What is "cool?" What defines it? According to INSTORE, the independent jewelry industry's trade magazine, is the definition.
Style By Max, or Max's for short, is the creation of Ellen Hertz. In 2006, after a tiring two decades in the corporate world, Hertz opened the doors of her unique St. Louis Park boutique. Specializing in artist-designed jewelry, home decor and specialty chocolates, Max's instantly became a hit in the Twin Cities metro.
Earlier this week, INSTORE named Max's "The Coolest Little Store in America." I decided to talk with Hertz about what makes her store cool and the steps she took to achieve that award-winning status.
St. Louis Park Patch: It's official—Max's is the coolest store. Tell us how that came about and how INSTORE heard of your store.
Ellen Hertz: INSTORE is a trade magazine that's all geared for the jewelry retailer, specifically the independent ones. They've been doing this "cool store" award for 10 years now and when I became aware of it I kept thinking I should do that. You have to apply and answer a series of essay questions about your store, what makes you cool, what makes you different and what your value proposition is for your customers. It's a whole process.
St. Louis Park Patch: You've been in business for a little more than five years. What made now the right time to apply?
Hertz: We hit our fifth-year anniversary in May. We opened in this space early in February. During those first four-and-a-half years, every time this award came up, we would think, "Well, we're planning on doing this built-in chocolate wall thing..." or, "We're going to do some changes with lighting, maybe we should wait until that's done." So every year was never quite right because, well, I wanted to win. I wanted to put forth our best shot. So the timing was such that when they made the call for entries this year, this was the year—we've got a new store, new location, it's cool, it's great.
St. Louis Park Patch: What was the process of filling out the application? Was it a team effort? (Note: Hertz also employs three full-time and three part-time employees at her store.)
Hertz: The application questions are very specific. One question will be a maximum of 100 words, the next a maximum of 500. You have to be, I think, highly articulate about what you want to say. So what I did was I passed it out to my employees and said, you know, let's work on this over a few weeks time. I basically handed them out and stepped away because I have my perception of the store, but I wanted to see theirs.
St. Louis Park Patch: What came next?
Hertz: We wrote our application, submitted it, and waited, and waited and then they called us. I think the deadline for submission was April 15 and I found out that we won the award at the end of May. They asked me to not share the news because they were not going to be communicating with the other entrants until just before the magazine came out. I sat on the news literally from the end of May until last week, only telling my husband, my mother and my staff (laughs). You know, it's one of those things that once it happens you want to scream it from the rafters. It really is a great recognition and I'm really proud.
As we wrapped up our conversation, I realized we were sitting beneath a trophy case's worth of award plaques and trophies that Max's has received since its inception. Hertz assured me that this was the biggest award her store had received so far. I found that to be pretty cool.