3900 Hamilton Blvd.
Founded in 1785 by Revolutionary War veteran Christian Bixler III, Bixler’s Jewelers has been helmed by six generations of family members. Nine years ago, Christian Bixler’s great-great-great-granddaughter, Joyce Welken, sold the store, which was based in Easton, Pa., to Mark Maurer of Vanscoy, Maurer & Bash Diamond Jewelers in Lancaster, Pa., but she remains involved in daily operations. The business, now located in Allentown, Pa., features memorabilia like old tools and letters, pictures of the founder, and modern-day brands such as Rolex and David Yurman, but Bixler’s renowned grandfather clocks are no more. Head to the old storefront in Easton to admire its clock in the town center—and, if you’re lucky enough to own a Bixler’s original, hang on to it; you never know when Antiques Roadshow may come calling.
“A great group of staff is key to evolving.”
Listen (really listen!) to your customers.
Manager Nicole Nasser explains: “Make customers your No. 1 priority and listen to their needs. We picked up a watch line because customers were asking for one. And young customers might think we aren’t current with trends, but we are. We go to jewelry shows and buy smartly—including trends like studs and earring jackets.”
Jewelry repairs and custom work are best done in-house.
“Finding a great group of staff is key to evolving. Staff need to relate to customers and provide service and keep customers informed and engaged. Also, hiring an in-house jeweler was a huge move for us. We could offer more custom work, please customers more quickly, and offer a quicker turnaround time for repairs, making us more efficient. We have a laser and a bench jeweler who is trained to use it, so our ratio of turning away repairs is down drastically. We no longer need to send repairs back to vendors and wait eight weeks to get items back.”
Analyze what’s working; if it doesn’t make sense financially, ditch it.
“Bixler’s prepares for the future by studying trends to know what lines will resonate with clients and what trends might not work in our market, keeping vendor lines current—we are such a service industry—and offering repairs and appraisals. It’s all analysis and about what makes financial sense. You have to be constantly ready to evolve. If not, I don’t think there is any way to be successful.”
Location, location, location.
“Moving to this location had the most positive impact on our business. When Mark Maurer acquired Bixler’s, it had two locations, but he condensed them into this one because it was more accessible and in a shopping center. We’ve had positive feedback as a result.”
“Dealing with customers face-to-face requires you to adapt to what they want and ask for. Plus, when customers swarm into the store one day and it’s a ghost town the next, staff need to adapt. The day-to-day is never the same, and that’s what makes it fun; you never know who will walk in the door or what will walk out. You also don’t know what people will bring in—an amazing gemstone you have never seen, or an old vintage Rolex, especially at this location. People think because we are one of America’s oldest jewelers we might appreciate their pieces, so we have to respect the customers’ needs.”
Top: Bixler’s one and only Allentown, Pa., location; inset: manager Nicole Nasser (c.) with owner Mark Maurer and previous owner Joyce Welken
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