Rapaport Magazine

Annapolis in Love

Enthusiastic community support, a strong diamond business and help from loyal customers lifted Zachary’s Jewelers from one of its greatest disasters.

By Nancy Pier Sindt
It’s a family story, once removed. Steve Samaras, president of Zachary’s Jewelers, Annapolis, Maryland, worked in a jewelry store owned by a relative, and when the business closed in 1992, he and a partner bought it. Their first order of business was to build inventory and develop a customer following. As Samaras explains it, “We became a player in the community, having involvement in many organizations.”

Almost two decades later, Samaras is still adamant about community support. He says every one of his staff members is involved with at least one charity, either serving on its board or working on fund-raisers and events.

Generally, one Thursday every month is devoted to an in-store event, usually benefiting some local cause. 

Rising From Ashes

In November 2005, the store had a catastrophic fire and burned to the ground. Everything was lost. Fortunately, the landlord owned another location: a former Banana Republic just around the corner from the burned building. He offered it to the jeweler. With the help and support of staff and the local community, Zachary’s Jewelers reopened at the new location in just seven days and managed to have its best December ever.

Named one of the top ten retail spaces in the state of Maryland, the 4,000-square-foot store, at the intersection of Market Place and Main Street, has an entrance from each street and overlooks Annapolis Harbor. In November 2010, Zachary’s opened a second store about 12 miles away in Severna Park, a freestanding unit with a similar design to the original, plus a glassed-in design room with on-staff jewelers to create custom pieces.

The main store, recipient of numerous design awards, reflects the nautical heritage of Annapolis. Designed by architect Aleksey Belinskiy, the interior resembles a yacht, with a boat-shaped central display case island, hardwood flooring with curved carpet patterns and teakwood jewelry cases with brass details. A large mosaic on one wall is an abstract depiction of the sun rising over Chesapeake Bay.

Navy Waters

The U.S. Naval Academy, situated a short distance away, makes up a substantial part of the retailer’s clientele. “We are the jeweler of choice to the U.S. Naval Academy,” says Samaras. A big part of Zachary’s business comes from the ring purchased by midshipmen in their junior year. “It’s a tradition that’s deeply rooted,” the jeweler explains. “The ring, a type of class ring, undergoes a special ceremony where it is dipped in the waters from the seven seas.” The ring is usually ordered from a traditional class ring manufacturer, but Zachary’s supplies the center stones, which can be diamonds, colored gemstones or a combination of the two. Samaras says he supplies 350 out of every 1,000 of the rings’ center stones, a service that brings in about $1.5 million annually.

These same midshipmen, most in their early 20s, often remember the store when it’s time to buy an engagement ring. Samaras says supplying a large range of diamonds athighly competitive prices is one of his store’s specialties. For many years, he has purchased diamonds directly from a major Israeli sightholder.

Diamonds and diamond jewelry contribute the plurality of sales to Zachary’s, estimated at 70 percent to 75 percent of total business. The majority of diamonds are D to J, with the lowest clarity an SI2. For engagement rings, the average size is 1 carat and above. In addition to a number of branded lines, such as Mémoire, Scott Kay, Ritani and Simon G., custom engagement rings, designed by three on-staff jewelers, bring in about 20 percent to 25 percent of diamond sales.

Despite his store’s success in bridal and diamond jewelry sales, Samaras says Valentine’s Day always posed a problem for him. It didn’t bring in the big profits many other jewelers enjoy. In 2008, he and his staff came up with an idea: the “Expressions of Love” event. Zachary‘s sponsored a contest where entrants submitted their expressions of love and the winning entries received $10,000 worth of jewelry. The event was a huge success and was repeated the following year.

Romance Sells

In 2010, Zachary’s upgraded its Expressions of Love event by enlisting the support of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of Annapolis, the Downtown Annapolis Partnership and many local merchants. The result was the “Annapolis in Love” weekend, held in April. In organizing the weekend and inviting other local businesses to participate, Samaras says, he told them he wasn’t asking them to offer discounts, but rather to “do something unexpected.” They responded.

Throughout the weekend, thousands of dollars in prizes were awarded and couples enjoyed romantic dinners and brunches, water taxi gondolier rides, outdoor concerts, lingerie fashion shows, “Newlywed Game” happy hours — even a “speed dating” cocktail party. For the event, the Annapolis Chamber of Commerce even allowed dozens of local streets to be renamed with romantic designations.

For Zachary’s, Annapolis in Love was an unqualified success, raising $5,000 for the American Heart Association and even bringing in the sale of a $70,000 diamond. Other participating merchants reported sales increases of 30 percent during the weekend. How to top this success? In 2011, Samaras says the event will be expanded to perhaps one week in length, and will be held in September, assuring rain-free weather, as well as an early kickoff to the year-end holiday shopping season.

*Pictured: DeLatori bangle




Article from the Rapaport Magazine - March 2011. To subscribe click here.

Comment Comment Email Email Print Print Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Share Share
Comments: (0)  Add comment Add Comment
Arrange Comments Last to First