Nancy Marchell and her daugher Andrea Eklund travel the world to meet
diamond cutters and custom jewelry makers. They are certified diamond
ambassadors, independent jewelry sellers and adept at all things bling.
As a mother-daughter duo operating an independent jewelry store in Grand Forks, North Dakota, trips to Antwerp, Belgium, are becoming common. Nancy Marchell, owner of Signature Jewelers, and now her daughter Andrea Eklund, a former English teacher from Grand Forks, are getting used to seeing the billboards that greet guests when they enter Antwerp, known as the diamond capital of the world. They especially like the billboards that greet them. The slogan on the signs is only three words: “We speak diamonds.”
The pair has traveled the country and the world to meet with diamond cutters and custom jewelry makers. Since Marchell’s early days operating her store as a single mother, Eklund has always shown an interest for the products in her mom’s store. Starting this summer, Eklund’s addition to the Signature staff will ensure Marchell’s lifelong passion will become a second-generation operation. As purveyors of high-end style that at times can come with a high-end price tag, the duo is confident it has found the right strategy to compete locally against national entities for generations to come.
The Independent’s Advantage
Travel is the number-one myth Marchell hopes her team can dispel. “People think they need to travel to major metros to find high-end or custom jewelry,” Marchell says. “I can have a million dollar diamond in our store in a day.” Like most regional entities competing against national brands, the Signature team believes it can succeed with an attention to customer connection.
“We get to help people celebrate some of the greatest moments in their lives,” Eklund says. “Because of that, we take what we do seriously.”
To make their mark and develop long-term trust in what they hope can be a generational customer base, Marchell and Eklund have visited nursing homes to help resize rings, delivered custom pieces to clients unable to travel due to illness or traveled to Vegas to participate in engagement surprises. Before Christmas, Signature holds panic parties for the last minute (male) shoppers. And, the team also invites women shoppers to partake in wish-list nights that allow the participants to enjoy wine, massages and fill-out a wish list of items they wish they could have if their significant others make it into the store.
“Finding a connection and forming a relationship is what it is all about,” Marchell says. “I have clients whom I’ve never met in person, but through our conversations about what they’ve needed, we were able to establish a lifelong client.”
With the addition of Eklund to the team, Marchell now knows the store will continue to offer new products that can only be found in south Grand Forks. Eklund’s style is noticeably different than her mother’s. While Eklund prefers dainty pieces, her mother prefers showy pieces. Both value the time they’ve spent together and look forward to the future trips planned to meet jewelry makers in Belguim and Paris. Marchell can look at any piece of jewelry in the store and rattle off the details of where it came from, who made it and why it ended up in North Dakota. Eklund, who loves to see people fall in love with jewelry—a process that can be recognized when a client holds a piece in their hand and says nothing, instead staring at the piece for a prolonged, almost awkward moment of time—says there is pressure to live up to her mom’s eye for jewelry. That doesn’t mean she isn’t ready to help continue the success of the family business. This fall she is headed to Antwerp with her boss to the city of diamonds where she’ll meet cutters and craft-piece makers and others who speak about jewelry in a way that she knows will keep her inspired back in Grand Forks—just as her mom has done many times before—where she can help create those moments with clients when they ask to see a piece from the case, to hold it in their hands, to hear a story of how it was made or how it can be customized, and then to watch as the clients stare in silence as they fall in love. G
// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here
PHOTOS BY: RUSS HONS PHOTOGRAPHY