Cavalier Jewellers: Breaking the mould

This not so traditional west coast jewellery store caters to the average guy shopping for “the ring” and makes sure that he has fun doing it.

by Irina Lytchak
photography by Katie Huisman

If there’s one jewellery store that’s been able to bend the rules

and have fun while doing it, it’s Vancouver, B.C.’s very own Cavalier Jewellers. Situated in the city’s historically rich Gastown neighbourhood, Cavalier Jewellers was a vision of Dane Stevens and Keith Seabrook, both 26, that took on a life of its own nearly two years ago when the long-time friends opened the doors to this unique location.

“In early 2013, we just decided to really wing it and open a store. A lot of retailers were retiring and many of them had a lot of stock,” explains Stevens, co-owner of Cavalier Jewellers. “We had a really good idea and decided to just go for it – that’s how [Cavalier Jewellers] was born. Besides, the numbers just weren’t really there to make a good living doing only wholesale.”
Cavalier Jewellers is not your typical jewellery store. It’s got a particular layout, distinctive lighting and an overall vibe that’s very much a departure from the conventional jewellery store. The shop features a lot of natural light that comes through two huge storefront windows as well as the infamous red leather couch that Stevens says was “worth every penny.”

“We built [the store] to fit into the Gastown neighbourhood, with the brick and a really West Coast vibe,” explains Stevens. “We have a lot dimmer lights than most jewellery stores, but over top of the showcases, they’re showing off the products. I really like daylight personally and LED lights just don’t work for me.”

Cavalier Jewellers was designed with your average man in mind, complete with a lounge area that gives the store a generally laid-back feeling, allowing the guy to shop for a gift for his special someone without the pressures that some may feel when they walk into a high-end jewellery store. None of the staff ever wear suits, including the owners, and prefer a look that can be described as relaxed sophistication.

“The lounge is where the guys can hang out, relax, have a beer and even watch the game,” says Stevens. “I’ve seen a lot of mom-and-pop shops and I took ideas from what I liked and put them into my store. And I made sure not to incorporate all of the stigmas that people hate about jewellery stores. It’s more of a destination than just a jewellery store.”

How it all started

Cavalier Jewellers wasn’t just born out of nothing. Stevens is third generation in a long line of gemstone dealers, having caught the wholesale bug fresh out of high school.

“Before we opened Cavalier Jewellers, I was travelling for over six months of the year, just buying and selling gems,” he explains. “It was nice and we still have a ton of connections in Thailand that I definitely wouldn’t have gotten if my uncle wasn’t into the business for so long.”

Stevens’ family operates a cutting house and works with several different brokers in Thailand, which was established by his grandfather, Christian Adams and uncle, Harry Adams, several decades ago. They started by travelling to Brazil and Colombia together where they would purchase various gemstones, including tourmaline, emerald and tanzanite, and sell them locally back in Canada while building up a strong wholesale business through the 1980s and 90s.
Today, Steven’s grandfather, or also lovingly known as ‘Opa,’ is 85 years old and still works with a handful of clients that have stayed with him for many years. Unfortunately, Stevens’ uncle passed away from ALS but has since inspired Cavalier Jewellers to centre a lot of its fundraising initiatives around raising money for this particular disease.

“When my uncle got ill with ALS, I had just graduated high school and I decided that instead of going to business school, I would learn the family gem business from him.”

When Stevens turned 20, he borrowed a chunk of money to buy out his uncle’s assets in the wholesale business, took over his clients, brought in more inventory and got in his car to sell gemstones across Canada.

“It was a lot of fun and I’ve got some good stories out of that,” he recalls.

But after doing that for several years, Stevens started to see that the market place was changing and retailers preferred to buy stock at JCK Tucson or overseas. That’s when Stevens decided to bring in his childhood friend and AHL player Seabrook to open their own jewellery store together.

What’s in a name?

Stevens reveals that while the store’s name is pretty self-explanatory, the gents can’t be credited with coming up with it.
“My sister thought of the name actually,” he confesses. “We knew the concept, we had a really good brand in mind and then we were just looking for a name. I thought the word “cavalier” had a good ring to it and when we researched it, we landed on a definition that really reflects the store.”

Today, that definition can be found on one of the store’s interior walls, stylishly printed to say, “cavalier. {kavəˈlir} –noun 1. A gallant, courtly, or chivalrous gentleman.”

Since its inauguration, Cavalier Jewellers has dabbled in retailing various kinds of products, including fine jewellery pieces, estate jewels, watches, engagement rings, wedding bands and loose stones. Until recently, that is. Starting last year, Seabrook and Stevens decided to hone in on what they do best and that’s creating and selling engagement rings.

“Keith and I both have a really strong pull on that work,” says Stevens. “At the end of the day, we’re selling to our friends and people that know us or have heard of us or grew up with us. We’re a huge referral business now and that’s been based around engagements.”

With a work studio right in the store, the guys work with their own designer to produce custom-designed engagement rings that shy away from the ordinary and typical and make great use out of coloured gemstones and diamonds.

“We build everything in house,” says Stevens “We have a workshop above the store ground level, two full-time goldsmiths and our designer Trevor. Ninety-nine per cent of the stuff we do is custom!”

And with everyone lending a helping hand on the sales floor, including the store’s social media guru Brianna, Trevor, Josh, Stevens and Seabrook, Cavalier has found success in building an intimate yet casual relationship with their customers.
“We have a double door entry and when you come in, you’re going to get full service.”

Big plans in the making

Going forward, Stevens and Seabrook are still continuing on with their gemstone wholesale business across the country and have embarked on developing a signature collection of engagement rings under the Cavalier brand name. Set to be unveiled this spring, the rings will be taken to social media in order to build interest across Canada and see what kind of response they’ll receive.

“Being on social media means that we can be accessible from anywhere and I think that’s a really good opportunity,” says Stevens. “If you can tailor a campaign to a certain demographic in a city where you’re currently not being sold, you can create a demand with the young people there. It’s about creating that demand organically and I think that there’s an opportunity there.”

The business duo are also set on releasing their own line of watches, noting the fact that Canada is scarce on any home-grown and unique watch brands these days. The Vancouver-themed watch collection is set for release this summer, just in time for Cavalier’s two-year anniversary.

“We’re really lucky; we’ve got a really cool group of guys to support us in Vancouver,” says Stevens. “ We’ve got the brand ready, the packaging, the story and the series, we just need to finalize the designs.”

Releasing the branded engagement ring and watch lines is yet another step for the friends to get the Cavalier name out there. Having a close-knit network of friends and supporters in Vancouver and across the country has helped make the Cavalier name known but it’s the dream that keeps it going.

“We’re building a story and that’s the coolest and most fun part,” says Stevens. “So if we can only continue to do that…” CJ

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