JMJ Inc. - JMJ Inc. - Across the Board
August 15, 2011 | 12:06 am UTC
By Katie Coleman
JMJ Inc.
Hastings, MI

Year Founded: 1999

Employees: 16 in the shop; 3 in the office

Shop Size: 24,000 sq. ft.

FYI: JMJ Inc. landed its biggest customer, Kay Jewelers, by placing cold calls during its first year in business. “One day we got into [Kay Jewelers’] door and said, ‘Let us build you a display case, bring it to you, see if you guys like it,’” Todd Jones says. Seven years later, JMJ is building approximately 25 to 30 Kay Jewelers stores annually.

On a dry erase board at JMJ Inc.’s offices in Hastings, MI, 10 current projects are listed with locations in California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Oregon.

From a variety of casework styles and material types to an array of security, lighting and glass options, the company mirrors its geographic diversity in every aspect of its custom showcase business. Indeed, a majority of JMJ’s business comes from the jewelry industry, from which competing jewelry companies – including the well-known Kay Jewelers, J.B. Robinson Jewelers and Rogers Jewelers – with very different styles, designs and needs all commission JMJ to create the unique look and feel of their stores.

Todd Jones, the 7-year-old company’s shop supervisor and project coordinator, is so familiar with each jewelry company’s needs that he can list them off the top of his head.

“[Kay] is into high-pressure laminate and solid surface material. They’re putting logo signs on the front of their showcases with the engraved ‘Kay Jewelers’ sign on it and solid surface on the front of it, and everything else besides that is high-pressure laminate,” he says. “Now, J.B. Robinson is veneers, high-pressure laminates and [has] wood trim on it. And Andrews [owned by Rogers LTD] – they’re more into a lot of veneer, high-pressure laminate and solid surface, all with bent glass, which is a more elegant and expensive style.”

These white laminate showcases in the Becky Beauchine Kulka Diamonds and Fine Jewelry store in Okemos, MI, total 300 linear feet, separated into five curvaceous cases. The store won fifth place in the 2005 “America’s Coolest Store” competition, hosted by Instore magazine. JMJ also worked on the jewelry store that won third place in that contest.
Jones says JMJ is one of four builders for Kay Jewelers and creates the casework for approximately 25 to 30 of the company’s stores each year. In addition, the company completes about five to 10 stores annually for Rogers LTD, which owns Rogers Jewelers in addition to Andrew’s Jewelers.

While Kay Jewelers always uses the same design in a different layout, depending on the size and shape of the individual store location, Rogers Jewelers is more of a “moving target,” according to Jones.

“[Rogers] changes its style quite often. Lately, it is getting to the point that its jewelry cases are more furniture style,” Jones says.

Furniture-style display cases are more like dressers than traditional retail display cases. The drawers open out toward the customer, so the salesperson and customer are next to each other instead of on opposite sides of a counter.

“It’s just a different way that they’re approaching their customers,” Jones says.

Factoring in Security

Sometimes, how customers approach display cases affects the stores’ security options, Jones adds, which affects the casework design and construction.

“[Kay’s stores] have extrusions from the face glass to the top glass and a light shield on that. Independents, and even Rogers, say they don’t want that, because that’s the focal point from where the customer is looking into the cases. They don’t want anything distracting there, which means they want glass-to-glass,” Jones says.

Every Square Inch

JMJ Inc.’s 24,000-square-foot production shop — more than twice its original size seven years ago — doesn’t have an inch to spare.

“Even at 24,000 square feet, there’s not much empty space,” Shop Supervisor and Project Coordinator Todd Jones says. “We try to use every square inch of it.”

When CWB visited the company’s Hastings, MI, location in May, showcases from two jewelry stores that JMJ created several years ago were in the shop awaiting re-design to fit into the stores’ new locations. “That turns into a little bit of a mess because you’re tearing down stuff to rebuild it,” Jones says. “And it takes up a huge amount of our square footage right now.”

In addition to the two rebuilds, JMJ also was working on a Rogers Jewelers store, a Lawrence Jewelers store and a one-of-a-kind job for a Frankenmuth, MI, jewelry store. They also had just completed another project for J.B. Robinson.

