Winston’s Crown Jewelers uncovers what you really want

OCRegister 7 months ago
Glenn Verdult

Glenn Verdult

An array of baubles housed at Winston’s Crown Jewelers

An array of baubles housed at Winston’s Crown Jewelers

YELLOW-AND-WHITE-DIAMOND-HALO-NECKLACE
  • The billionaire needs to buy a ring.

    He has pulled up to Winston’s Crown Jewelers at the corner of Dover and Coast Highway in his chauffeured Rolls-Royce to come into Glenn Verdult’s showroom himself. This is a task he can’t leave to any of his staff, because he wants not just any ring. The billionaire needs a ring to impress a new woman he hopes to marry, something that will express in a way words can’t how precious she is to him.

    The billionaire figures about a quarter of a million dollars should be enough to secure a diamond engagement ring that can do that kind of talking.

    But here’s the thing: Winston’s owner Glenn Verdult hears what customers say they need, but seems to have a certain genius for uncovering what they really want.

    This uncanny ability of his can feel like psychic intuition, but is likely the result of plain old experience. Lots of experience. The lanky, impeccable Dutchman (well, half Dutch) has been selling people things since he was in high school.

    “I am 15 years old at the counter buying merchandise in my uncle’s pawn shop – and that was 40 years ago. Can you imagine?” Verdult raises an eyebrow, flashes his trademark wide smile. “When you are 15 years old trying to get the best deal on a TV or a nugget ring or whatever, you learn what words to say perfectly, how to compliment – but evaluate at the same time.”

    This Verdult finesse is on display as he directs the billionaire’s gaze to three separate 15-carat diamond rings that appear to be the size of small paperweights. The billionaire points to one that sparkles like a star snatched from the sky, whose tiny white tag reveals the big price of $300,000. “What about that one?”

    What appears to be a nervous accountant standing by the billionaire’s side clears his throat.

    Verdult says, “Excellent choice for a very special lady.”

    And without further ado, a seamlessly choreographed dance begins: Verdult’s wife and business partner Michelle whisks the diamond from sight as Verdult offers to add another, lesser priced ring into the deal. (“Why did I give a billionaire a ring for free?” He asks rhetorically, anticipating the question later. “That ring keeps the relationship we have established. What happens if I get him in the store again? What do you think is going to happen?”)

    When the billionaire accepts, Verdult offers a beer to celebrate the successful transaction and the happy woman who will be at the end of it.

    The entire exchange, from the moment the billionaire walked through the glass doors to the moment he leaves them, takes less than 20 minutes.

    But a beer? That seemed like a Veuve Cliquot moment, at least.

    “I have sold him many things over the years. I knew he’d prefer beer to Champagne.” Verdult says later, relaxing on the black leather couch in his office behind a one-way mirror in back of the showroom. “Just the same as I knew he was looking for something flashy. Money was never really the issue.”

    Then it becomes clear: It’s a mistake to think Winston’s is a business about jewelry. Verdult is really in a business about people, and of making people’s dreams
    come true.

    “You have to think about who this person is,” Verdult says of his customers. “As I am gathering all their story, then I can decipher where I want to go, what pieces are they attached to, and what are
    they not.”

    But even a sales technique as good as Verdult’s couldn’t be the only factor in the business’ longevity. Winston’s, with two stores in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, has been in business for 45 years. Verdult’s uncle started the Costa Mesa store and Verdult then took over from another owner who’d run the property into insolvency. What he bought for $42,000 at the age of 28, he “brought up by tenfold by the next year.” And he has never
    looked back.

    His secret? Size matters. As in inventory, as in extremely large pieces, and lots of them.

    “We have a tremendous inventory,” Verdult says, a hint of pride in his voice. He points to the example of how just now he was able to show his customer three 15-carat engagement rings immediately, without the man having to wait. “We have that ability over everybody. We own 99 percent of inventory and we bought it outright. What that means is I won’t buy wholesale on something unless I don’t have it. Most all of those pieces I bought from a private individual, an upgrade, a trade-in, even another dealer in distress, whether it is 10 grand or a million dollars. I will write the check now. The seller might lose 20 percent, but it will be the customer’s gain at the end. My buying ability saves them money.”

    Industry trends bode well for Verdult’s continued business success. Market analysts point to jewelry as the healthiest sector of the personal accessory category, with domestic sales averaging about $316 billion and growth expected particularly in Asia Pacific markets like China
    and India.

    And then there is the online experience, another channel to reach buyers all over the world. Michelle, Verdult’s wife, has a loyal following of Asian buyers who regularly light up her cell phone with messages. “I love jewelry,” says Michelle, who first met Verdult when she walked into his Costa Mesa store. “I love the excitement that it brings them, when it’s a gift for someone. To me it’s the whole emotional effect that drives this.”

    Verdult is the first to say he’s unimpressed by the digital age. “We’re old school. That’s who we are,” he says. “You think that billionaire is on Instagram? Really?”

    It’s easy to see he enjoys the in-real-life interaction, the joke, the hug. He’s the kind of guy who can and will strike up a conversation with anybody because he seems genuinely curious about people. He’s also the kind of guy who likes changing the lightbulbs in his store and devising a new design for the door handles.

    “He is the most clever MacGyver of a person – he can fix anything. So inventive,” says Dainera Verdult, one of Michelle and Glenn’s seven children in their blended marriage. At 22 she has worked in her dad’s store since high school.

    Little known, she says, is that Verdult is a huge cinephile with a love of war movies (“Saving Private Ryan” above all). In fact, he’s such a war history buff that Dainera is sure that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, Verdult was a war general at some point in his life, if for nothing else than his can-do ethos. “He’s taught me there is a way that anything can be done.”

    “The business is a machine that flows without too many hiccups,” he says. “I never want to hear a client upset. My motto is, No problem. I don’t care what I have to do, I fix the problem.”

    Don’t expect Verdult leave the business to the tight-knit staff any time soon. After a lifetime
    spent behind the jewelry counter, Verdult admits there’s still a thrill in the buy.

    “At the end of the day I like the big diamonds, I like something that impresses me,” he says, recalling a 46-carat diamond pendant/ring that recently came through his store in a private sale, or the $1.5 million strand of rare pearls that at this moment are lying on his desk. Verdult nods. “

    Gorgeous, right? I want those multi-million dollar pieces.”

    Dainera, for one, admires the success of her dad’s business. “He is a visionary,” she believes. “He is a lot of the sweat and the idea behind it, too.”

    So what is the advice this visionary can share with the world? He laughs. “Buy low.”

    Winston’s Crown Jewelers, 100 West Coast Highway #101, Newport Beach, (949) 642-5000  :: winstonscrownjewelers.com

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