B.C. Clark Jewelers
LOCATION: Oklahoma City, OK
CHAIRMAN: Jim Clark
PRESIDENT: Coleman Clark
OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2007
EMPLOYEES: 79 in three stores
AREA: 12,500 square feet; showroom, 5,000 square feet
ARCHITECT/DESIGN FIRM: Stephanie Maxey, designer; Kathryn Vaught, interior designer; Sam Moore, architect; Berryman Enterprises, general contractor
BRANDS: David Yurman, Hearts on Fire, Cartier, Roberto Coin, John Hardy, Mikimoto, Marco Bicego, Penny Preville, Kwiat, Jeff Cooper
When residents of Oklahoma City hear the name B.C. Clark Jewelers, they begin to hum a little tune — obsessively. So popular is the retailer’s 52-year-old anniversary-sale jingle that it’s turned into a full-fledged, regional Christmas carol, which actress Megan Mullally, an Oklahoma City native, once sang on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In appreciation of that kind of community loyalty, B.C. Clark has made a commitment to downtown Oklahoma City, expanding to occupy the entire first floor of a prominent office building just last year. Out on the sales floor, enjoying the new corner view, you’ll find third- and fourth-generation Clarks, who stay in tune with their customers through personal service. “My brother, Mitchell, and dad, Jim, and I tend to get involved in buying and selling and everything in between,” says president Coleman Clark. “We work hard to gain someone’s trust. I think what’s made us successful are our staff and stability and the philosophy that we’ve instilled. Doing the right thing and taking care of our customers.”
FIVE COOL THINGS ABOUT B.C. CLARK JEWELERS
Born in 1869, Benton Clyde Clark moved from his Mississippi home at the age of 18 to help out his brother with a jewelry store in Abilene, TX. In 1892, he had saved enough money — $50 — to dream of starting a store of his own, north of Abilene — in Indian Territory. On the way, though, he lost his small fortune and wound up setting up his watchmaker’s bench in the corner of a five-and-dime store in Purcell, Indian Territory, 15 years before Oklahoma became a state. Eventually he moved into his own store, and he became the official watch inspector for workers on the Santa Fe Railroad. But in 1913, during an economic panic, B.C. was concerned he wouldn’t be able to support his burgeoning family, which included wife Flora and six children by then. He began selling phonographs, player pianos, General Electric refrigerators, radios and even operated a car agency, all in addition to his core business of jewelry and watch sales. In 1929, B.C. moved the company from sleepy Purcell to Oklahoma City. He remained actively involved in the business until his death in 1963 at the age of 94. President Coleman Clark has followed in his great-grandfather’s footsteps in at least one significant way. He says he tries to sell what people want to buy. Coleman sells custom-made William Henry pocketknives, and a full range of giftware. But no cars!
B.C. Clark has been a fixture in downtown Oklahoma City since 1929 in various incarnations. The Clarks moved into the current cool store in 2007, from a smaller location in the same building they’d occupied for 30 years. That space has become the shop. “We were ready for a major remodel and more space,” Clark says. “The location on the corner opened up and we jumped on it. All of a sudden, we had three complete sides that were glass from floor to ceiling. It gave us a better view and made us much more visible. My favorite thing is the view from inside. When it snows it’s gorgeous.” The expansion and relocation underlined a commitment to downtown Oklahoma City, where B.C. Clark is now the only large retailer. “But the economy has not been bad here, with the oil companies,” Clark says. “A new skyscraper is even being built downtown. The future looks good for us.”
The update introduced 225 linear feet of custom-built, dark-stained maple showcases, better lighting and a more modern look. A floorplan sketched by Mitchell Clark was implemented by designer Stephanie Maxey of Jacksonville, FL. The biggest challenge was working around large columns that limited the placement of cases. “But I feel that we’ve used every inch of space to the maximum,” Clark says. “We wanted to keep generally a traditional jewelry store feel, with a young, updated twist to it. Showcases are pretty traditional, dark wood, heavy molding, and we have a lot of crown molding in the store. But then in the Bridal Boutique area we threw in much lighter wood in a birdseye maple with pendant lights that hang down. That gave that area a much more modern, youthful look to appeal to engagement-ring customers. I think it all works together very well, even though it contrasts.”
