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Houston Gem Dealers Make Commitment to Retail

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Shaftel Diamonds, Houston, TX

OWNERS: Keith and Danny Shaftel; URL:; STORE DESIGN: Balaity Property Enhancement (primary); TGS Design studio; ONLINE PRESENCE: 4.9 Stars/336 Google reviews; 33,000 Facebook followers; FOUNDED: 1978; Opened featured location: 2020; AREA: 3,500 square feet; EMPLOYEES:11

Keith, Gaby and Danny lead the Shaftel team.

Keith, Gaby and Danny lead the Shaftel team.

GEM DEALER KEITH SHAFTEL, who has considerable experience in the wholesale jewelry business and on the retail side, is uniquely qualified to describe them both.

In wholesale, he says, there’s likely to be “some shouting” from time to time. In retail, you’ll find yourself walking on eggshells. “You have to be nice to everybody in retail,” he says. “It’s quite different.”

Shaftel has been in the loose gem wholesale business all of his career, which spans four and a half decades.

More recently, as his son, Danny, and daughter, Gaby, began transitioning toward next-generation ownership, the Shaftel family has added a retail component. With the opening of their new store in 2020, retail took center stage, attracting an influential clientele in an affluent, luxury-oriented section of Houston.

“We have been focusing more and more on retail while I am phasing out,” Keith says. “I am 74 and my son is the CEO now. I’m traveling more and happy to spend extended periods of time with people I like, whether or not they are buying.”


Danny describes the wholesale side as grittier than retail. But he deals with it all; in a typical day, he’s exposed to every type of transaction and emotional situation.

“My days consist of a little bit of wholesale, buying or selling to a dealer,” he says. “There are all different kinds of personalities there. Then I turn around and sit with an engagement ring client going through the happiest time, then somebody who needs to sell jewelry because they’re getting divorced or someone has died.

“You don’t block the emotion out, but you put yourself in their shoes.”

Danny sees the range of experience as a competitive advantage.

“I see so many store owners who can run a business and don’t have that knowledge of colored stones or manufacturing,” he says. “If you don’t know the goods, you’re going to be limited.” This store is staffed by a team of GIA graduate gemologists. Houston is home to engineers of all types and they especially appreciate the opportunity to work with knowledgeable professionals, the Shaftels say. Every engagement ring purchase begins with a crash course in the 4 Cs of diamond quality.


Houston Gem Dealers Make Commitment to Retail

Personal referrals bring many clients in for custom-made engagement rings and jewelry. “More often than not, a new client will share stories of how they admired a friend’s ring, which led them to see us,” Keith says. “We keep our clients engaged throughout the design process. They can view renders and waxes as the design progresses so that we can ensure that we create the fine jewelry they envision.”

The new store has given the team the space and separation they need to deal with all of those situations. “That’s the primary reason it was important to have private sales space, so we could separate the buying from the selling,” Keith says.

To design the store, the Shaftel family turned to Jesse Balaity of Balaity Property Enhancement, a store designer and architect, who worked seamlessly with the building contractors. Balaity says he carefully examined Houston’s luxury retail market before designing the store.

“The city readily consumes high-end luxury goods, and of course, there is the ever-present ‘bigger in Texas’ effect. But Houston also prioritizes fun and engaging over formal and controlled, a big city that does not take itself too seriously,” says Balaity, who noticed pop-up markets, creative adaptive reuse projects, and stylistic mashups everywhere.

Balaity also describes Keith and Danny as fun and engaging, a father-son team who play off of each other in remarkable ways.

“I observed Keith’s connection with his customers, a wise jeweler and father figure with an infectious smile and sage stories for every occasion. And Danny, the polished son with abundant passion for his community. The store design had to capture all of this: big personalities, luxurious but never stodgy, quirky moments, and above all, a community destination.”

Says Keith, “When Jesse asked me what stores I really like, I said, ‘Harry Winston,’ and he said, ‘Me, too, but you aren’t Harry Winston,’” Keith recounts. “I’m glad I took his advice; it came out quite nicely.”

Balaity’s goal was to balance the expectations of upscale retail destinations with a fun and almost whimsical experience evocative of the owners’ personalities. He also wanted to engage the community by creating a patio, mobile showcases for events, a lounge with high-top tables and a selfie wall, all in a compact footprint.

Keith wanted something modern and liked the idea of curves. He wanted to be able to give the illusion of private spaces without chopping up the showroom, something he believes Balaity achieved with a partial wall and ceilings all connected in a curve.

The landlord allowed them to use the 10 feet of space at the end of the strip shopping center between the store and the property line for a patio courtyard secured with a fence. The pleasant environment allows staff to show diamonds and fine colored gemstones in natural light.

When they moved from a wholesale jewelry building, their customers reacted positively to…

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2024-06-20 04:41:03

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