New lounge-style jewelry store coming to the Boulevard

| June 1, 2023 | 0 Comments

INTERIOR rendering of Larchmont Jewelers.

EXTERIOR perspective view of Larchmont Jewelers.

Larchmont Boulevard will become home to a new kind of jewelry store this fall. Emulating some European retail experiences, Larchmont Jewelers aims to provide clients with a relaxed, high-end lounge-type environment. Visiting Hing Wa Lee Jeweler’s newest retail store, customers will get a very Soho House vibe, according to the Boulevard’s new retailer.

The Hing Wa Lee business started in  Hong Hong in the 1960s. Master gem carver Hing Wa Lee, father of current company CEO David Lee, quickly became recognized worldwide for his talents. He was asked to venture to America to restore some of the Smithsonian Museum’s artifacts.

Noticing that there was an appreciation for Chinese arts in America, Lee opened a business in Bethesda, Maryland, in the 1970s and then moved his family to Los Angeles, where he opened his first West Coast wholesale operation in 1980.

When the gem carver’s eldest son, David Lee, graduated from USC Marshall School of Business in 1992, he joined the family firm and helped it evolve into the retail powerhouse it is today.

The luxury retail chain has multiple locations and caters to customers looking for fine jewelry and timepieces. The company is one of the few certified Rolex dealers in Southern California and will carry five brands of superior quality watches. At the new store, 70 percent of merchandise space will be allocated for watches, and 30 percent for jewelry.

Rolex approved

When we spoke with David Lee recently, he said Rolex had asked him to find a location to represent its product in Koreatown. “I was looking for more than a year,” said Lee. He found various places, but they were not approved. Rolex is very particular that the surroundings of stores selling its products be suitable for the brand.

“I remember the day I looked at the map and [on the fringe of Koreatown] saw the Larchmont area,” said Lee. He had never been to Larchmont before. When walking down the Boulevard to check it out, the CEO said, “In my mind I was saying, ‘This is the place.’ And Rolex agreed.”

This newest shop will be in the building at 119 N. Larchmont Blvd. that recently housed the corporate office of Buck Mason and, for many previous years, was the location of Coldwell Banker’s southern office on the Boulevard. This is a passion project for Lee, and he plans to be very hands-on. “We were looking into leasing at the Mercantile,” [the renovated former Lipson Building across the street] said Lee. But as the businessman prefers to own the real estate where he operates, he was pleased to be able to purchase the building at 119 N. Larchmont. It is now in the renovation process.

Vice President of Marketing Caren Ho told us that all construction plans are in the city’s hands for review and she said that the team hopes to open for business in October.

“Club” feel

It is intended that the bottom floor will house the retail store, which will be designed to feel like a club lounge and look like a chic, posh living room. There will be minimal merchandise displayed. Most will be tucked away. “It’s our job to find out from you what you want… helping you discover what you need. Then we try to present it to you,” said Lee.

Half of the second floor will be used as a VIP lounge. After clients have selected their purchases, they can go up to the lounge, enjoy a drink from the bar and stay for as long as they want, says Lee. Associates will join them upstairs to size their watch or jewelry and complete the sale. The current second-floor tenant will remain in the other half of the upper level.

A rooftop garden deck is also planned. “It’s not just about selling jewelry anymore. It’s about giving the customer an experience,” said Lee.

The CEO said he believes the client base will be vast and thinks the store will draw high-profile clients from all over the world.

DAVID LEE with one of his Ferraris.

David Lee has passions outside of the jewelry business. The family has a large real estate portfolio and Lee himself is a lover of cars. He said that Jay Leno is a good buddy because the two collectors both like to drive all of their cars. Lee, a Ferrari collector, went on to say, “I would like to do car events on Larchmont.” When asked about the parking situation for his clients, Lee said there are 10 parking spaces in the back of his new building, which will allow clients to come and go quickly, easily and inconspicuously.

Lee believes that being on the Boulevard will open his business up to everyone, and he is glad to have found a space on a street that he described as “independent.”

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