Sitting with Daniel and Chaim Kutoff is a mixture of shtick and self-deprication. But once you get beyond that, the father and son team behind LeoDaniels, the first brick-and-mortar shop the jeweler has had in the nearly 40 years Daniel has been in business, showcases a distracting array of jewelry.
“We’ve been doing online for the last five years, and we figured creating a physical presence would definitely help us with the online part as well,” Chaim Kutoff said. “We viewed it kind of as an omnichannel approach.”
The Kutoffs signed the lease in early November on the space at 4110 Minnetonka Blvd. in St. Louis Park, where they took over the space that had been the Rodeo Drive consignment shop. The store opened on Black Friday and they’ve been in “soft-launch mode” since then.
“I knew this space was becoming available for a couple of months and everything just kind of aligned pretty well,” Chaim said. “Part of the reason that pushed us to get into retail was that we had all this inventory already that we had sitting in our safe waiting for online orders.”
Daniel said that there were only two items in the display cases that were not items that the shop owns. LeoDaniels also has an office a couple of blocks away from the store where custom-made items are constructed.
“We have a very talented staff,” he said. “They can make you just about anything you want. And because of my connections from 40 years of wholesale, I can get any diamond you want or any colored gemstone of any quality. You’ll see colored gemstones that you won’t see anywhere else.”
Up until five years ago, Daniel worked on a strictly wholesale basis going store-to-store, mostly to independent jewelry stores in the five-state area – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas.
“I purposely want to be able to drive home every night because I want to be able to lock up my goods in the safe,” Daniel said. “I wanted to be home for my kids and be home for my family.”
Said Chaim: “Also he had kids to discipline.”
Ironically, the growth of the business stemmed initially from Daniel wanting to retire. Chaim had been living in Florida and had made a name for himself in the watch industry.
“My father called me and told me ‘hey, I want to retire. Come up here and help me liquidate,’” Chaim recalled. “So I came up and you know, we started working towards that. And then I saw an opportunity to not liquidate but to expand directly into retail.”
For the last five years, LeoDaniels had been an online presence, but Chaim said that working in that space has its challenges.
“Online advertising is so expensive,” he said. “It’s almost a fallacy nowadays to say that online retailers have less overhead because just getting in front of the customers and engaging the customers online is so expensive.”
The other struggle is that jewelry isn’t always the easiest product to understand or know what you’re getting.
“Traditionally jewelers struggle with a trust factor,” Chaim said. “Customers need to make a certain leap of faith and say, ‘Okay, I trust this guy. He’s my guy, he’s going to take care of me, he’s not going to sell me a bag of goods.’ And we were struggling to get that messaging across online.”
Said Daniel: “I can’t jump through that computer screen, shake the guy and tell him this is the best deal and the best product you’ll ever see. If he walks in, maybe I can.”