“We could have up to six to eight different projects going on simultaneously,” Jones says. “Some projects are pretty small, but we’ve had some projects that took up the whole shop, and we all had to work on one project at a time just to push it through.”

The JMJ production shop is arranged by task, with areas for building the casework, applying the finish, cutting the glass, assembling the units, and installing the lighting and security. “We finish it in the shop as a complete unit, and then we disassemble it and reassemble it at the job site,” Jones says.

Of JMJ’s 16 employees, six to eight have more than 20 years of woodworking experience. The others are trained to do mostly non-woodworking tasks, like hanging the drawers and cutting the glass. “Our glass cutter, when we hired him about a year ago, had never cut a piece of glass in his life. We just showed him what level we want him at, and we hold him accountable to that,” Jones says.

The equipment used in the JMJ shop includes two Altendorf sliding table saws, a CNT Motion CNC router and a Holz-Her edgebander. The company also has a special grinder/polisher for glass work and “lots of hand tools.”

And, as Jones says, the company’s only plans are to continue adding to their capital: “We’ve added on to this building twice since we’ve been here, and the way we’re trying to do our sales right now, we’re hoping within a year we’re building again.”

In a glass-to-glass display case, the lighting element, once typical to the corner facing the customer, is no longer there to hold the front and top pieces together. In its place, silicone or a clear double-sided tape is placed between the pieces to hold them together.

According to Jones, some say this is a security risk because someone could use a sharp object to cut away at the seam between the glass panels. Though that stylistic choice affects security, each jewelry company also makes decisions more directly related to their merchandise protection.

“We are usually asked to put on just regular tumbler locks or mortise locks,” Jones says. “Most of them also have what they call a captive key, which is so you can’t leave the door unlocked and take out your key. That’s another moving target with Rogers, which is always changing its mind with design, too. One time they want captive, next time they want uncaptive.”

According to Jones, Rogers Jewelers’ regular changes sometimes make ordering supplies in advance difficult. “You always try to go as cost-effective as you can on the materials, and you order [in] bulk to reduce the cost back to them. But when they’re a moving target, that gets kind of tough,” he says.

While the bigger companies like Kay, Rogers and J.B. Robinson provide JMJ with their own designs, JMJ also gets some business from smaller jewelry chains and architects creating one-of-a-kind stores.

“[A smaller jeweler] will ask us, ‘What should we do here?’ or ‘How do you think we should do this?’ even if they have a designer, because they are less certain,” Jones says. “And mom-and-pop type places will even have us make up drawings for them.”

Although JMJ doesn’t have any designers on staff, their long-time store fixture experience enables them to create drawings in their AutoCAD software. “We’ve been doing this long enough to where we can draw something up and say, ‘We can do this for you or that for you,’ and then we can kind of alter it around and modify it to their needs,” Jones says.

According to Shop Supervisor and Project Coordinator Todd Jones, Andrews Jewelers — part of Rogers LTD — prefers to use “furniture style” showcases. These allow salespeople and customers to interact without a counter between them. Drawers are opened toward the customer.
One of JMJ’s one-of-a-kind projects happened to be in the shop when Custom Woodworking Business visited its facilities recently. The unique showcases in bright red, purple and yellow were being made for a jewelry store outside Frankenmuth, MI, a city famous for its year-round Christmas spirit.

“It has a very bizarre color scheme,” Jones says. “They told us that when their customer leaves their jewelry store, they want them to remember where they were.

“Some of the guys out in our shop don’t like the colors too much. But when we build it here in our shop, it’s hard to imagine what it’ll look like in the finished package. In the store with all their wall treatments, their carpeting treatments, their lighting treatments, all of a sudden everything can just sparkle right out at you. Pretty creative,” Jones says.

At any given time, JMJ is usually working on six to eight jobs simultaneously, all at different stages of production in its 24,000-square-foot shop. These smaller projects typically range from approximately $45,000 to $85,000, though bigger jobs can go up to approximately $120,000 to $140,000.

“We always kind of feel like we’re small enough here to give everyone personal, individual attention, but we’re large enough to take care of any customer who wants to come in here and dump 10 to 15 stores on us without us dropping the ball on them,” Jones says. “We try to be versatile.”

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