Just like the caves and caverns where these gift shops are located, jewelry items offered by the retailers within them are unique. With an emphasis on stocking natural stones and keeping the selections varied, caves and caverns offer much to choose from in the jewelry category.
Earth and sea
Tim Grissom, manager of the gift shop at Ohio Caverns in West Liberty, Ohio, has two top sellers. “We sell jewelry made from natural materials, primarily created from Brazilian gemstones. That’s our biggest seller. Our second best is jewelry made from abalone shells, which we source from A.T. Storrs. Those are by far the two jewelry lines that we do best in.”
The store also offers necklaces in all different lengths, earrings, bracelets, rings, anklets and chokers. “Our necklaces and our rings are the biggest sellers,” he adds.
While necklaces are “by far our number one,” he explains, “Gemstones and abalone rings set in silver also do extremely well for us.”
Grissom says the shop goes directly to the jewelry craftsmen to find its unique jewelry. “We import directly from Brazil. We go there to the jewelry makers and source from them, which not only makes our items very unique, but gives us the advantage of picking and choosing items from the suppliers as they are actually building the pieces.”
The 2,000-square-foot shop redesigned its lighting arrangement several years ago to highlight the jewelry area and creates displays that fit the sparkling lighting. “For the abalone, we use an 8-foot spinning floor rack that’s about 2-by-2 feet in diameter. We also have a [slat] wall which we place our Brazilian gemstone items on, and a freestanding necklace tree created from natural wood for those necklaces. It looks just like there’s a tree growing in the gift shop,” Grissom says.
According to Grissom, “Having knowledge of the items you’re selling helps to close the sale, and that’s important. But what most souvenir shops miss is that they never open the sale.”
Grissom says opening is the most important part. “By opening, I mean greeting your customer as he or she walks into the space and letting them know you’re there at their service if needed. And you have to make yourself approachable for that introduction.”
He says he sees lots of locations where that is simply not occurring. “That’s not how we operate. We always strive to break the ice and make customers feel comfortable, which is the way to start the sale. We’ll worry about closing it later.”
And whether that’s jewelry or another coveted item from the store, the gift shop at Ohio Caverns has seen success with that approach.
Jewelry all around
In Park City, Kentucky, Chase Lasley, gift shop manager at Diamond Caverns, describes mineral and gemstone necklaces of all kinds as generating the most interest at his shop.
“We have an assortment of stones, as well as shark’s teeth necklaces for kids. Our higher-end gemstone necklaces feature stones hung on quality, sterling silver, adjustable chains.”
The stones come from a wide range of locations, not just from the local Kentucky area. To find the jewelry items the store carries, Lasley attends retail conferences and rock shows. “We frequently go to the geological show in Franklin, North Carolina,” he notes.
He uses a large, human-height tree to display the jewelry. “We hang our necklaces from the branches. It’s a big floor display that is appealing to the eye, and it is very helpful because it can hold a lot of items and allow visitors to clearly see a lot of different options in stones.”
Lasley creates his own displays along with other members of his sales team who hang and arrange jewelry.
“Our gift shop has spot lighting, and I can rotate the spots to strike the jewelry, which makes it sparkle. We will sometimes show jewelry along with big geode slices, which we also offer as jewelry on sterling silver chains,” he says.
His top customer service tip? “Have good signage, and make sure your staff is knowledgeable and ready to both answer and ask questions. If they don’t know the answer to a customer’s question, we encourage them to say, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out.’ Customers want to know what they are buying when it comes to jewelry and the different stones we offer.”
Also in Kentucky, at the Hidden River Cave and American Cave Museum in the town of Horse Cave, Dylan Wilson, a tour guide, environmental educator and gift shop staffer, describes the store’s top sellers.
“Gemstone necklaces create the most interest,” he says. “Some are carved like hearts, and some are just raw and natural. We have earrings made of gemstone material as well. Amethyst and quartz crystals are the most popular for earrings,” Wilson says.
The shop also does well with agate necklaces, necklaces made with small geodes and plain quartz.
“We find some of our quartz pieces here locally, from local distributors and craftspeople. We get some from Mike’s Big Rock Shop in Cave City, for example. But mostly our store’s jewelry is ordered online,” Wilson says.
The store’s amethyst pieces come from Brazil. A variety of unique rings the store carries are also purchased online, such as those with several types of genuine opal, “that people just love,” according to Wilson.
Wilson says the most popular jewelry items at Hidden River Cave and American Cave Museum are rings and necklaces. All have a very reasonable price point. “Our necklaces are in the $12 range primarily, and rings $2.50. Any little girl who comes in will go for those rings. We don’t sell as many earrings.”
Display and lighting, which are handled by the shop staff, include rings kept in open ring boxes, a jewelry tree for necklaces and some of the earrings, and “a really cool actual tree branch that we hang several necklaces from. We don’t keep our jewelry in glass cases; we want people to be able to see what we have.”
A key component to the customer service provided by the shop revolves around knowledge. “We make sure we can tell visitors what gems are contained in our jewelry. We provide some input on their origin. I think that’s important,” Wilson says.
From jewelry crafted of actual cave stalactites to abalone, opal and direct-from-the-source Brazilian crystals, cave and cavern shops all have a focus on offering jewelry as special as the attractions themselves.