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Dana Smith

All That Glitters


Jonathan van Bilsen

August 16, 2018

Walking along Queen Street, in beautiful Port Perry, offers an opportunity not many towns can boast: a picturesque setting on a pretty lake, and some of the finest shops anywhere. One of those stores is Dana’s Goldsmithing, a fine jewellery shop which has recently undergone a fantastic renovation. Unlike many establishments who merely redecorate and ‘freshen up’ the premises, Dana decided to change the entire model of her jewellery business, and make it extremely customer focused.

As soon as you step inside, you are mesmerized by sparkling display cases visible all around you. Staff greet you from behind the counters and offer you consultations in the showroom or private meetings in the offices upstairs. All the technology is visible through a glass wall at the back of the retail section of the store. Visitors can view the new 3D printer, as well as the laser welder. The second floor, also totally renovated, has offices and more modernized design spaces.

This year marks Dana’s 26th anniversary of her shop on Queen Street in Port Perry. “We have made changes and improvements along the way, but nothing as major as this recent upgrade,” Dana explained. The store was closed while the renovations were taking place and during the final weeks Dana spent most of her days and nights overseeing the final touches.

“Our focus is totally on customers and offering options to fulfil their needs,” Dana described. There are certainly many items to choose from in the showcases, but customization is what the new store emphasizes, and that is what the majority of clients are looking for. The new technology Dana has invested in, along with her expert skill in design, allows her and her staff of 12 to create unique pieces of jewellery to satisfy the wants of potential customers, at affordable prices.

The process is detailed and comprehensive, but the end result is still affordable. Hand sketches are transformed through computer aided design software into realistic images. They are then transformed into 3D models through the new printers. From there a metal mold is created, which leads to a finished product in primarily gold or platinum. It may sound simple, but in reality it requires an understanding attained only from years of experience and knowledge.

Dana, born in Port Perry, had no intention of getting into the jewellery business when she was young. Her family owned an insurance brokerage in town, and Dana worked part time at Canadian Tire, and Pathways on Pleasure Valley, while attending Port Perry High School. As fate would have it, she was one credit short of getting into a kinesiology program, and decided to take a year off and try something different. She heard of an opening in a jewellery arts program, and thought she might enjoy that.

It was only supposed to be a year, but the jewellery business hooked this young entrepreneur, and Dana stayed with it for the full three years. She earned her keep by repairing jewellery for her friends, and upon graduation decided to open a business, which she operated from the basement of her parent’s house.

It was not long before she outgrew her location, and moved into a 200 square foot space on the ground level of a dentist’s office on Queen Street. Business grew quickly, and two years later, Dana was able to buy the building her store currently occupies. At one time the building was a bank and Dana retrofitted the safe with the latest technology to ensure the security of her products. Maintenance and repair was a constant in the old, rundown building.

“Balancing my life was the toughest part,” Dana admits. Her two children were involved in sports, and Dana made it a point never to miss any games or competitions. The kids are now grown, but there still do not appear to be enough hours in her day. “I am so grateful to the people who work with me. They are loyal and dedicated, and over the years we have become a family.”

Dana has given back to the community at a far greater rate than anticipated. Her Christmas ornament has, over the past 17 years, raised more than $90,000 for the hospital foundation. She was heavily involved in the Dragon Boat festivals and generously gave to the second ice pad expansion for the Scugog Arena. She was also a major player in the Town Hall 1873 ‘Shooting for the Stars’ restoration campaign. “I don’t know anywhere else quite like Port Perry. The people are wonderful and it is a very energizing community.”

The store is a full service jewellery business. There are no third party products, and no cluttered advertising material. It is all about the customer and their needs. Even the diamonds sold in Dana’s store are ethically sourced from Canada.

The casual, less pretentious feel of the newly renovated store, makes customers feel relaxed and offers personal interaction. Patrons may not realize a lack of counters separating them from the staff, but they soon see there are no areas where customers can’t go. There is nothing restricting people from seeing every aspect of the operation.

The slogan, ‘We make it personal’ has been molded into every facet of the store. Every policy in place was examined, and if it didn’t make the customer experience personal, it was revamped. iPads and flat screens add to increased efficiency, and social media marketing has certainly taken off. Best of all, the proof is in the pudding, and customer reactions to the changes have been positively overwhelming.

The woman behind Dana’s Goldsmithing is the reason for its success. Dana has balanced her life to create a niche, very rare in business today. Sixty plus hours a week is not uncommon for this entrepreneur. With a big smile on her face she explained, “Everything you do, every decision you make, helps you grow as a person, and without those experiences you may not be who you are today.”

Jonathan van Bilsen is an award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.

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