CAPE MAY — William Scott opened his business in Cape May shortly after graduating with an MBA in entrepreneurship.
As he soon experienced, a business model can change based on what one learns about the market and customer preferences.
Scott and his wife, Diane, own Artisans Alcove on Lafayette Street in Cape May, an estate jewelry business that buys and sells previously owned, vintage and antique pieces.
The store started 20 years ago without a jewelry focus at all, but as a high-end craft gallery selling hand-blown glass, kaleidoscopes and wind chimes. At the same time, an acquaintance suggested they sell some old pocket watches in a small case.
“In the two years, I noticed we were selling some wind chimes and kaleidoscopes, but this little case was really selling. People liked the pocket watches and the older pieces,” said Scott, 47, of West Cape May.
Scott went back to school to get his gemology degree and decided in 1995 to focus the business entirely on jewelry. Scott opened another store in Ocean City in August 2011.
“Hopefully, anyone who starts a business, their first idea is great and they’ll succeed. But the other idea of running a successful business, especially in retail, is listening to what your customers are telling you. They don’t come out and say it, but they’re buying this instead of that. So we switched the store around to all jewelry,” he said.
Scott said his business has emphasized bridal pieces — engagement, wedding and anniversary jewelry — in part due to Cape May’s appeal as a romantic destination.
About eight years ago, he also started another facet of the business — buying diamond jewelry that is broken or otherwise will not be sold directly and transporting the pieces to a factory in Thailand, which crafts them into new pieces.
“It allows me to pay more per karat when people come in with a piece with diamonds in it but is broken,” he said. “I know we can take them out, sort them and reuse them. It enables us not only to cater to people who like vintage jewelry, but new styles and new pieces as well.”
The price of gold has surpassed $1,700 per ounce, following a decade of steady appreciation, according to Goldprice.org.
Scott said the price of gold does not greatly affect his business, but it does impact trends. Big, heavy pieces are not selling.
“I think some people are waiting for gold to come back down,” he said.
Particularly in the jewelry business, having a sturdy reputation is important for building and retaining customers, Scott said.
“The credit shock of 2008 was a shock to everybody, but we got through it because of loyal customers and we treated people the right way,” he said.
Scott, who grew up in Delaware County, Pa., and whose family vacationed in Cape May in the summer, said he long wanted to work for himself.
At age 11, he had a job sweeping the sand out of a Cape May arcade. At 12, he sold newspapers on the beach. As a youngster, he sold Burpee seeds to neighbors.
“I teach my kids this: You need an education and then you need to do something you enjoy doing,” said Scott, a father of three.
“I enjoy working for myself, whether it was selling Burpee seeds to my neighbors or papers on the beach,” he said. “I enjoyed the fact that the harder I worked, the more I got paid. I could decide when was the best time of day to sell papers based on the amount of people on the beach. You make your own decisions working for yourself, and that’s something I always enjoyed doing.
“No matter the business you’re going to start, the American dream is basically adapting to a situation and working hard towards it,” he said.
Contact Brian Ianieri:
Location: 523 Lafayette St., Cape May
Owners: William and Diane Scott, of West Cape May
Revenues: Not disclosed