Ken Heafner is placing a big, shiny bet that he’s got the right plan in the right place to grow his new jewelry store.
This month, Heafner opened Clark Avenue Jewelers at 2564 King Ave. West, the former longtime home of Van Rensselaer Jewelers, which closed last fall.
The 58-year-old Billings man and certified gemologist is veteran of the jewelry industry, having worked for 25 years as store manager at Van Rensselaer Jewelers. When owner Steve Morse retired and closed the West End business last fall, Heafner (pronounced hef-ner, like Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner) said he saw a chance to take a new direction in the face of increasing competition and rising costs.
“The owners made it very easy for us to take over the business,” Heafner said.
Jewelry sales are closely tied to the overall economy, and specialty stores have faced pressure from multiple fronts. Gold prices remain high, around $1,200 an ounce. Sales online and at big-box stores are grabbing a larger market share, and total sales are expected to level off in five years, industry experts say.
At Clark Avenue Jewelers, Heafner said he’s developed a heavier focus on engagement rings, the core of his business. He has hundreds of rings and bands in stock, and he expects those sales will represent about three-quarters of his business.
“It’s probably the only necessary piece of jewelry that somebody’s going to buy in their lifetime,” Heafner said.
According to Australia-based Diamond Shades, an industry trade group, the U.S. jewelry market should grow 4 to 8 percent in the next five years before leveling off. The reason: More Americans are delaying marriage until they have solid career footing, which will cut into jewelry spending, Diamond Shades reported.
Heafner said he’s retaining Van Rensselaer customers and trying to attract new ones. He’s selling his more expensive stones at wholesale cost, forgoing those profits and cutting thousands of dollars from the retail price. He said he’ll make up for it with retail markups of gold bands and low overhead costs. Heafner and his wife, Teri Johnson-Heafner, are the only employees.
Location is huge, too, Heafner said. The spot is already known as a jewelry store, and passing traffic to Home Depot and Big Bear increases Clark Avenue’s visibility, he said.
“This is an ideal location, probably for any retail store,” Heafner said.
But if you’re wondering why a West End store carries the name of a downtown Billings street, you’re not alone, Heafner acknowledges with a laugh. He and his wife, both grew up on Clark Avenue and carry fond memories of the neighborhood.
Taking on freight
Billings horse trainer T.J Schilling is trading his saddle for a semi.
Schilling, 35, started T.J. Quarter Circle Hauling and Delivery in early March, a one-man trucking business based in Billings.
Schilling said he recently had reconstructive surgery on his shoulder, which limited his ability to keep training and sent him scrambling to find a new career.
He said he earned his commercial driver’s license about two years ago, but he’s mostly driven farm equipment.
Schilling said he can haul livestock, hay and other cargo on his freight trailer. He’s available for local trips or long hauls.
Call 697-3636 for more information.
Wags for pet-toy maker
It’s easy to be green for West Paw Design.
The Bozeman-based manufacturer of pet beds, toys and apparel was recognized on the Best for the Environment list by nonprofit B Lab, a group that supports social awareness in business.
The agency recognized West Paw for manufacturing all of its products domestically, which set it apart from other companies that outsource to foreign factories.
B Lab recognizes achievements by B corporations, or benefit corporations. They are formed with a mission to provide some sort of societal benefit to the community beyond value for shareholders.
West Paw was one of 84 businesses recognized for its environmental stewardship.
Haikus from the valley
It’s really cold here
Then fire up that boiler, please!
Can’t. Coal stuck on train.