INTERVIEW: E.E. Robbins on Putting People Before Profit

Tovah and Laurie/E.E. Robbins

Hello engaged or soon-to-be-engaged couples! I am so excited that this Sunday is the BIG DAY! The first day that same-sex marriage will be legally recognized in the state of Washington! In preparation for the big event, I’ve been looking into several local, small businesses that support same-sex marriage.

About a year ago, I was surfing on Facebook and happened to see an advertisement on the right side of the screen. The ad was for E.E. Robbins and exclaimed that the company supported same-sex marriage. I immediately wrote Emerson Robbins, the owner, and thanked him for such an ad – I hadn’t seen anything like it outside of the pages of Curve magazine.

Fast forward to a few days ago…I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with Emerson and ask him a few questions on all of our minds as we go into the legalization of marriage in Washington State.

How did E.E. Robbins come about being so inclusive? I wrote a blog about [this subject] that we posted on our website quite a while ago called “Love and Let Love”. We have also encouraged all of our same-sex couples – actually we encourage every couple, but we’ve made a special point of encouraging our gay and lesbian couples – to share their stories with us and post those on our website. More important than anything is how people are treated. We don’t make any special effort to treat gay and lesbian couples any different than we would young couples, interracial couples, or whoever it might be. Every couple is entitled to find love; finding love is a special thing and should be celebrated.

You have a blog and the E.E. couples spotlight on your website. Have you received any backlash over the inclusion of these? Yeah, I did receive a couple of emails from people who didn’t like it and said they wouldn’t be shopping with us anymore. So I wrote them back, and I said, “I’m sorry that you feel that way but we are very proud and I think that in years to come that you’ll realize [a different point of view]”.

I noticed that of several local engagement ring stores, you were the only store to acknowledge the passing of Referendum 74. Thank you! I’m wondering, have you seen more same-sex couples in the store getting ready to get married this weekend? I don’t think so, honestly. I’m not sure because I’m not in the store all the time. I think that our reputation and the way we treat our customers is really what speaks for us and why people come in.

E.E. Robbins

Tell me about the in-store experience. What can our readers expect, and what should they be looking for in an engagement ring or a wedding ring? We have a certain philosophy and I think it is unique and different…and it sounds like the most mundane and cliché thing in the world, but I’m a big believer that it rarely happens. We sell by the golden rule. I don’t think it should even be called selling because it is not. We aim to treat people just like we’d want to be treated when we go shopping. Finding love is a special thing and in a lot of stores you get pressured to buy – you are treated like a wallet instead of a person – and I think that is shameful. I mean, this is such a special time in their lives and the last thing you want to do is pressure people. I always call us the Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Theresa of sales. It is a very gentle approach. There is never any pressure, and we treat people like a friend. Our philosophy is that if we have the right product at the right price and we show [customers] all the pros and cons, then they’ll make the decision that is right from them. And if we don’t have the right product or the right price, then we don’t deserve the sale.

We welcome people warmly with a cup of coffee or tea. Then we basically show them what to look for and they can wander with low pressure. If they want to look at rings or diamonds we go through a short interactive computer presentation that shows people what to look for, in layman’s terms, rather than the gemological terms other stores can use to confuse or impress customers. We take the card deck and put all the cards face up, so they know what they are getting. We show our jewelry in gemscopes, so that our customers can see what they are really getting. We also show our customers the diamonds under the same light that diamond buyers use when they are examining them to buy them. It may not be as pretty as the traditional halogen lights, but you can see what you are buying. In wanting our diamonds to be conflict-free, we decided to focus our effort on Canadian diamonds. The Canadian mines are the most environmentally conscious and they make sure that they have fair trade laws for their workers.

E.E. Robbins

I really appreciate your commitment to sustainability, conflict-free diamonds, and your inclusivity of the LGBTQ community. Have you supported these since you started [E.E. Robbins]? Yeah, and I think I wouldn’t consider myself a business man. In fact, I’d consider myself a pretty lousy business man [laughs]. I care more about people. We’re a very close-knit company and I’ve given the employees a stake in the company. I’ve always believed that you can’t offer great customer service if you don’t treat your employees right. They are caring people, not just there to make a sale. They are there to help you.

A lot of our readers are on a time crunch! Is there any special financing that you could offer that would allow someone to buy a ring this week and pay it off over time? We do offer some financing through [an outside agency], Alaska Federal Credit Union. I think there is a 12-month interest-free program and we have more information on the website. Companies that carry their own credit usually have higher margins and that is reflected in the price of the jewelry.

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Belltown

I had an opportunity to tour the Belltown store and really get an idea of the amazing engagement rings, wedding bands and other jewelry they carry. I knew I was getting a biased experienced, so I paid close attention to how other customers were treated as they arrived, shopped, and decided on their purchases. There was absolutely no pressure and a lot of laughter and smiles. For anyone, the day you purchase a ring, whether engagement, wedding, anniversary – is a big day. I wanted to experience it all and, well, maybe I wanted to try on a few huge diamonds as “research”…

E.E. Robbins has the largest selection of men’s rings that I’ve ever seen…anywhere. Earlier this week, I also stopped into the Ben Bridge Jeweler in the University Village and the Tiffany store at University Village. Their selection of more masculine rings was much smaller, without as much variety. Something interesting that I noticed was that many of the bands were unisex and could work for anyone. I was a fan of the many tungsten rings pictured above by Triton, but I also loved the more natural designs.

If you are looking for diamond solitaires, diamond wedding bands, etc, they had a wide selection from many designers. They also have a whole collection of rings designed and manufactured by E.E. Robbins. Their ability to create rings on-site also means that they offer customized and one-of-a-kind masterpieces you can design. Whether you want something original, something antique-looking, something androgynous, simple, bold, or sparkly; they’ve got it all. Happy Shopping!

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