials to make more affordable jewelry pieces for a more cost-conscious clientele and stocked more budget-friendly jewelry lines to thrive in tough times.
The changes the Taanks have made during the last few months seem to be working. Since reopening the store in May, business has been much better than anticipated. “COVID has been a challenge but people seem to be spending on luxury goods,” Amit said. “Sales have been through the roof, which was a surprise, but I’m definitely not complaining.”
Of course the shopping experience is a little different than it was in February. “We took this situation very seriously. Masks were required from day one of reopening,” Amit said. “They make it somewhat more difficult to communicate and there is some discomfort with wearing them, but very few people have been grumpy about it.”
Designated entrances, exits and one-way lanes have also been added inside the store to keep customers and employees safely distanced and sanitizing stations are set up throughout the sales floor. Even with these changes, A&J Jewelers’ customers, both in-person and now online, can still expect the same high-quality in-house services from the Taanks and their employees, including onsite jewelry repair and custom jewelry design and creation.
“Our manufacturing capabilities are better than most,” Amit said. With the technology, equipment and knowledgeable master jewelers needed to take a customer-sketched design to a finished piece of fine jewelry, A&J Jewelers can fulfill some of the most outlandish requests. “Most people have crazy ideas about what they want their engagement rings to look like and we’re able to translate that,” Amit said. “From paper cocktail napkin sketch to finished engagement ring, it’s all done in-house. I can custom make a paper cocktail napkin design in 72 hours if I had to.”
While many business owners and leaders are trying to figure out what the future looks like, A&J Jewelers will be focused on maintaining their current successes. “I would love to announce we’re doing all these great new initiatives and projects but it’s just not realistic in this climate right now,” Amit said. “We want to be able to maintain our current trajectory across all business metrics. We want to turn over our inventory at a higher rate. We want to continue serving this community and continue to create stable employment for all the folks who work for us. That’s all very important.”
And, as it always has, Amit said the Taanks’ focus will remain on the customer. “We want to make sure people can continue to come in and spend money for anniversaries, birthdays and other special events without having to worry about things like the virus.”