A Tale of Two Spectrums

October 16, 2015

A Tale of Two Spectrums – One Year after the Split
Star Sosa reflects on the decision to divide her business into two distinct stores

Nearly 19 years ago, Star Sosa came to Wilmington with a dream to open a unique jewelry studio here and participate in the local arts community.  Based on her background in fine jewelry galleries and craft shows that first store was a hybrid concept blending jewelry store and art gallery.  Last year the opportunity arose to divide the store into its two components and create two unique stores, each with their own distinct flavor and focus:  Spectrum Fine Jewelry, an award-winning designer jewelry studio, and Spectrum Gallery, showcasing local and regional fine art and American handmade craft.  It was a bold experiment to see if the separation would allow each faction to grow and flourish and if the two halves could be greater than the old concept.

 It’s been one year and the results are in on Ms. Sosa’s leap of faith.  The separation of the stores did result in growth on many levels.  Spectrum Fine Jewelry is the biggest success story.  Something about narrowing the focus to primarily fine jewelry services and taking most of the art off the walls resulted in exponential growth in sales, especially in the areas of custom jewelry, loose gemstones, and diamond sales.  Sales of engagement rings have also improved dramatically as word got out of the exceptional designer selection and custom options. 

 Apparently the refinements changed visitors’ perception of the store, from a whimsical fashion store to a high concept designer jewelry studio and fine diamond supplier.  The jewelry collections are much the same, focusing on top ranked artists and materials.  The jewelry team didn’t change either.  The primary shift was modifying the overall environment and manor of displaying the jewelry.  The playful, colorful gallery setting was modified to calm and elegant shades of grey, black, and white.  The displays blended sleek contemporary lines with rich natural textures of wood and stone.  The art is now inside the cases versus on the walls. The next year will include expanding the in-house created one-of-a-kind jewelry collection by lead designer, Susan Drake and master goldsmith, Michael Schmalzreidt. 

 The art gallery has also seen growth in the sales of original art and contemporary craft.  The space is bright and airy with white and aqua walls.  The main color comes from the vibrant paintings and colorful glass and clay.  Weekly music and gatherings promote the space as a great environment to meet and socialize as well as shop.  Initiatives to reach out to local interior designers and other potential strategic partners have fostered new business.  Adding a broader selection of artists has increased the selection.   In addition to local art the gallery has added more art glass, sculpture, pottery and handmade jewelry.  Another significant factor in the success of the gallery is its proximity to a busy restaurant, the Osteria Cichetti.  The gallery maintains later hours to attract the after-dinner crowd on Thursday and Friday nights.  The plan for the next twelve months is to increase the representation of North Carolina artists working in all media such as gifts and art in clay, glass, wood, metal, textiles, etc.

 In some ways, running two stores has been both easier and more difficult than the previous incarnation of Spectrum.  In any business having a talented and well trained team is the key to success.  The two stores require different personalities and skill sets and that division of labor has lead to greater productivity and harmony within the team.  Having them in close proximity, just one door apart at The Forum, really helps with both logistics and with the synergy that comes from complimentary businesses.  In essence the two stores are better strategic partners than they were as two departments were under one roof.  There are other avenues to streamline costs:  such as a single e-commerce website, one connected phone system, one point of sale software system, one accounting office, and one marketing office.

 Not to say there aren’t many other areas of opportunity for growth but at first blush, one year later, it is clear that the decision to split Spectrum into two factions and open Spectrum Fine Jewelry and Spectrum Gallery was worthwhile.  The result of that venture is two unique and memorable stores that bring exceptional offerings to Wilmington in a fresh, fun package.    


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