A Genuine Show
of Southern Charm
Former mayor buys into importance of store events
while spearheading downtown revitalization
STORY BY EILEEN MCCLELLAND
Daniel Evans, former mayor of Smithfield, NC, and a cheerleader for downtown revitalization, decided to relocate his jewelry store around the corner and into a century-old warehouse building, preserving and enhancing its distinctive architecture.
The dramatic transformation left the small town’s residents enchanted and encouraged about the future of downtown Smithfield, but it also precipitated a shift in Evans’ business philosophy toward event marketing, something that he never thought he’d buy into.
Owner: Daniel Evans Jr.
Opened Featured Location: 2015
Area: 3,200 square feet
Buildout cost: $250,000
Top Brands: Alisa Designs, Charles Garnier, Gabriel & Co., Imperial Pearl, Rembrandt Charms, Simply Diamonds, Timeless Designs
Online Presence: 1,174 Likes on Facebook; 4.7 rating on Facebook reviews; 5 Stars on Yelp
“After being in and around the jewelry industry for over 25 years, I have come to realize that you can’t wait for customers to walk in as they once did,” Evans says.
“After we opened our new store, special events became a driving force behind our increase in sales. I never would have thought that events would be a part of a conservative jeweler platform, but as they say, ‘the times ... they are a changing.’ Our society promotes socialization more than ever and the customer expects the same.”
It’s added to the workload, of course, but the results have been worth it.
They’ve hired musicians for some events — a local country guitarist, a jazz band playing blues and a beach band to welcome summer.
They’ve partnered with a nonprofit to raise awareness for the fight against domestic violence, providing 18 different vintage wines to 18 different businesses for a city-wide wine walk. More than 500 participants purchased arm band tickets of admission for $25 each.
A wine, cigar and jewelry Valentine’s party drew 350 participants for fun and profit. The wine distributor was the bartender, the store’s cigar connection from the Dominican Republic set up a hand rolling station and jewelry reps attended to support their lines. Guests were given a 1-carat CZ with a number to be entered in a drawing for a two-stone diamond ring.
Of course, the size and style of the warehouse-size store has made events a comfortable fit. With a wine bar, comfortable seating, and a humidor, the place was designed for hospitality.
Smithfield, with a population of about 15,000, is a farm-oriented community and the capital city of Johnston County. The courthouse, built at the turn of the 20th century, is a draw. Old original mule stables have begun to be transformed into restaurants as downtown rebounds.
“But there’s nothing around here like this in the way of a store,” says Evans. “We get people coming to see us from a 50-mile radius at least. They hear about our jewelry store and come into town to check us out.”
People comment on how elegant the store is; from the hardwood pine floors and the copper arched entrance to the high ceilings, it’s aesthetically appealing.
“Some of my peer group says they can’t believe I built something like this in Smithfield,” Evans relates. “But I love the industrial look, combined with the old and the new, like a Duratrans on a wall built in the 1800s.”
There’s also a seating area with leather wing-back chairs and a cow-hide rug next to a bar and a slate fireplace. “People come and sit in the leather chairs and chill for a little while. I love to greet and meet people, and it will eventually turn into a sale, but everything’s not dollar-driven for us,” Evans says. A walk-in humidor is filled with private-label EJ Cigars. The ceiling is 25 feet high and incorporates exposed steel beams that came from the railroad system over 100 years ago.
The design was inspired by trips to New England. “When we started construction, the building just came alive,” Evans says. “It has seven different types of brick. There are lots of amenities in the building that are architecturally beautiful. We traveled around and took pictures, and went to Boston, because a lot of that area historically fits some of the design of our building.”
Planning and construction spanned five years. “People would walk by and see the progress daily,” he says. “People were in awe of what we created. More than 500 people came to the grand opening, something I did not expect. It was tremendous.”
The Greater Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce named the store 2015 Business of the Year for the family’s vision and commitment to the city.
Evans’ father, Wilbert Evans, was in the jewelry business for 44 years, first in Smithfield and later in Clayton, NC, but Daniel dived into it only after retiring from a career in law enforcement. In 2001, he opened his own store about 20 miles from his dad’s, who has since retired. Daniel Evans’ business focused on personal service, from custom design to jewelry, watch and clock repair. “Most of the patrons he had and their children have all come here after we let them know Dad was retiring. As a child, I was always by the bench or cleaning the floors or whatever Dad asked me to do. His love was watches, but my calling was a little different at the time. I knew I would never get too far from the jewelry business, though. I’ve been blessed to do it.”
PHOTO GALLERY (20 IMAGES)
Five Cool Things About Evans Jewelers
1. Conversation piece. There are 14,250 pennies on the bar top, laid out by hand by the Evans family and covered in epoxy. Evans says he just loves copper and thought it was a cool idea. Copper can be found elsewhere in the showplace: “The awning is copper. And there are copper handles that we hand-made for the door.”
2. Everyone is always greeted by an Evans. “Owner, wife, two sons, one daughter in law and a daughter in law to be. We are the entire staff here,” Evans says.
A customer followed the Evans Jewelers smart car home from Office Max one day and bought an $8,000 pair of earrings.
3. Gift-wrapped smart car pays for itself. “One day after I bought the little smart car, my wife drove it to the Office Max and a guy followed her downtown to our store and bought an $8,000 pair of earrings,” Evans says. “That paid for the car the first day I bought it. Advertising and doing something different just catches the eye. It created something far better than I ever anticipated.”
4. Personalized wedding registry. “In the South, it’s still a big thing to register,” says Anna Evans, Daniel’s daughterin-law. “We try to focus on lines you can’t get in all the department stores. If you’re out of town, you can call in and we will deliver the gift to the shower location in the smart car. One great thing about registering here is you can mix or match from different patterns or different companies.”
5. Interactive marketing strategy. Facebook and Instagram are the best forms of advertising because they can be interactive, Daniel Evans says. When they were building the store, they asked for input via social media. When selecting wines for the bar, they also asked for help. They do that with jewelry, too, to some extent: “Do you like this ring, or that ring better?” Evans also does some newspaper advertising and radio commercials, particularly to reach out to the large population of Raleigh-Durham, about 30 miles away.
Five Questions With Daniel Evans
How has the engagement customer changed?
People are more informed. Very much more research has been done. They know more about the quality of grades and cuts. The Internet has done a lot of that. I see it as a good thing, though. I don’t compete with the Internet. I don’t want to. That’s not my job. I offer a good quality piece at a good price point.
Do you do anything special for holiday promotions?
During Christmas season we have a snow machine out front that blows snow and creates a winter atmosphere. It really brings the kids and brings the families. We promote it on Facebook and the radio; we guarantee snow. (If we get a real snow here, it cripples us!)
What are your bestsellers?
We have a pretty good mix. Diamonds are always the biggest seller here. Anniversary pendants, three-stone rings. I love colored stones. Some fashion silver. Two different brands of watches, Luminox and Citizen.
How do you stay current?
We look at trade publications, get online, vendors will tell us about trends. We go to the Atlanta Jewelry Show.
What has made the most difference lately in growing your business?
Sometimes it’s easy to sit in a store and wait for customers to come to you. But now I know you’ve got to make it an experience for them. That’s our passion, that’s our drive, to create excitement in sales and in the customers.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 edition of INSTORE.