By Nick BeJeaux
The expression “diamond in the rough” perfectly describes Matthew Patton; he’s young, charismatic, passionate, successful and happens to own a shop full of actual diamonds.
Patton, 28, was born and raised in Baton Rouge and did a stint at LSU, where he studied business administration – but who needs a degree when you can make your own way?
“I got about two years in and I realized I was either going to work for my family or work from myself,” said Patton. “So I looked at it from a return on investment viewpoint: Is it really going to be worth the money? Just because I have a degree doesn’t mean I’m going to pay myself extra.”
Patton comes from a long line of jewelers, one of Baton Rouge’s oldest, in fact. Patton’s Fine Jewelry is celebrating 70 years in Baton Rouge this year.
“My great grandfather founded the business in the 40s and my grandfather bought it from him in the 60s,” he said. “After some additions and subtractions, they finally settled into the two locations they have – one here and one in Alexandria.”
Patton started working at the family store in 2006, and life was great. But six years later, things changed – or, more accurately, Patton himself changed.
“When I got in, I never once thought I would leave; from the get-go, I wanted to give that business everything and even hoped to run it one day,” he said. “But after a couple of years, the vision for where the business was going wasn’t in line for what I wanted.”
In February of 2012, Patton left the shop, and Cut Fine Jewelers opened its doors a month later as a concierge jeweler; all viewings were by appointment only.
“There were a couple of reasons why I decided to open like that,” said Patton. “The overhead costs are incredibly low, so the momentum to get moving was considerably less than it would have been if we opened the store like it is today. Also, I got tired of the really structured, traditional retail environment.”
Today, CFJ’s showroom – which opened at its 9844 Jefferson Hwy #101 location last week – is balanced between the concierge style and the more traditional retail styles. The balance allows Patton to be more personable with his customers, but also effective.
“Here, the showroom is very interactive,” he said. “There’s a lot of movement and a lot of things that will draw your attention in. I did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people in the industry and innocent bystanders that I grabbed a beer with. I asked them, ‘What do you feel when you go into a jewelry store?’ They say it’s cold and museum-like. So I knew that I didn’t want that.”
For example, the majority of the cases in the store are forward opening, which allows Patton to work side by side with his customers.
“They get to see the same things I see and feel the same things I feel,” he said, “so it’s much more personal, and that leads to a very good sale for me and the client.”
Patton believes that his approach to selling jewelry is where the industry is headed, and his client base is evidence of that.
“I have a fantastic client retention rate and that has to do with how I’ve handled my clients since the day I opened the store. When they first get here, I’m not even trying to sell them something; we’re just catching up, talk and have a good time – it’s just a coincidence that they’re going to buy a piece of jewelry while they’re at it.”
But Patton thinks he has really stepped up his game after having to choose a diamond for his own fiancée, Evan Lee. They plan to be married on April 11, 2015.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Patton. “She works in the industry too, so she was very particular about what she wanted. That actually freed me up to pick and choose from design elements that I knew she would like, and we ended up with a very cool custom design, though it took some time.”
“I proposed in August and bought the diamond in March; after I committed to buying the diamond, my perspective on this entire process completely changed. It made me relate to the guys that I work with on a constant basis. It’s become even more personal now. I regret that I didn’t do it sooner – for several reasons!”