The Clarks introduced their first aquarium, a 600-gallon, living reef tank serviced by the company that installed it. “We didn’t know anything about them, it’s not a hobby of ours,” Clark concedes. “We wanted something that was a special feature that people would remember in the store. This is our flagship store, not our largest, not even our biggest volume, but it’s where the owners are, where our business office is, and so we really wanted something eye-catching that people would go back to their offices and talk about.”
And, of course, there’s that jingle. It’s stuck inside people’s heads. “People who don’t live here don’t understand, but everyone in Oklahoma City knows it. We only play it between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It sends a really good feeling to people. Volunteers audition to sing the jingle, and the winners are featured on TV commercials and on the website. My family are not very good singers, so we let other people sing it, Clark says. The Pray for Rain promotion is another stroke of marketing genius, which has brides scanning the sky every weekend praying for rain. Anyone who purchases an engagement ring at B.C. Clark is eligible to win the engagement ring up to $5,000 if it rains or snows an inch or more on the wedding day.
Things Heard Around the Store
“When we first opened, it was amazing to listen to people’s comments.
I heard from more than one person who said, ‘This is like a store you’d see in New York.’ I took that as a compliment.”
Do you dream of becoming a household name like B.C. Clark? Hire a local musician to compose a catchy holiday jingle, incorporate it into your advertising, and make it available on CD. Who knows? You might develop a half-century cult following.
My great-grandfather, Benton Clyde Clark, sold whatever he thought he could make money on, eyeglasses, phonographs, a fire truck. He also sold a model of a car called Willys Knight. But he had never learned how to drive, because it was all stagecoach when he was younger. But in his older years cars became popular and so he sold cars. My grandfather, B.C. Clark Jr., learned how to drive when he was 14 years old. So they sold a car to a couple who lived in Kansas, around 1926. And the couple didn’t know how to drive. Part of buying a car then was learning how to drive one. So, to close the deal, my grandfather, who was 14, drove them to Kansas and taught them how to drive on the way. — coleman clark
• A piece of jewelry can travel 100 feet in about seven seconds through B.C. Clark’s pneumatic tube system, which links the showroom with offices and the shop.
• In 10 years, 98 couples have been reimbursed for the cost of their engagement rings, up to $5,000, in the B.C. Clark Pray for Rain promotional program. The couple wins if it rains or snows an inch or more in Oklahoma City on the day of the wedding.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAY
James E. DionRetail Consultant
I think that the way this store celebrates its history is great, and the Pray for Rain contest is a beautiful way of making the worry of every bride on her wedding day almost go away!
Caroline StanleyMarketing Consultant
An oft-heard advertising maxim is: If you’re tired of your advertising message, don’t stop just yet — it means that it’s finally getting through to your customers. B.C. Clark took this one step further, gave the jingle a long life and then gave the jingle its very own website. It’s a celebrity!
James WestJewelers' Guild Developer
The pneumatic tube system and antique bar are very cool. The antiques complement the store’s history but a splash of color could add a little whimsy and interest to the interior.
Ann ArnoldManufacturing Expert
This store has a very nice, inviting entrance, which is important in every store, since it creates the first impression a customer gets of your store.
Kris KargelBranding Expert
They have done a masterful job of owning marketing campaigns that have spread virally throughout their community, ensuring they are at the forefront of customers’ minds when the moment is right. The Pray for Rain promotion is a phenomenal way to generate buzz and leverage your marketing dollars.
The bridal boutique is outstanding and classy, and set apart from the rest of the store for customers to enjoy. Little areas apart from the store can really cause interest and draw attention to that particular department.
Jon ParkerHead Hunter
I’m very impressed with how B.C. Clark has taken advantage of its fine standing and history to reassert itself when building its new downtown store. The store’s design is tasteful and classic in execution with elements of warmth added.
This story is from the August 2008 edition of INSTORE