Precious Metals & Bench:News
A franchise of jewelry repair shops depends on bench strength
If you ever doubt the value of a well-trained and efficient bench, the
success of Jewelry Repair Enterprises Inc., West Palm Beach, FL, may convince
you. The company franchises individually owned shops called Fast-Fix Jewelry
"We are America's jewelry repair professional,"says CEO Marvin
Biltis. Not coincidentally, the company is registering that phrase for a
service mark (like a trademark, but for a service instead of a product).
The more than 80 franchises already in business operate as mall stores
or kiosks. The target market is people who need repairs done quickly. Ninety
percent of the repairs are done while customers shop at the mall, says Biltis.
"It's important for retail jewelers to realize we don't come into
the malls to compete with them," Biltis explains. "We offer a
complementary service quick, efficient, high-quality repair work."
That's not to say Fast-Fix Jewelry Repair stores don't do any selling.
They sell engravables, giftware, mountings and semimounts with stones that
can be finished into rings. Biltis notes that while a customer could come
into many Fast-Fix stores, pick out a stone and a mounting and have it made
into a finished ring, that's unusual.
One of the first and most successful franchisees is Peter LeCody, who bought
his first Fast-Fix franchise in 1987 in Dallas, TX. He now has six mall
stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and plans several more in the next
few years. He came to Fast-Fix with years of experience in the jewelry industry,
having worked for Zales for many years. He saw a need for fast, reliable
service that was not being met by the retail jewelry stores in his area.
According to Biltis, the exact services and products each franchise offers
are determined by the franchisee, as are the number and quality of the employees.
Jewelry Repair Enterprises provides everything the new owner needs to get
started. The kiosk franchisee makes an initial investment of about $94,000.
A mall store, which is usually 500 to 750 square feet, takes an investment
of $130,000 to $160,000. A franchisee can be in business in three to four
months. Jewelry Repair Enterprises secures the site, has the kiosk or store
built, helps obtain financing (but does not provide it) and provides the
initial inventory and equipment.
Hiring and training staff is left to the franchisee, though help is provided
in this area too. Support and advice are available after initial training
is completed by calling the company. National and regional meetings are
held regularly as ongoing support.
Peter LeCody now has a staff of 50, including 11 bench jewelers, watch
technicians and watchmakers. His stores do ring sizing, soldering, stone
setting, watch cleaning and repair, custom design work, wax carving and
casting. This is a wider range of services than many Fast-Fix franchises
LeCody stresses that his success is rooted in giving expert service. That
level of service depends on how he hires employees. Testing is a crucial
aspect of the hiring process. He is a strong advocate of the Jewelers of
America® Bench Certification Program and serves on its advisory board.
Nine of his 11 bench jewelers are certified by JA. "On average, for
every 10 jewelers we bench test, we hire only one," says LeCody. "We
also look for a minimum of five to six years of hands-on experience."
Biltis underscores the fundamental importance of skilled bench jewelers
to the success of a franchise. You don't need to be a bench jeweler or have
a background in the industry to be a successful franchisee, he says, but
you must hire people who do. So strong is the commitment to skilled bench
jewelers that last year, Mark Mann, director of JA's bench certification
program, was invited to speak at Jewelry Repair Enterprises' annual meeting
- Fast Fix Jewelry Repair Enterprises, West Palm Beach, FL; (800) 359-0407.
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.