Turning adversity into opportunity isn’t an easy task. It takes temerity, courage and creativity. Qualities the staff at J. Thomas Jewelers has in ample supply with “passion for people” at the core of their mission statement in serving the Rochester Hills, MI community.
This is true during periods of normalcy, but is even more apparent when the Midwestern state was hard hit by the global pandemic. Similar to many independent jewelers, J. Thomas Jewelers has social media-based giveaway contests. But store manager Noreen Meganck decided to change “Giveaways Wednesdays” to “Grateful Wednesdays” during the month of April to honor those at the front lines of battling COVID-19.
“Grateful Wednesday came into being as an avenue to give back to our community,” says Noreen. “In contemplating what J. Thomas Jewelers had to offer, as a small fish in a big sea, the Heart of Hope pendant, made by Gems by Pancis, was selected.”
With their store located roughly 28 miles north of Detroit, J. Thomas Jewelers quickly responded to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s state-wide stay-at-home order put into effect March 24. Store owner Tom Costigan decided it was best to close the store on a temporary basis for public health reasons five days ahead of the governor’s orders.
Tom met with his staff on March 19 and made the decision to shut the store’s doors to “maintain the health and safety of the employees,” according to Noreen. In the lead up to the official state-wide closure date, guests with special orders and repairs were contacted for curb side pickup or deliveries.
During this time of crisis, like many other jewelers J. Thomas Jewelers needed to stay connected to their community. Not just for business reasons, but also to show their support during such trying times. COVID-19-related Facebook and social media postings started on March 27.
“People remember for the moment what a business does that impacts their lives,” says Noreen. “It is an ongoing top-of-mind awareness that keeps you connected to the community. The social media for the store normally is not handled by me. However, with the closures and layoffs I felt the need to jump in and stay connected. Hence, Grateful Wednesday was born.”
The temporary store closure was the impetus for Noreen to become more involved with social media content. Many retail jewelers across the country are posting pre-recorded video content or streaming live. Noreen went with the streaming live option.
“Live videos seem to garner more attention than normal Facebook posts,” says Noreen. “In order to connect with more viewers, I jumped right in.”
Over the decades, retail jewelers have had a number of changes and challenges to their traditional business model. The COVID-19 pandemic may be a temporary obstacle, but it isn’t changing what all jewelers already know - gift-giving occasions continue to happen.
J. Thomas Jewelers has made some Herculean efforts to make product sales available and convenient for their guests. “COVID-19 does not cancel special occasions,” says Noreen. “And, hope knows no quarantine.”
The latter phrase is part of the store’s temporary closure mantra and mission statement to not just stay connected to their community, but to continue to serve them. The store quickly pivoted with an e-commerce enabled website, offering free shipping or curb side pickup. Even special website graphics and downloadable PDF files like the “My COVID-19 2020 Time Capsule” worksheets. There’s also a link to the Heart of Hope pendant and chain, which is available for $239.
The Heart of Hope pendant is made of sterling silver, plated with rose gold. The pendant is set with 12 natural cognac diamonds and is sold with an 18-inch sterling silver chain. One-hundred percent of profit proceeds go to benefit Shield’s Restaurant to assist in providing free meals during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Heart of Hope may be a modestly priced piece of sterling silver and gold-plated jewelry, but during the month of April it became a larger-than-life symbol of appreciation and optimism, for J. Thomas Jewelers and the Rochester Hills community.
The campaign is purely social media driven with Facebook and Instagram postings along with email notifications. Nominations for professions being recognized included nurses, doctors, lab technicians and administrative support at health care facilities, service professionals, police, fire as well as EMS. But all four Heart of Hope pendants went to medical personnel at four local hospitals, including Royal Oak Beaumont, Providence Park Hospital, Ascension Genesys Hospital and the University of Michigan Hospital.
In addition to live feeds and successful community outreach campaigns, Tom, Noreen and their staff have also learned that humor in a time of crisis can also serve as good medicine. Social media postings included some fun and humorous graphics as well as homespun videos produced by friends of J. Thomas Jewelers. Most notable was the “We Didn’t Start The Virus” video, a humorous and timely parody of the Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire”.
When addressing a national tragedy, in this case a global one, J. Thomas Jewelers’ staff felt compelled to do something in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Heart of Hope pendant giveaways were just part of the store’s community outreach efforts.
When normalcy returns, Tom, Noreen and their staff will ask themselves if it was worth it. “When the doors reopen will it be different,” says Noreen. “Slower? Kinder? Maybe. The key thing is how will we be remembered during this time.”