The Manfredi store, which officially opened this past weekend, is the first branch location for the store, founded in 1988 in downtown Greenwich. Roberto Chiappelloni, the co-owner, was a restaurateur with several restaurants who liked to collect watches and decided to make that interest the basis of a watch and jewelry store.
His Greenwich business carries "32 of the most renowned brands in the world, as well as the rarest brands," he said. In New Canaan, three brands are now sold: Rolex, Hermes and Baume & Mercier.
Chiappeloni said he's considered opening a store in downtown New Canaan in the past, and when he found out that the Reid store was closing, he saw an opportunity. He bought the store in partnership with Kimberly La Du, who manages the Elm Street location and who worked for 11 years in the store (Henry C. Reid & Son still has its Fairfield location.)
"I'm very excited — this is something I've been looking forward to a long time," Chiappeloni said. He was especially familiar with New Canaan when his daughter was riding horses at the New Canaan Mounted Troop.
Chiappeloni, a Greenwich resident, said he realized that downtown New Canaan is a particularly nice place to be a retailer that wants to develop relationships with customers.
It's not just that the town has plenty of money (although it doesn't hurt), but that the concentration of stores within walking distance means people can park the car and visit a number of stores, have lunch and perhaps meet a friend.
Buy a sweater, pick up a toy or a book — and maybe get your watch battery changed while your car battery is being changed. And get lunch or dinner.
"We employ two full-time watchmakers and three goldsmiths" in the Greenwich store, he said. Those watchmakers can also work on customer's watches from the New Canaan store. "We will do anything from changing a battery to [repairing] an heirloom that's 100 years old. I think that's what gives us an edge. That kind of craftsmanship, that kind of ability is rare in this world."
Chiappeloni said La Du's presence will also help build and maintain relationships with customers.
The store is also an official retailer for Rolex watches, as was Henry Reid & Sons, and he and La Du are setting up a third of the store as a Rolex "boutique."
"Rolex is still the best-selling brand in the world," he said. "Rolex is still the biggest selling corporate gift."
Sidebar: What Are the Biggest Mistakes Jewelry Customers Make?
Chiappeloni said customers buying diamond jewelry make two big mistakes:
First, men about to marry often think they need to go down to a New York City retailer to get a good deal.
"A one-karat diamond can be ideal or a one-karat diamond can be totally mediocre at best," he said. There's a lot of information on diamonds available to buyers nowadays, he added, and he suggests that buyers making one of the biggest purchases of jewelry in their lifetime look into it. And comparison shop.
"Young people really get taken advantage of and end up with really, really mediocre diamonds and workmanship."
Second, people vacationing in the Caribbean, having a great time, decide to buy diamond jewelry — and very often waste their money. "They're buying the worst-quality jewelry [...] The quality is so low it's sad."
A local jeweler you might come across in town and is someone who wants a relationship with you, he said. If others are impressed by the jewelry, or if a customer wants more jewelry later — say, for an anniversary gift — Chiappeloni said Manfredi Jewels is right there, conveniently downtown, waiting for the repeat business.
"Once you have a client, like a young person who is willing to spend the most money he's likely to spend for years [on a piece of jewelry]," Chiappeloni said, "you have a client for life."