By Samantha Joseph
STUART - An upswing in business in the last year is proof to administrators of Miracle Jewelry Exchange that the Stuart company is on the right track.
Known for its low prices, and specials such as 99 cent watch batteries, the store revamped its staff in recent months to gain in-house expertise and set itself apart from competitors.
On board is a jeweler with more than three decades of experience. There's also a diamond setter on premises.
"It's definitely an advantage to be able to do clients' work as they wait," said Frank Bianco, who owns the store with his wife, Christina. "Our business has really taken off this year."
The changes in staff are strategic investments for the nearly 5-year-old company that specializes in custom work and jewelry design.
When one customer wanted a ring with the yin-yang symbol on its outer edges and a solitaire in the center, staff did the work in-house. Another who wanted a piece inspired by a traditional Irish design didn't have to go further than the local store.
"We can take their idea and turn it into whatever their imagination can conceive," Mr. Bianco said.
"We've done more custom work this year than we did the previous four years, and we make it affordable whereas most places don't."
With the store's diverse customer base, orders range from engagement and wedding rings, charms, anniversary presents and an array of hand-made pieces that complement the store's line of watches, gems and brand-name jewelry.
"We try to cherry pick so we always have special pieces," said Mrs. Bianco.
Miracle Jewelry Exchange is also building its purchasing business, developing a reputation for paying high prices for gold and silver.
"People aren't selling their jewelry as an investment windfall. They're doing it because they've had some sort of hardship," Mr. Bianco said. "To take advantage of that would be a terrible thing to do."
But Miracle Jewelry Exchange excels at maintaining low overhead expenditures, and paying close attention to its pricing structure.
"One of my slogans is 'low overhead equals low prices,'" Mr. Bianco said. "Times are tough. You can't charge people what you used to charge in the 1990s. Jewelry is still a luxury item."
The approach is paying off. Come Christmas, the Biancos plan to expand into Port St. Lucie with a store at 1012 S.W. St. Lucie West Blvd.
"I come from a background in the hospitality business, so I try to incorporate that into our business," said Mr. Bianco, who once operated two Stuart night clubs.
"It's in the way you treat the customer, treating them like your guest and offering them advice and service."
Customers recently returned the favor, voting Miracle Jewelry Exchange the leader in several categories, during a Hometown News reader poll.
The company won the awards for best jewelry store in Palm City and Martin and St. Lucie counties, as well as best jewelry design/artist in St. Lucie County.
"It was pretty great because of all the other jewelry stores we went up against," Mr. Bianco said. "To come out on top is a pretty big deal."
Miracle Jewelry Exchange is located at 2763 N.W. Federal Highway, Stuart. For more information, call (772) 692-0888.